CASA Pipeline Lead - Software Engineer IV (4285)

Computers/Software Socorro, New Mexico


Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is actively seeking a qualified candidate to join the Common Astronomy Software Applications (CASA) Group as the Pipeline Lead.


The CASA Group is responsible for the CASA package, and the CASA pipelines, which provide heuristic-based automated processing for calibration and imaging. These software products have the primary responsibility of supporting the data post-processing needs of NRAO’s current generation of radio astronomical telescopes, ALMA and the VLA. Additionally, CASA is committed to supporting the needs of the broader radio astronomy community. CASA can process both interferometric and single dish data, and is developed by an international consortium of scientists and developers based at the National Radio Astronomical Observatory (NRAO), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), the CSIRO division for Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) under the guidance of NRAO.


The CASA pipelines provide a layer of telescope specific heuristics, using CASA and implemented in python, connected to observatory systems to allow automated data calibration and imaging.


The position is based at the Science Operations Center in Socorro, NM on the campus of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology ( Socorro is a small, historical town in the Rio Grande Valley, 75 miles south of Albuquerque. 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. NRAO’s 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 Pipeline Lead is responsible for the international CASA Pipeline development team including development teams in other regions, and is responsible for the overall technical and programmatic management of the extended team. The successful candidate will also take responsibility for regular reporting on management status and compliance with deadlines to senior management at NRAO and other participating organizations, and may be asked to present that status to other stakeholders or advisory bodies in formal or informal reviews.


Programmatic management involves oversight of all aspects of the lifecycle of software for which the group is responsible, including:

  • Gathering of requirements, planning development, assigning tasks, tracking progress, coordinating integration, testing, acceptance, and release while fulfilling high standards of quality.


Technical management involves interacting directly with all group members:

  • Developing the pipeline infrastructure to support retrieval of data from the archive, generation of pipeline processing requests, standard pipeline recipes, creation of final data products, and final ingestion of products into the archive.
  • Guiding the integration of pipeline components, tasks, heuristics, quality assessment, and logs into the pipeline system
  • Maintaining a consistent view and quality of implementation across all of the software.
  • Approving technical direction within the team.
  • Interacting with a team of expert developers and improving on present practices whenever and wherever appropriate, in agreement with the CASA Group Lead where necessary.


As the leader of an international development project, experience in achieving results indirectly, e.g., in collaborations or through people in other organizations is a key to success in this position.


Work Environment

Work is typically conducted in an office environment.  Some domestic and international travel will be required; must be willing to travel at regular intervals within and outside the U.S.



Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Bachelor’s degree in computer science, physics, astronomy, or related field. Advanced degree is preferred.


Minimum Experience

At least seven years of experience in software development, with at least three or more years of experience leading a software group of five or more people. Strong scientific background in astronomy or a closely related field. Equivalent relevant experience working in a research institution or observatory will be considered.


Preferred Education

An advanced degree in a closely related field


Preferred Experience

Relevant experience with radio astronomy analysis software and procedures is preferred. Knowledge of radio interferometric theory and practice would be valuable. Demonstrated leadership in complex environments and experience leading larger software teams is preferred.


Additional skills & Abilities:

  • Strong interpersonal and group communications skills, oral and written.
  • Familiarity with a wide variety of technologies, such as C, C++, Python, testing frameworks, threading, parallelization.
  • Ability to translate science requirements into software requirements.
  • Understanding of software architecture and the implications it has for development.
  • Must possess strong leadership and delegation capabilities. Ability to maintain and develop productive collaborations across organizations, anticipate and mitigate political and technical issues.
  • Demonstrated strong initiative in refining and clarifying requirements, defining and implementing QA processes, plan definition and monitoring, defining technical direction, and facilitating alignment.
  • Ability to learn new areas and apply learning.
  • Strong troubleshooting and problem-solving abilities.
  • Familiarity with project management concepts and techniques.


Competency Summary

The Pipeline Lead is expected to have demonstrated experience leading software development groups, preferably within the domain of astronomy. The successful candidate shall also have experience in leading a distributed team of developers and be familiar with management, planning, and reporting aspects. The candidate should be prepared to deal with already ongoing activities, while also having the ability to formulate a long-term direction. Candidates should have experience balancing the maintenance, improvement, and enhancement of operational software. Planning skills and appropriate management of a team of expert developers and scientists are essential. Competency and experience dealing with the development process from requirements gathering, to development, testing and the formalism needed to achieve an orderly process is also expected. Must be able to build strong and productive relationships with stakeholders who have complex and sometimes conflicting requirements, such as scientists, development partners, and operations organizations. Strong decision-making, consensus building, and communication skills are essential.


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.