Scientific Staff Positions, Astronomer/Scientist Tracks

Association of Universities for Research in...
Full Time
Remote in Tucson, AZ
Posted 30+ days ago
Job description

NSF’s National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) invites applications for six or more scientific staff positions to conduct scientific research and support the mission of NOIRLab. Candidates working in all areas of astronomy will be considered. Researchers with expertise in solar system science, large-scale surveys, exoplanets, time-domain astrophysics, high-resolution spectroscopy, data-intensive methods, and technology development are particularly encouraged to apply. The successful applicants will provide operational, developmental, and/or community support for one or more Programs operated by NOIRLab, including Rubin Observatory operations, Gemini Observatory, the Mid-Scale Observatories, and the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC).

Positions are available on both the astronomer track (equivalent to tenure-track with 50% time for independent research) and the scientist track (emphasis on NOIRLab service roles with 20% time for independent research). Applications from candidates at all career stages will be considered. Successful candidates will be part of a “faculty” of more than 70 research scientists and astronomers at NOIRLab engaged in a wide range of astronomical and planetary research. The NOIRLab research staff will play key roles in NOIRLab’s response to the recommendations related to ground-based OIR astronomy in the Astro2020 Decadal Survey report Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s.

The successful candidates for the “astronomer” track are expected to carry out a vigorous research program commensurate with attaining tenure in any area of astronomy/astrophysics or planetary science. Those appointed to the “scientist” track are also expected to engage in forefront research projects; their contributions may be over a wide range of areas involving participation in and enabling research in astronomy/astrophysics, planetary science, or a related field, including technical and/or educational areas that support the broader goals of NOIRLab. The extensive telescope facilities, data archives, and computing resources of NOIRLab, including the data-products from Rubin Observatory’s LSST survey are available to NOIRLab staff to build enhancements that benefit them as well as the community at large.

As part of the NOIRLab faculty, scientists and astronomers are free to engage in all aspects of astronomical research. It is expected that their innovations result in published works in professional journals appropriate for the area of their contributions. NOIRLab staff in both tracks are encouraged to pursue synergies between their service work and their research goals, and to become active scientific stakeholders in the success of the telescopes, instruments, data sets, and software systems that they support.

NOIRLab recognizes the excellence that diversity brings to our research, operations, and community support, and is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We continually seek to broaden participation on our staff and strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to apply. All NOIRLab staff are funded to spend up to 3% of their time on DEI activities of their own initiative or as part of existing NOIRLab programs.

NOIRLab operates the 8m Gemini telescopes on Maunakea, Hawaii and Cerro Pachon, Chile; the 4m Mayall telescope and the 3.5m WIYN telescopes at Kitt Peak in Arizona; as well as the 4m Blanco telescope on Cerro Tololo and the 4m SOAR telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile. NOIRLab will be the lead operational partner of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory when it embarks on its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), a 10-year survey of the available sky from Cerro Pachon in Chile. The CSDC at NOIRLab headquarters in Tucson provides archival data and tools for data-intensive astronomy. Scientific staff are assigned service roles at the above facilities in support of NOIRLab deliverables. The assignments may change over time in response to both the evolving priorities of NOIRLab within the dynamic scientific landscape and the evolving personal aspirations of the particular staff member.

Specific service roles that we seek to fill at this time include:

  • Community Scientists at Rubin Observatory: Astronomers with experience in wide-field optical imaging surveys, large scientific collaborations, web-based data analysis platforms, and/or research aligned with the main LSST science goals to join the Rubin Observatory's Community Engagement Team (CET) as Community Scientists. The CET’s strategy for community engagement has three main components: (1) to facilitate access to and analysis of the data products via the Rubin Science Platform; (2) to coordinate the expertise of the project staff and the science community to resolve issues; and (3) to nurture and empower a self-supporting and collaborative community. The appointments are expected to be on the Tenure track.
  • Operations Support Astronomer at Gemini South: Astronomers interested broadly in observatory support, including calibration and testing of instrumentation and telescope subsystems, preparing nightly observing plans, and executing queue-based observations for astronomers in the international Gemini community. The successful candidate will also assist users in defining their observing programs, introduce visiting observers to the telescope and instruments, and develop documentation for software and astronomical equipment as needed. Research in Time Domain Astronomy, wide-field AO imaging, and/or high-resolution optical and near-infrared spectroscopy would be especially well aligned with the instrumental capabilities at Gemini South. This appointment is expected to be on the Tenure track.
  • Lead Archive Scientist and Lead Pipeline Scientist for CSDC: the Lead Archive Scientist will provide scientific leadership of CSDC’s data archiving initiatives and further develop NOIRLab’s role as the national center for ground-based OIR data archiving. Areas include operation of CSDC’s Astro Data Archive, integration of data archives across NOIRLab, interoperability with other astronomical data centers, plans and strategies for archiving high-value data from non-federal OIR facilities, and leveraging commercial cloud technology to deliver new archive capabilities. The Lead Pipeline Scientist will provide scientific leadership for new data-reduction software initiatives at NOIRLab. Areas of interest include the adaptation of the Rubin Science Pipelines for automated operation on images from DECam and other instruments, collaboration with open-source projects such as Astropy to address unmet community needs in astronomical data-reduction software, and strengthening collaboration in data-reduction software development across all NOIRLab Programs. Both CSDC appointments are expected to be on the Scientist track.
  • Operations Support Astronomer for the Blanco and SOAR Telescopes: Astronomers interested broadly in observatory support, including calibration and testing of instrumentation and telescope subsystems. The successful candidate will assist users of the Blanco and/or SOAR telescopes in defining their observing programs, introduce observers to the telescope and instruments, and develop documentation for software and astronomical equipment as needed. Research in Time Domain Astronomy, wide field imaging and/or spectroscopy in the optical and near infrared would be especially well aligned with the instrumental capabilities of the Blanco and SOAR Telescopes. This appointment could be on the Tenure or Scientist track.

