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Job Details

Requisition Number 16-0312
Post Date 10/28/2016
Title Survey Scientist
City Tucson
State AZ

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) operates several observatory centers (including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, and the Gemini Observatory) in the United States and Chile under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project is currently constructing an 8.4 meter diameter ground-based observatory in Chile and a 3.2 gigapixel camera with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The telescope will survey the visible sky every few nights in six optical bands to address four key science themes: Constraining the nature of dark energy and dark matter, making an inventory of small moving bodies in the Solar System, exploring the transient optical sky, and determining the accretion history of the Milky Way.

Determining the optimal observing strategy to simultaneously achieve the multiple science goals is performed via a complex scheduling algorithm - the “Scheduler”. The Scheduler is the brain of the LSST survey and is now in construction as part of the Telescope and Site (T&S) group. LSST is designed to conduct a sequence of “visits”, each covering ~ 10 square degrees of sky, and consisting of two consecutive 15s exposures. The Scheduler will determine the sequence of visits on any given night, i.e. the locations of the successive telescope pointings on the sky and the choice of filter for each pointing, taking explicit account of observing conditions and the history of visits to date. The various scientific objectives place different constraints on the Scheduler, and the overall optimization will require a definition of those constraints, a specification of how they should be quantified and measured, and the construction of an efficient scheduling code to implement them.

The job of the LSST Survey Scientist is to lead the development and optimization of the Scheduler.

Essential functions include:

  • Ensuring the delivery of a scheduler that meets its technical requirements and LSST scientific goals, working closely with the Scheduler developer(s), the LSST simulations team, and the scientific community.
  • Leading a Scheduler verification process during the Telescope and Site Integration and Test phase.
  • Managing the construction of the Scheduler development with the OCS manager, evaluating potential cost and schedule impacts of proposed requirement changes motivated by community input.
  • Leading analyses of the scientific impact on the LSST survey resulting from changes in scheduling algorithms, scheduling parameters, observatory constraints and environmental conditions, as well as changes in science proposals.
  • Interfacing with the relevant stakeholders in T&S team and the Project Science Team as well as the scientific community.
  • Maintaining an active scientific interest in selected scientific investigations enabled by LSST and publishing in refereed journals

The Survey Scientist will be a member of the T&S group, based primarily in Tucson, AZ. He/she is expected to collaborate closely with the T&S Project Scientist, the Scheduler Developer and the LSST simulations team. Some travel to La Serena, Chile will also be required, especially during the period when the LSST undergoes integration and test, and commissioning. The Survey Scientist will report to the LSST Director, but will take direction from the T&S Project Manager and the T&S Project Scientist.


  • Must have a PhD in Astronomy or related fields
  • Must have at least 5 years experience in Survey Astronomy
  • Demonstrable interest in LSST science goals
  • Demonstrated leadership in either a scientific or technical aspect of Survey Astronomy
  • Experience in development of quantitative metrics to evaluate software performance
  • Fluent in Python or other coding language with the willingness to learn Python

Desired characteristics:

  • Experience or background in the development of complex scheduling algorithms
  • Experience commissioning scientific software systems
  • Ability to work collaboratively with large globally distributed teams
  • Ability to speak and write effectively, with experience in the preparation of comprehensive technical reports

The position will be open until filled. Review of applications will start by December 12, applicants are encouraged to apply by early December to be included in the first review.

Please list 3 professional references in your application. Please attach a cover letter, a statement of research interests and CV or resume (PDF Files preferred) to your application. Please name any attachments with the following format: 16-0312LastnameDocname. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to

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 does 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 recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

  • Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities.
  • Please view Equal Employment Opportunity Posters provided by OFCCP here.
  • The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor's legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c)
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