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Job Details

Requisition Number 17-0042
Post Date 2/23/2017
Title Astronomical Optics Scientist
City Baltimore
State MD

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a world-class, space-based astronomical observatory scheduled for launch in October 2018. It will revolutionize many branches of astrophysics by achieving unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution in the near and mid-infrared. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will operate JWST in partnership with NASA, ESA and CSA. As part of this responsibility STScI will have to ensure that the telescope with its 6.5m segmented primary mirror delivers the best possible images to carry out the science for which it was designed. This challenge will include the telescope's commissioning and initial optical alignment after deployment, where the STScI optics team will play a central role at STScI's Mission Operations Center.


To prepare for and execute the testing, commissioning and subsequent science operations, STScI is seeking an optical scientist who will provide technical and scientific expertise, and leadership for the characterization of JWST's optical systems. The Astronomical Optics Scientist will perform physical optics modeling to predict telescope alignment and wavefront quality, and will be part of the optical wavefront sensing and mirror control operations at the Mission Operation Center. The Astronomical Optics Scientist will perform optical and scientific assessment of telescope performance, both using modeling and analysis of actual data, and will be part of the mirror control operations at the JWST Mission Operation Center. The Astronomical Optics Scientist’s expertise may also be utilized for the other missions STScI supports, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and WFIRST. Part of the work may also include investigating future space astronomy missions through modeling, analysis and laboratory work in STScI’s Russell B. Makidon Optics Laboratory, a state-of-the art optics laboratory dedicated to developing technologies for future space missions (including segmented aperture wavefront sensing and control, or high-contrast imaging). 



The position requires advanced knowledge of physical optics, the ability to create and manipulate optical models of complex systems, practical knowledge of phase retrieval and image reconstruction methods, wavefront control techniques, good working knowledge of common optical or modeling software packages, and substantial programming skills in high-level languages. Experience with astronomical optics, preferably in the design, testing, or operations of spaceborne telescopes or instrumentation is strongly preferred.

Additionally, a strength in systems engineering, requirements flow and verification/validation associated with such missions is an important asset. The work gives the successful candidate a chance to bring this expertise to bear on the most challenging questions in space-borne optics, as part of a high-performing team charged with a rewarding combination of forward-looking special studies, and the scientific performance of renowned space telescopes.

The candidate will work in collaboration with experts in a wide range of areas from across STScI, NASA, and other partner institutions, and will need the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships, to work effectively in cross-disciplinary teams, and to communicate effectively through preparation of reports, articles, and talks.

The position is open to candidates with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD degree in optics, or a higher level degree in another field but with equivalent experience in optics. She/he should have five or more years of technical experience in the analysis of optical systems relevant to astronomical telescopes; experience in optical or astronomical software development or data analysis; and a record of publications, reports or achievements that documents this work and its quality. Experience in a leadership role, and experience in astronomical data reduction and research, would all be considered a plus.

STScI offers an excellent benefits package, tuition reimbursement, competitive salaries, and a stimulating work environment. Interested candidates are requested to complete an on-line application through our website at or the “Apply Online” link at the bottom of this posting. Please upload one PDF document to include a: CV; a list of publications or reports; and a statement discussing expertise and past experience in the subject areas relevant to the position in the "Resume Upload Section." Please include job #17-0042 in the filename. 

Candidates should also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent directly to Rémi Soummer Applications received by April 1, 2017 will receive full consideration. To discuss the position or to obtain additional information, please contact Rémi Soummer. 

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA and all of the centers, do not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our record keeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

STScI sees the diversity of our staff as a strategic priority in our desire to create a first-rate scientific community. We reflect that deep commitment in strongly encouraging women, minorities, veterans and disabled individuals to apply for these opportunities.

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process can contact us at EOE/AA/M/F/D/V Voted to the Baltimore Magazine Hall of Fame in 2015 – Top 25 Places to Work in Baltimore.

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