However, our search is not limited to these roles, and applicants with expertise and interest in any area of NOIRLab service work are welcome. Successful candidates are expected to take up residence at one of the three NOIRLab sites: Hilo, Hawaii; La Serena, Chile; or Tucson, Arizona, as appropriate for their agreed upon service role.


Minimum Requirements: PhD in Astronomy, Physics, Planetary Science, or a closely related field, and at least two years of research experience post-PhD.

Successful candidates are expected to carry out a vigorous research program commensurate with the fraction of research time available for the respective track. We are interested in seeing your application and hearing about how your innovative, new, and different ideas can support NOIRLab’s mission and build a strong and diverse staff to take us forward.

Physical Demands:

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

The work is mostly carried out in an office environment. Long periods of sitting may be required. Given the international nature of NOIRLab, you may need to travel to the various observatory sites (Arizona, Chile and Hawai`i), and occasional work at high elevation summit sites may be required (summit elevations range from 6,800 feet to 14,000 feet).

Compensation and Benefits:

Starting salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. AURA provides a generous compensation package including health coverage, paid vacation leave, parental leave, home leave for expatriates in Chile, and retirement contributions.

To Apply:

To apply, please submit: (1) a cover letter describing your interest in the position, including any specific support interests; (2) a curriculum vitae or résumé with a bibliography; and (3) a statement summarizing your most important research contributions and proposed program of research at NOIRLab. Please limit the research statement to 3 pages (plus references), and submit all documents as PDF files, named with the following format: Lastname_Docname.pdf (where Docname is CoverLetter, CV or Resume, or Statement). Please also append a list of 3 professional references, with contact information, to your Cover Letter. References will be contacted at a later stage in the recruitment.

For full consideration, applications should be received by January 16, 2022.

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at [email protected]

Questions regarding these positions should be sent to Dr. John Blakeslee at [email protected] or to Dr. Abhijit Saha at [email protected]

COVID-19 Policy Update: AURA has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy that requires all employees to be vaccinated, unless qualified for an exemption based on medical or religious reasons. All new employees will be required to comply with this policy and will be required to present proof of full vaccination or submit a completed request (including supporting documents, if applicable) for an exemption at least five (5) business days prior to their start of employment. Individuals who fail to meet this deadline may have their employment start date delayed.

This is a requirement for all employees working onsite or from home (telework or hybrid remote work schedule). Currently the vaccination requirement does not apply to any future AURA employees working in Chile, regardless of their nationality or type of contract.

AURA currently offers a mix-model workspace (office & virtual) and stimulating environments for all, with most staff working virtually from home during the COVID-19 crisis through December 2021. The safety of our staff and community is our top priority. We will continue to interview and screen candidates in this new virtual landscape and offers of employment can be extended and new hires will onboard virtually. Employees are required to be residents in their base job location within a limited time from their start date.

Additionally, all employment is contingent on establishing eligibility to work in the United States, including obtaining an appropriate visa, if necessary. Work outside of the United States or Chile is not permitted.

AURA offers an excellent benefits package including paid time off and retirement plan contributions, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and a very attractive work environment.

At NOIRLab we are committed to diversity and inclusion; our managing organization, AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of over 40 US institutions and three international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. AURA is responsible for managing the operations of the NSF’s NOIRLab, the National Solar Observatory, and the construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and operations of the Space Telescope Science Institute under contracts with NASA. Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at [email protected]

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities

The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c)

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