Assistant Scientist or Software Engineer III (4304)

Observatory Service and Science Socorro, New Mexico


Position Description:


Position Summary

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

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


The NRAO is recruiting for a full-time (at-will) scientific staff member or Software Engineer III position (as appropriate for educational qualification) for investigation of the suitability of various imaging algorithms for the science of the ngVLA, and to derive the computing load needed to process ngVLA data through those algorithms.  The position has no fixed term (at will), but does depend on the continuation of ngVLA project funding.   


The position is located in NRAO, Socorro, NM – the home of the Domenici Science Operations Center (DSOC) operates the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), which houses a number of NRAO scientific, engineering, technical, computing and support staff.  The DSOC also has a significant concentration of scientists and engineers working on the design of ngVLA.   The ngVLA is the next-generation PI-driven telescope with 10x higher sensitivity and resolution compared to existing VLA, with an operating frequency range from 1.2 GHz to 116 GHz.  It will consist of 214 antennas, spread across 100s of km and multiple states in the US South West.  The ngVLA is currently in the initial design development stage and may move to the construction phase within a decade.  The successful candidate in this position will therefore have an opportunity to participate in these early stages of the project and significantly influence the design.


Staff at DSOC in general are engaged in a wide range of scientific topics, from algorithm R&D, to planetary science, to stars, to external galaxies, to cosmology, to engineering R&D.  The staff recruited for this position will become a part of the Algorithms R&D Group (ARDG) with opportunities to engage with the scientific and technical staff at DSOC in general.


If appointed as Assistant Scientist (with a PhD), the successful candidate will also have 25% of their time for self-directed research, preferably in the general area of algorithms and computing research.  Appointments as Software Engineer III will not have self-directed research time.


The ideal candidate will contribute to the overall ngVLA project, which is currently in the initial design phase and one of the major projects currently being executed at the NRAO.  The candidate must be able to demonstrate the ability to work within a collaborative environment that promotes motivation, leadership and team building, in both scientific and functional areas.  NRAO staff are expected to be versatile and flexible in their work to adapt to new challenges thrown up by the evolving software and computing environment, and problems related to significantly larger next generation telescopes (like the ngVLA) in terms of sensitivity, number of antennas, instantaneous bandwidth and resulting data rates and data volume.


Job Duties Summary

This job involves research on the frontier of imaging algorithms and related high performance computing.  The functional work will be in the form of directed research to:

  • Test the suitability of existing algorithms against ngVLA science cases (will likely require some simulation).
  • Define, parameterize, and size the computing needed for an ensemble of science use cases for processing.
  • Define future work needed to improve algorithms for ngVLA use.


The work will involve assessing the imaging performance for the relevant ngVLA use cases using existing algorithms and estimating computing requirements using the CASA package.  Some of the work may involve algorithmic explorations via modifications of existing algorithms or development of prototypes for new algorithms, were existing algorithms are found to be insufficient in imaging performance or computing efficiency, or both.  A possible secondary focus may also involve assessing the suitability of the selected solutions for automated pipeline processing.  The product of this directed research may lead to algorithmic or software solutions which might be applicable to existing facilities like the EVLA and ALMA.  Using these telescopes to acquire new data for proof-of-concept tests is also a possibility.


We are looking for candidates with experience in the processing of radio interferometric data using standard post-processing software.  Candidates with a PhD in radio astronomy and a record of research may be considered for appointment as an Assistant Scientist.  Exceptional candidates without a PhD, but with demonstrated experience in radio interferometric data processing, may be considered for appointment as Software Engineer III.


Appointments will be in residence in Socorro, New Mexico.  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.


Work Environment

The successful candidate will join a team of professionals engaged in research and development in the fields of science, engineering, software development, and education.  Work is typically performed in a research or development environment.  Must be able to operate a personal computer. May occasionally work at high altitudes.  Must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. Some travel will be required.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Bachelors of Science in Physics, Computer Science or related field; PhD in related for consideration for Scientist appointment.


Preferred Education

Advanced degree in physics, computer science or related field for the consideration for the Software Engineer classification.


Minimum Experience

For consideration for a scientific appointment, one year of relevant experience to include demonstrated experience in radio astronomical data processing and related scientific software development; for the Software Engineer, three years or relevant experience.


Preferred Experience

  • Experience in C++ and Python programming.
  • Experience using and programming in CASA.
  • Experience with parallel application development (both multi-process and multi-threaded).
  • Experience with version control software and testing methodologies.
  • Experience integrating algorithms into a functioning, maintainable system.
  • Flexibility and adaptability to a changing work environment.
  • Strong interpersonal skills/team work/proficiency in communication (verbal and written).
  • One year of post-doctoral work for candidates apply to the scientific track


Competency Summary

Experience in radio interferometric data analysis and associated concepts, preferably using the CASA package, with experience in programming in Python.  Experience in programming with C++ will be a strong added advantage.  Working knowledge of software tools for working with existing large software packages (like CASA), use of debugging tool and revision control tools (like Git).


Application Instructions :


Software Engineer Applicants:

Please upload your cv/resume with the ADD RESUME button and your cover letter with the ADDITIONAL FILES button at the beginning of the application process.


Assistant Scientist Applicants:

You will need the following materials, combined in a single pdf file to upload to the ADD RESUME button at the beginning of the application process:

  1. Cover letter stating why you are interested in this position – the letter should describe how you match the position and qualifications summarized above (no more than 3 pages).
  2. Curriculum vitae including publications list.
  3. Summary of past technical and observational experience relevant to this position (2 pages).
  4. Summary of past research (2 pages).
  5. Plan for future research describing specifically use of, and synergies with, NRAO facilities and observatory goals and priorities (3 pages).


Each applicant submitting for the scientific classification should arrange for letters of reference to be submitted by three individuals familiar with their scientific abilities directly to  These letters must be received by February 9, 2018.  Applicants are responsible for ensuring that letters of reference have been sent.  All required application documents, with the exception of reference letters, should be combined into a single file and uploaded when the application is submitted.  The deadline for receipt of complete applications is February 9, 2018.  Please direct inquiries to Sanjay Bhatnagar (


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.