Instrument Scientist

California University of Technology
Pasadena, California, United States
26 Feb 2017
End of advertisement period
26 Mar 2017
Academic Discipline
Physical Sciences, Physics & Astronomy
Contract Type
Full Time

Job Summary

Caltech Optical Observatories (COO) is inviting qualified candidates to apply for the position of Instrument Scientist within its Optical and Infrared (OIR) Instrumentation Group. The OIR Group develops innovative visible and infrared astronomical adaptive optics systems, imaging cameras, and spectrographs for the Palomar, Keck, and Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatories, as well as for other facilities and missions in support of Caltech faculty and student research.

Applicants are expected to have a demonstrated record of successfully delivering high-performance optoelectromechanical instrument systems for large telescopes or equivalent technical and managerial experience with technological innovations that meaningfully expanding human scientific knowledge and understanding.

The successful candidate will be encouraged to pursue innovative instrument development proposals in close collaboration with Caltech faculty sharing similar scientific interests, suggesting new concepts and research directions that enable new astrophysical measurements.

Job Duties

The successful Instrument Scientist is expected to demonstrate:

  • Effective hands-on technical leadership of multidisciplinary engineering and science teams.
  • Creativity and innovative development of new instrumentation techniques and component technologies for furthering precision, grasp, multiplex, and efficiency across a wide domain of astrophysical measurements
  • Successful development of instrument control software using professional software development strategies, both individually and when managing distributed software efforts
  • Excellent communications and working relationship with astrophysics faculty and research staff at Caltech and partner institutions
  • Recognized technical excellence in one or more of the following instrumentation sub-disciplines: optical, photonic, mechanical, electrical, or detector engineering; cryo-vacuum systems; adaptive optics; controls; software engineering; or robotics; or experimental physics
  • Broad knowledge of experimental physics and multidisciplinary engineering principles
  • Familiarity with effective systems engineering disciplines including requirements engineering, error budget analysis and requirements flow-down, formal interface control, and risk assessment and mitigation strategies
  • Leadership of instrument and/or data pipeline software development teams, with emphasis on efficiency, automation, maintainability, and extensibility
  • Effective project planning and management of innovative / prototypical scientific equipment
  • Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications

  • Ph.D. in astronomy, physics, engineering, or related field and 2 years experience, or equivalent
  • Capable of independent, original design work including, but not limited to, astronomical cameras, spectrographs, robotic positioners, and active/adaptive optics systems
  • Enthusiasm to make impactful contributions, individually and within instrumentation teams, to human knowledge and understanding
  • Demonstrated strong laboratory integration and testing skills including, but not limited to, proper understanding of cryogenic instruments, alignment and assembly tolerances, metrology systems, automated data acquisition systems, statistical analysis, and computer / hardware interfaces
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills and ability to lead technical peers and work collegially with astronomical faculty
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and be able to maintain it throughout the course of employment.
  • Occasional travel and work at high altitudes (14,000 ft.) is required, including both daytime and occasional nighttime schedules, often in low light level conditions.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Ph.D. and 5 years or more of experience
  • Expertise in adaptive optics systems design and performance optimization, high-contrast imaging techniques and/or high-resolution spectroscopy
  • Strong independent publication record in astronomical instrumentation and international recognition of past achievements
  • Proven publication record in advanced optical / photonic instrument component development for new generations of spectrographs and adaptive optics systems

Supervisory position?


Posting Detail Information

Posting Open Date


Posting Close Date

Open Until Filled


EEO Statement

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Caltech is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor. For more information about “EEO is the Law” click here: EEO is the Law

Special Instructions to Applicants