Assistant Director for Science Support and Research (4644)

Executive Management Charlottesville, Virginia Socorro, New Mexico



Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) seeks an Assistant Director for Science Support & Research (AD/SSR) department. SSR is the Observatory-wide function supporting all scientific users of NRAO instruments, and coordinating the scientific research of the NRAO staff.


This is an opportunity for an experienced scientist, with a track record of management and leadership, to take on an influential role in the senior management team of one of the world’s leading observatories. The appointee will help shape the mode of delivery of data to a global community of astronomers (the Science-­Ready Data Products (SRDP) project), and contribute to the definition and planning of the Next Generation VLA – envisaged to be an interferometric array with more than 10 times the sensitivity and spatial resolution of the current VLA and ALMA, operating at frequencies spanning 1.2 116 GHz with extended baselines reaching across North America. Depending on the qualifications of the appointee, the position may include the role of Chief Scientist for the Observatory as a whole.


The AD/SSR is responsible for managing time allocation and the proposal handling processes for the VLA and VLBA (which are operated by NRAO), and for the GBT (which is operated independently by the Green Bank Observatory). The AD/SSR is tasked with ensuring a uniform and effective interface for NRAO’s user communities across all their telescopes and taking account of the ALMA review process which is the responsibility of the Joint ALMA Observatory. The AD/SSR manages staff responsible for common scientific services provided in support of our instruments, and coordinates outward-facing activities across all sites to minimize duplication and achieve optimal efficiency in support of all users of NRAO facilities.


The AD/SSR reports to the NRAO Director. (S)he is responsible for defining and improving NRAO's interface to our user community, and coordinating and evaluating the research environment for our scientific staff. Additionally, the AD/SSR will serve on the Diversity Council within the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and will support and encourage scientific staff to actively participate in broadening participation activities.


The appointee will be a member of the NRAO Scientific Staff. The nature and level of the appointment will be negotiated with the appointee.


Job Duties Summary

A key role for the AD/SSR is to work with the research community and several NRAO departments to continue the “Science-­Ready Data Products” (SRDP) project which will remove the burden of data flagging, calibration, and imaging from NRAO users and which seeks to significantly broaden the user base of the Observatory. The SRDP Project Director reports to the AD/SSR.


Duties include:

  • Deliver and complete the implementation of advanced Science-­Ready Data Products (SRDP) for NRAO instruments; interface closely to other stakeholders (e.g. scientific users, NRAO staff, Data Management and Software) to achieve this goal.
  • Manage the NRAO Telescope Time Allocation (TTA) process, including developing appropriate revisions to policy, documentation, tools and procedures as needed.
  • Will refine the Science Operations concept for the proposed ngVLA telescope ensuring that operations concerns are addressed throughout the construction project.
  • Oversee the recruitment, hiring, review and promotion of the NRAO scientific staff, and regular revision of the Scientific Staff Policy Manual. Review and approve scientific staff external grant proposals.
  • Coordinate the Jansky Fellowship program and other NRAO postdoctoral appointments, ensuring that this vital program continues to attract and develop some of the most promising astronomers in the world with expertise in NRAO science and capabilities.
  • Coordinate all NRAO student programs, including undergraduate and graduate levels, and the Student Observing Support program.
  • Coordinate the activities of the NRAO Library and Historical archives, and oversee the NRAO statistics and metric functions and page charge support.
  • Organize the selection of the NRAO-wide Jansky Lecture series awardees.
  • Select, train and develop scientific and professional staff capable of meeting current organizational needs and future requirements of the Observatory; set goals for, evaluate and address scientific staff performance.
  • Develop and communicate an integrated view of SSR activities within NRAO.
  • Ensure that projects overseen by SSR are planned and completed within established controls and according to Observatory priorities, in collaboration with the NRAO Program Management Dept.
  • Assist in the preparation and review of Observatory planning and reporting documents, including annual program plan, budget, strategic and long-­range plans. Develop, monitor and report on NRAO’s observing-related metrics, and lead the collection, collation and delivery of the quarterly Observatory-wide Performance Evaluation and Management report.
  • Report and track to closure all SSR risk items.
  • Ensure proactive compliance with NRAO and government safety policies and procedures.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

PhD degree or an equivalent combination of experience and education.


Preferred Education:

PhD in astronomy, physics or a closely related field is preferred.


Minimum Experience

At least five years’ experience in astronomy and data analysis, observatory operations, liaising with the research community, and a record of successful management in a relevant environment including budget planning, and project management.


Preferred Experience:

Outstanding scientific, technical and/or managerial achievements in radio interferometry and arrays and single dishes. A demonstrated background in observatory operations or management and the ability to work closely with site managers and scientific staff members are also highly desirable.


Competency Summary

Must possess excellent analytical, communication and organizational skills. Must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. Strong leadership ability is required.


To be considered for the duties associated with the Chief Scientist role, the applicant must be an outstanding and influential scientist, forming and shaping opinions across the astronomy research community in the US and internationally. A demonstrated record of a high degree of community engagement and involvement in processes that develop and define broad scientific priorities is essential in this context.


Physical Requirements:

Work is typically performed in a research or development environment. Must be able to travel both domestically and internationally by air carrier. The appointee will be based in either Charlottesville, VA, or Socorro, NM, and will be expected to spend a significant fraction of time (about a week every two months) at the other location. Partial teleworking arrangement will be considered.


Additional Requirement:

The Observatory requires staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to access our facilities. An offer of employment will be considered contingent until the selected applicant provides proof of vaccination. A selected applicant may request consideration for an accommodation for a disability or for a sincerely held religious belief.


Application Instructions:


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


  1. Cover letter outlining your interest in and aptitude for this position.
  2. Curriculum vitae.
  3. Please provide the names of 3 references.


Consideration of applications will begin October 1, 2021 and will continue until the position is filled.


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)