Scientific Programmer

California, United States
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
End of advertisement period
Sunday, 15 November 2020
Contract Type
Full Time

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions. We thrive on finding and cultivating talented people who are passionate about what they do. Join us and be a part of the diverse Caltech community.

Job Summary

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) seeks a highly motivated and skilled SCIENTIFIC PROGRAMMER to join its team. LIGO Laboratory is a National Science Foundation major facility dedicated to observing the newly discovered gravitational-wave universe. Jointly operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the LIGO Laboratory operates world-leading observatories near Richland, WA and Baton Rouge, LA as well as R&D centers on the Caltech and MIT campuses. The LIGO Laboratory’s mission spans a broad and vibrant array of activities related to gravitational-wave physics and astronomy, including detector operations, R&D toward detector improvements, gravitational-wave astrophysics, observatory operations, and education and public outreach.

This position is located in Pasadena, California. For more information, please visit the Laboratory website at

Life at Caltech/LIGO

LIGO Caltech is located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Caltech has an extraordinary science impact across many fields. Its small size creates a community where innovation and collaboration are the norm. Caltech manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA, the leading US center for the robotic exploration of the Solar System. Caltech also operates large-scale research facilities such as the Palomar and Keck Observatories.

Pasadena is a city known for its contributions to science and technology, rich history, cultural treasures, and scenic beauty. The year-round comfortable weather creates a desirable environment for life and ideas to thrive. See Bill Nye’s take on our city.

People choose to work at LIGO for many reasons, often with fulfilling, long-term careers. LIGO is a family-friendly laboratory and strives to ensure everyone is able to achieve the work-life balance they desire. Caltech’s benefits program offers a quality, competitive benefits package that is affordable for you and the Institute. The program provides a strong base of coverage for you and your dependents, and the ability to choose the plan and the level of coverage that best meet your needs. We also offer a 403(b) defined contribution plan to eligible staff as well as a Voluntary Retirement Savings (TDA) Plan. LIGO Caltech staff have access to the Institute’s facilities, including the athletic center, libraries, on- site daycare, professional development and enrichment classes, and Athenaeum club memberships (only Caltech site template).

Caltech HR diversity page:

Caltech and LIGO Laboratory’s goal is to build a world-class, diverse workforce and support an inclusive environment that encourages professional development and offers top-notch benefits. Our talented staff, who work at the Caltech campus, or one of our Observatories, come from a variety of fields. Positions include scientists, engineers, information technology staff, outreach professionals, managers, writers, business professionals, and administrative staff. We are deeply committed to encouraging people of all backgrounds to apply for these opportunities. Our experience has demonstrated that the broader the styles, characteristics, backgrounds, and abilities of our staff—in other words, the more diverse our team is—the greater potential we have for success. Caltech is an equal opportunity employer.

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

The scientific programmer will develop software to archive, discover, display, and download publicly available LIGO/Virgo strain data and analysis results, as available through the Gravitational Wave Open Science Center (GWOSC). The focus will be to improve and expand the services available through the GWOSC web server, available at The new hire will also develop software to support LIGO/Virgo low- latency event selection and public dissemination for low-latency gravitational-wave transient events (see These tools support discovery and analysis of gravitational-wave sources and their electromagnetic counterparts.

  • Develop and support new features for the Gravitational Wave Open Science Center (GWOSC) web site and data archive, visible at 
  • Contribute to the design, implementation, and maintenance of a system able to distribute low latency astronomical alerts from the LIGO observations, visible at
  • Develop service-like infrastructure for tasks central to the delivery of public low-latency gravitational-wave alerts. 
  • Provide “help desk” support by answering questions from the public.
  • Help design and develop a searchable database of gravitational-wave transients, along with the user interface and API.
  • Coordinate work with an international scientific collaboration of over 1,000 people, including frequent use of e-mails, telecons, and chat channels. 
  • Help curate scientific data products, including strain data from gravitational-wave observatories and analysis products such as gravitational wave source parameters.
  • Work in a Linux software environment.  
  • Develop using a django web framework with a SQL database backend. 
  • Develop scientific software using multiple programming languages, primarily python. 
  • Support the overall scientific mission of LIGO Laboratory, as well as support mentoring and training of students and junior scientists.
  • Communicate professionally both verbally and in writing.
  • Work in a team environment and communicate with people who have a broad spectrum of backgrounds, skills, and educational preparation. 
  • Other duties as assigned

Basic Qualifications

  • BS in physical sciences, computer science, or related field
  • 3 years of experience developing software for scientific applications
  • Proficiency developing in a Linux computing environment using python
  • One year of experience in a research field related to astronomy, physics, or other physical science

Preferred Qualifications

  • PhD in physics, astronomy, or a related field
  • Thorough knowledge developing in a python web framework, such as django or flask
  • Thorough knowledge with database technologies such as mySQL
  • Working knowledge with web site design languages, including HTML, CSS, and javascript
  • Working knowledge with cloud-based technologies for deployment and management of software
  • General knowledge with time-series data and/or digital signal processing

Required Documents

  • Resume or CV
  • Cover Letter

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