Scientist (Open Rank)

Observatory Service and Science Charlottesville, Virginia


Position Description:

Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) mission is to enable forefront research into the Universe at radio wavelengths. In partnership with the scientific community, we:

  • Provide world leading telescopes, instrumentation and expertise,
  • Train the next generation of scientists and engineers, and
  • Promote astronomy to foster a more scientifically literate society.

The North American ALMA Regional Center (NA ARC) is the science operations division of North American ALMA. It supports the North American astronomical community in using ALMA and, in collaboration with the ALMA international partners, provides scientific support for the operations of the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile. ALMA has entered routine science operations with more than 4000 hours of scientific observations scheduled for each of the upcoming observing cycles.


The NA ARC is recruiting for two scientific staff positions within the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC).  The focus of these positions will be working with the NAASC Scientific Software Group on research, development, and testing of heuristics for the ALMA calibration and imaging pipelines. Activities will include working with the international ALMA Pipeline Working Group for each upcoming Cycle’s development tasks, leading the implementation of new capabilities in the ALMA pipeline architecture, and performing full end-to-end testing of the ALMA pipeline.  Successful applicants will also interface extensively with the CASA team to develop and scientifically validate new and existing CASA tasks and tools. Applicants should have a background in scientific computing and algorithm development and experience processing interferometric astronomical data.


Although the primary focus of the search is for the Scientific Software Group, applicants who have the potential to contribute to other groups within the NAASC will also be considered.  Staff scientists within the NA ARC are involved in a variety of other scientific support activities such as imaging data and developing imaging techniques; supporting investigators in obtaining, reducing, and analyzing data; engaging in community training; and supporting telescope operations in Santiago, Chile and at the Operations Support Facility near San Pedro de Atacama.


NRAO scientists are expected to enable cutting-edge science by the community and to enhance the observing capabilities for ALMA in addition to contributing to the overall NRAO mission. They must be able to contribute positively to a collaborative environment that requires both individual leadership and teamwork. The successful applicants will become integral members of the NA ARC and contribute to the NAASC’s activities under the direction of the NAASC group managers and the NA ARC Manager.

NRAO staff scientists are expected to carry out an independent research program using 25% of their time. An applicant’s research program may be multi-wavelength in nature as long as it has synergies with NRAO facilities, particularly ALMA. Staff scientists are also expected to be versatile and adapt to new challenges and opportunities as NRAO and the astronomical landscape evolves. Applicants should discuss their versatility for functional work in their cover letter.


Location and Compensation

Appointments will be in residence at our NRAO headquarters located in Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective first day of employment. Our retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Job Duties Summary

The hiring committee will consider all applicants who meet the minimum qualifications.  Appointments will be on the NRAO Scientist track, with 25% discretionary research time and 75% functional responsibilities. The position is nominally at the assistant scientist level, but higher ranks will be considered based on the candidate’s experience. For their functional work, successful applicants will be members of the NA ARC and will report to the NA ARC Manager or their designee.


Position Requirements:

Minimum Education

Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics or a related field


Minimum Experience

One year of postdoctoral work experience or equivalent


Preferred Experience

  • Two or more years of postdoctoral work experience or equivalent
  • Experience working in an observatory setting
  • Experience with radio/millimeter/submillimeter astronomy and interferometry
  • Familiarity with common software packages used in astronomical research
  • Background in scientific computing
  • Experience with astronomical data processing pipelines
  • Established record of independent research
  • Multi-wavelength research experience
  • Demonstrated ability to work in a geographically-distributed team environment
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability to a changing work environment
  • Demonstrated interest in broadening participation and scientific community outreach


Application Instructions:

For consideration, select the “Apply” button below. Please prepare a single PDF document consisting of the following items:

1.       Cover letter stating why you are interested in this position – the letter should describe how your education and experience match the requirements and qualifications described above (maximum 2 pages).

2.       Curriculum vitae

3.       List of refereed publications

4.       Names of 3 professional referees who will submit letters of reference to by the application deadline.

5.       Summary of past technical and observational experience relevant to the position (maximum 2 pages).

6.       Description of research accomplishments and future research plans (maximum 4 pages)


The deadline for receipt of applications is May 31, 2019 at 23:59 ET. Please direct inquiries to Amanda Kepley at


The NRAO is an equal opportunity employer (M/F/D/V)

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.