Research Associate - ngVLA Prototype Antenna (4881)

Research Socorro, New Mexico


Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a diverse research and development organization that plays a vital role in the study of the universe.  The Observatory operates a variety of radio telescopes that span the globe, including the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) across North America, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. These telescopes are among the most advanced in the world, allowing astronomers to explore the universe in unprecedented detail.  We are currently designing the Next-Generation VLA (ngVLA), a new facility which will offer an order-of-magnitude advance over the current VLA and VLBA with first light expected in the early 2030s.


At NRAO we are seeking a Research Associate to work on testing a prototype ngVLA 18m reflector antenna that will be located at the VLA site, expected to be installed in late 2024. The antenna is a novel Offset Gregorian design with performance tailored for observations from 1.2 to 116 GHz while accounting for the need for mass manufacturing and simplified site installation.


The appointment will be awarded initially for a two-year period, potentially renewable for a third year, contingent on mutual agreement and funding.  The appointee will be expected to spend 75% of their time on antenna testing, commissioning, characterization and related work, with the remaining 25% available for independent research.


The primary work location for the position will be at the NRAO Science Operations Center located in Socorro, NM on the campus of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology ( Socorro is a small, historical city in the Rio Grande Valley, 75 miles south of Albuquerque. With over 300 days of sunshine each year, Socorro offers ample access to outdoor recreation. Frequent travel to the VLA site to work directly with the antenna is also expected.


What You Will be Doing:


  • Planning and executing test observations aimed at characterizing antenna performance including surface accuracy and efficiency, pointing/focus and beam shape.
  • Testing antenna performance in a variety of weather conditions (thermal, wind).
  • Applying both single-dish (radiometric) and interferometric methods for the above tests.
  • Developing necessary data analysis procedures.
  • Interacting with other engineers and scientists to troubleshoot system issues.
  • Contributing to calibration strategies under development for ngVLA.
  • Carrying out a program of independent astronomical research.
  • Debugging prototype failures and assisting the engineering and maintenance teams.
  • Capturing recommendations to be considered in the final design of the ngVLA antenna.

Work Environment

Work is mission driven, team oriented and typically performed in an office setting within a research or development environment.


Who You Are:


  • You have a PhD in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Physics or a related field.
  • Previous experience in radio astronomy instrumentation, development, and/or commissioning is preferred.

Competency Summary

  • Experience with standard radio astronomy data reduction software (CASA, etc).
  • Attention to detail is critical
  • Highly organized
  • Fluency in the English language.
  • Excellent communication skills including both presentations and writing technical reports.

Total Rewards:


The NRAO offers a comprehensive total rewards package for this position, subject to eligibility requirements. We are committed to serving our employees and their families with an extensive and competitive compensation and benefits package that supports our employees’ overall well-being and career growth.



The NRAO strives to attract and retain dedicated, highly qualified, competent, and motivated employees by offering competitive compensation and recognition for performance.


Factors which may affect starting pay within this range may include; education, experience, skills, competencies, other qualifications of the successful candidate, as well as internal equity and labor market conditions.



NRAO’s benefits package addresses the needs of employees and their families with most benefits beginning on the first day of employment. NRAO provides excellent paid time off (13 holidays, annual accrual of up to 24 vacation days and 15 sick days, additional time off for doctor/dentist visits, and 8 weeks of paid parental leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay with no required employee contribution; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Application Instructions:


Select the “Apply” button. Please prepare and send a single PDF document consisting of the following items:


  • Cover letter stating why the candidate is interested in this position.  The letter should describe how the candidate matches the position and qualifications described above.
  • Curriculum Vitae.
  • Publication List.
  • Summary of past research and technical experience (maximum of 3 pages), including any instrumentation or commissioning work relevant to this position.

The deadline for application materials, including letters of reference, is Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 11:59 pm EDT. The nominal start date of this position is on or around October 1, 2024.

Please also have two letters of recommendation sent to [email protected].


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 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].



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.