Operations Specialist

California, United States
Tuesday, 11 August 2020
End of advertisement period
Sunday, 11 October 2020
Contract Type
Full Time

Job Summary

Caltech is more than a world-renowned science and engineering research and education institution, it is a community—a community of curious and passionate individuals who collaborate to understand and solve complex scientific and societal challenges. Caltech is an award-winning workplace and one of the best places to work. We offer an exciting and dynamic work environment, exceptional career development opportunities, competitive pay programs, great benefits, and the opportunity to participate in many campus programs and activities. Exceptional employees are critical to Caltech’s success.

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), part of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy Division at Caltech (www.caltech.edu), is a National Science Foundation major facility dedicated to gravitational wave astronomy and astrophysics, jointly operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LIGO Laboratory seeks a highly motivated and skilled Operations Specialist to join its team.

The current generation of advanced interferometers came on line in 2015 and shortly afterwards LIGO launched the field of gravitational wave astronomy with the first observation of the birth of a black hole; this achievement led to the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics to its founders. LIGO consists of two widely separated (3,002 km), 4 kilometer-long interferometers operating as a single, phased detector. One (LIGO Hanford Observatory) is located north of Richland, Washington and the other (LIGO Livingston Observatory) is in Livingston, Louisiana.  Concurrent to observatory operations, the Laboratory maintains a vigorous R&D program, primarily centered at the Caltech and MIT campuses, to further enhance the capabilities of the LIGO detectors. For more information, please visit the Laboratory website at www.ligo.caltech.edu

The successful candidate for this position will join the LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO) Operations Specialist team, and share responsibility for the operation, optimization, and maintenance of the detector and infrastructure at the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

The work location is at the LIGO Hanford Observatory, near Richland, WA.

LIGO Laboratory is a family-friendly laboratory and strives to ensure everyone is able to achieve the work-life balance they desire. Employees have access to a wide range of benefits including a child-care assistance program.

LIGO Laboratory is committed to being a welcoming place for everyone regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, or veteran status

Job Duties

  • Report to the LHO Operations Specialist Team Leader.
  • Operation of a large-scale gravitational wave interferometer.
  • Coordinate and review interferometer activities.
  • Support monitoring and adjustment of interferometer systems and associated observatory equipment and facilities to ensure desired performance and data integrity. The work schedule may cover any time during the 24­hour operations and schedules may vary.  
  • Develop a working knowledge of how to operate and maintain the interferometers and support systems through on-the-job experience, training, and interaction with LIGO staff and visitors.
  • Assist in assembly, installation, testing, and commissioning of the Advanced LIGO optics, electro­mechanical components, electronic controls, or data acquisition and control hardware/software during breaks from data-taking/observing.
  • Carry out maintenance, calibration, and upgrade of instrumentation at the Observatory, including the interferometers, infrastructure, support equipment, and other apparatus as required.
  • Participate in physical characterization of instrumental signatures in the interferometer data and assist with the development of operational techniques and analysis methods to discriminate these signatures.
  • Occasionally participate in educational activities for the public, including detector science, astrophysical investigations, and basic science concepts.
  • Assist in development of new technologies, protocols and methods to support the Observatory’s continuing mission. These efforts may require occasional travel to other LIGO installations and collaborating institutions in Livingston, Louisiana, Pasadena, California, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and possibly internationally.
  • Assist in inventory, assembly, installation, testing, and commissioning of Advanced LIGO Plus assemblies and hardware.
  • Participate in general safety and laser safety training.  Report any safety issues to the LHO Site Safety Manager and/or LHO Laser Safety Officer.
  • Other duties as assigned

Basic Qualifications

  • BS in physical sciences or engineering or equivalent experience.
  • 2 years of experience developing, testing or operating scientific or other precision instrumentation, or equivalent coursework and laboratory experience.
  • Proficiency with standard computing applications (e.g., Word, Excel, and web applications).
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Strong teamwork skills and an ability to collaborate with coworkers having diverse skills and backgrounds.
  • An aptitude and enthusiasm to learn new skills, and to assist and train others.
  • Must have reliable transportation to and from the observatory site.
  • The successful candidate must be able to work a varied schedule during observing runs; this may include evenings, overnights, weekends, and holidays. 

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in physical sciences or engineering or equivalent experience.
  • Skilled in high-level programming languages (Python, Bash, etc.) for use with general scripting, state machines, or data visualization.
  • Knowledgeable with scientific modeling and analysis applications, such as MATLAB or LabVIEW.
  • Familiarity with the Debian & UNIX operating systems.
  • Proficiency with 2D and 3D CAD software (such as AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS) and reading mechanical drawings.
  • Experience with EPICS databases, scripts for automating tasks, and the ability to develop and create GUIs would be an asset.
  • Specialized technical experience with lasers, optics, analog or digital electronics, cleanroom protocols, or high vacuum technology will also be advantageous.
  • Experience in laser engineering or opto­mechanical systems design.
  • Experience working in a large scientific collaboration. 

Required Documents

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter