VLBA Technical Specialist I - II (4869)

Engineers, Technical Specialists and Technicians North Liberty, Iowa



Position Description:


Position Summary

The VLBA Station Specialist is a hands-on technical staff member skilled and experienced in multiple areas such as digital and analog electronics, mechanical hardware, HVAC systems, general site maintenance, and operations support. NRAO is seeking an employee willing to climb a large radio telescope antenna, troubleshoot and fix problems there or in the site building, and otherwise keep the site operational to enable astronomical data to be continuously received, processed, and delivered for scientific study. This is a rewarding opportunity, where the tenure of Specialists is typically measured in decades due to the interesting work and the Observatory’s great benefits and work-life balance.


In general, the Specialist, along with another Specialist, is responsible for installation, repairs, and maintenance at the Very Long Baseline Array Station located in North Liberty, IA approximately 10 miles north of Iowa City. The station includes the 25-meter antenna and support infrastructure and is part of a 10-antenna array, spread across the US, all capturing radio astronomical data delivered to a centrally located correlator. The Specialist will interact with other personnel at these sites and at the correlator site. The Specialist must respond to emergency repair situations as dictated by the impact on the station's ability to perform intended functions. The employee typically works with the other Specialist, but is occasionally solo when schedule issues arise and is on-call on alternating weekends.


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. This additional 10 percent contribution does not require a match from the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Job Duties Summary

The position provides maintenance, inspection, testing, troubleshooting, repair, data delivery and other work on the Very Long Baseline Array Station, including the 25-meter Antenna. The station includes Radio Frequency receiver and cryogenic systems, data and communications equipment, data recorders, recording media, servo control systems, mechanical drive equipment, and weather stations.


Routine duties include:

  • Using standard electronic test equipment, recording effects on unit performance, inspection, and adjustment and/or replacement of defective system components.
  • Performing scheduled maintenance, lubrication and mechanical and electronic inspections.
  • Monitoring and maintenance of all systems for proper operation. This includes the emergency power generating equipment, fire alarms, and HVAC systems.
  • Consultation with the other VLBA Specialist assigned to this site and with NRAO technicians and engineers located elsewhere in formulating and planning corrective actions.
  • Other preventive and corrective maintenance on hardware, test equipment, and peripheral equipment, including inspection against specifications or for quality.
  • Use of electronics test equipment such as digital multimeters, spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, signal generators, and power supplies. Use of hand tools for mechanical work or repair.
  • Upkeep of the site and facilities.


Additional duties include:

  • Writing technical reports and developing charts, graphs, and schematics to describe equipment’s operating characteristics, malfunctions, deviations from design specifications, and functional limitations. This includes documentation of work performed.
  • Recommendation of changes required to achieve functional requirements of the units.
  • Maintenance and servicing of facilities and equipment, including creation of records and reports.
  • Proactive compliance with all NRAO policies and procedures is required.
  • Other duties may be assigned. May be asked to travel to other VLBA sites to support maintenance.


Competency Summary

Candidates must have the ability to work independently and reliably with minimal direct supervision. They must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing and operate a personal computer and common software. They must be able to solve technical problems and deal with a variety of situations where only limited documentation and standardization may exist. Candidates must have and maintain a current Driver's License and they may be required to drive Observatory vehicles.


Work Environment

The Specialist frequently works in high places, up to 100 feet, in outside weather conditions. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate. The employee works near moving mechanical parts and is exposed to electrical hazards. These and other situations mean the employee is often responsible to perform lockout/tag out to create a safe work environment.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Associate of Science degree (A.S.) or equivalent in Electronics.


Preferred Education

Bachelor's Degree in a related field.


Minimum Experience

3-5 years of experience in the Electronics or Electrical fields.  Qualified candidates with 5 or more years of experience may be considered for the Specialist II classification.



Preferred Experience

Five or more years of experience in the Electronics training or Electrical fields, with experience in technical support radio astronomy or telecommunications equipment and installations.


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. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to use hands to handle or feel objects, use tools or controls; reach with hands and arms. The employee must be able to negotiate vertical ladders to access service locations on the antenna; required to utilize fall arrest equipment. While in these locations the employee must balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl. The employee must frequently lift and move up to 50 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, depth perception, and the ability to adjust focus. Normal hearing ability is required to receive directions from other employees located in other areas of the station. After an offer of employment, the candidate will need to successfully pass an employment physical.


Safety Sensitive

The selected candidate must successfully pass a post-offer, pre-employment/pre-placement drug screen.  Failure to pass the Screen will disqualify the candidate from employment consideration for a period of six months from the date of the results.


Application Instructions:


Click the “Apply” button below.  You will need to be prepared to upload your current CV/Resume and a letter of application describing interest and suitability for the position.


Equal Opportunity Employer Statement:


AUI is an equal opportunity employer.  Women, Minorities, Vietnam-Era Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities are encouraged to apply.  To view our complete statement, please visit http://jobs.jobvite.com/nrao/jobs.  If you require reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process due to a disability, you may submit your request by sending an email to [email protected]. PM20


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