Operations Specialist I or II (4326)

Technical Support Socorro, New Mexico


Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is seeking an Operations Specialist to join our team at the Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA).  The position provides skilled technical assistance, under general supervision, in the execution of astronomical observing programs, basic analysis and archiving of data. The position operates an array of 27 telescopes as one system ensuring the acquisition of data from the instrument delivers a high level of data quality while ensuring the safety of personnel and equipment. Candidates with preferred experience and education will be considered for a higher level Operation Specialist ranking; duties and responsibilities increase with each level.


The position is based at the Very Large Array radio telescope site, 50 miles west of Socorro. Socorro is a small, historical town in the Rio Grande Valley, 75 miles south of Albuquerque. In addition to competitive pay, the 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

Routine duties assigned to all levels of Operation Specialist include:

  • Operates and monitors telescopes and supporting equipment. 
  • Initiates telescope control and prepares the antenna, receivers, clocks, recording systems, and other hardware/software for operation.
  • Receives observing instructions from on-site or remote observers and executes observation programs including but not limited to process incoming observe files, verify against published schedules, annotate files on the observation schedule, execute observation programs, and send pointing results to observers.
  • Provide assistance to and accommodate requests from observers, scientific staff, engineers, and technicians in regards to basic commands for telescope controls and data analyses
  • Monitor readings and alerts on multiple computer screens to detect unsafe equipment conditions and ensure all systems are configured correctly and operating normally.
  • Monitor fringe amplitude readings and data flagging codes to check data quality.
  • Perform system tests to measure values used to finely tune each antenna. Verify antenna functionality and band performance and update system parameters, following antenna moves or a major hardware upgrade, in consultation with a system expert.
  • Takes prescribed actions to protect telescope equipment i.e. weather conditions exceed operating parameters.
  • Troubleshoot and take corrective action when errors and faults occur.
  • Make necessary personnel call-outs when equipment safety is compromised and/or when major problems occur.
  • Maintain an accurate observing log of failures, abnormal conditions, significant events, equipment status changes, procedural changes, or special instructions from observers or staff.
  • Write detailed maintenance reports for hardware and software problems.
  • Document operational procedures as required.
  • Proactive compliance with all NRAO policies and procedures is required.
  • Collect meteorological data for the National Weather Service.
  • Deliver mail and transport personnel to/from VLA and AOC.
  • Other duties may be assigned.


Work Environment

The employee will have to work a 24hr/7day rotating shift pattern consisting of day, evening and night shifts.  A typical workweek is 4/10hr days with days off between shift changes. The work is indoors at a console with multiple computer terminals. All employees must be available for emergency call out and may be required to work overtime to cover vacant shifts or in emergency situations until relieved.   The employee will work at high altitudes and self-drive to the VLA site. Driving will sometimes be at night on the highway and may be in snow, rain, or icy conditions.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Associate's degree (A. A.) or equivalent from an accredited two-year college or technical school with training in math, physics, science or a related technical field. 


Preferred Education

Bachelor's Degree in a related field.


Minimum Experience

Some operating experience in an industrial environment preferred.  Qualified candidates with one or more years of experience may be considered for the Specialist II.


Preferred Experience

One year of experience in operating an industrial-sized astronomical telescope preferred.   


Competency Summary

Must be able to follow procedures and policies, be able to handle emergencies calmly, able to express themselves clearly both verbally and in writing, be attentive to detail, and able to work well with others, sometimes in stressful situations.  Must be able to operate a computer using process control software applications, and able to use a Windows computer and word processing and spreadsheet software.  Must have experience with a LINUX/UNIX operating environment.  Must have demonstrated ability to read and interpret documents such as schematics, operating and maintenance instructions, and procedure manuals.


Physical Requirements

The physical demands and the work environment characteristics described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position. The employee must occasionally lift and/or move up to 50 pounds. Specific vision requirements include close vision, distance vision, color and depth perception, and the ability to adjust focus.  The employee must be able to hear instructions and warnings.  All Operators must be available for emergency call out and are required to work extended shifts of up to 12 hours, when needed.  Hearing acuity in order to perform work safely with instructions being given over radios and to respond to system alarms; visual acuity to read and understand written/graphic/data material on a computer screen and determine colors displayed on a computer monitor.


Additional Requirement

The Operations Specialist is required to hold and maintain a valid NM Driver’s License.


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.