Scientific Programmer

California, United States
01 Jun 2020
End of advertisement period
01 Aug 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

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering research and education institution, as well as a thriving 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 in the greater Los Angeles area. We offer an exciting and dynamic environment, exceptional career development opportunities, competitive pay programs, great benefits, and the opportunity to participate in many campus programs and activities. We seek the best and brightest talent to join our workforce and become members of our community. Exceptional employees are the key to Caltech’s remarkable success.

The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI)

As a part of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy Division at Caltech, the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI; provides science operations, analysis tools and archive services related to the discovery and characterization of planets beyond our solar system (exoplanets) using data from observatories in space and on the ground. NExScI operates within the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC; .

Together IPAC and NExScI support more than 20 astronomy missions, including Spitzer, Kepler, TESS and the 10 m Keck telescopes, which have contributed to major advances in exoplanet science, astrophysics and cosmology. As a member of the NExScI engineering team, you will be working to enable scientists to discover and explore the properties of exoplanets orbiting stars throughout the galaxy.

Life at Caltech/IPAC

IPAC 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 despite its small size, with 39 Nobel Prizes awarded to faculty and alumni. 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 Observatory, Keck Observatory, and LIGO, which in 2016 observed gravitational waves from colliding black holes for the first time.

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 IPAC for many reasons, and the casual, employee-centric culture often leads to fulfilling, long-term careers and lasting relationships. 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. IPAC staff have access to the Institute’s facilities, including the athletic center, libraries, on-site daycare, professional development and enrichment classes, and Athenaeum club membership.

We are an equal opportunity employer. All applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. Caltech is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor. 

NExScI supports a variety of observatories used for exoplanet research including the Kepler, K2 and TESS space missions, the W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO) 10 m telescopes with the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA), and the NEID instrument on the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak. NExScI also hosts the NASA Exoplanet Archive and Exoplanet Follow-up web service ( ExoFOP ).

NExScI is working with a Caltech team to develop a next-generation planet detection instrument for the Keck I telescope to discover and characterize exoplanets using the radial velocity (RV) technique . The Keck Planet Finder (KPF) will make extremely precise measurements of the spectral lines of stars to track the gravitational influence of an orbiting planet, and thus to infer its properties. The extraordinary precision of KPF means that it will be able to track periodic motions at the 30 centimeter-per-second level (the typical walking speed of a person) in stars that are thousands of light-years away. The combination of KPF’s precision and the large 10 m Keck aperture will provide an unprecedented scientific capability for the study of potentially habitable planets in the next decade. NExScI is seeking a Scientific Programmer to work as part of the team developing a processing pipeline to take data from the instrument at the telescope, and produce fully calibrated stellar spectra and precise measurements of radial velocity of the star over time.

Job Duties

  • Work with other developers and scientists on the KPF team to define, implement, and test modules for the KPF data reduction pipeline
  • Use Python to develop and support the pipeline
  • Coordinate with NExScI and the KPF project representatives to interpret and implement project requirements

Basic Qualifications

These are a set of skills and experiences which are necessary for your ability to contribute to the roles and responsibilities of the position:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in Physics, Astrophysics, Computer Science, or a related field
  • 2+ years of experience programming in Python
  • Strong oral and written communication skills as well as the ability to work well with others on a small team

Preferred Qualifications

These are a set of skills and experiences which will add to your ability to contribute to the roles and responsibilities of the position. The following attributes would make you a better fit for this position, but even if these do not describe you or your experience, we would still like to hear from you.

  • Master’s degree or equivalent experience in Physics, Astrophysics, or a related field
  • Experience with modern software development techniques including configuration management principles and tools, source code version control (e.g. git/github)
  • Experience working with astronomical data sets and the astropy software environment
  • Experience developing algorithms and software for astronomical data analysis

Required Documents

  • Cover letter
  • Resume

Note: An initial remote working arrangement will be considered for up to six months.

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