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Job Details

Requisition Number 16-0266
Post Date 9/16/2016
Title Database Architect
City Tucson
State AZ

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

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) seeks to hire a Database Architect to take the leading technical role in designing, implementing, operating, and optimizing multiple database systems to support data-intensive astronomical research.

Headquartered in Tucson, AZ, NOAO is the US national center for nighttime ground-based optical astronomy. The fundamental mission of NOAO is to enable scientific discovery by a global scientific research community. That mission is fulfilled through the acquisition, processing, visualization, and analysis of measurements of hundreds to hundreds of millions of celestial objects. Those measurements are extracted from gigabytes to terabytes of raw data obtained every night by world-class telescopes in Arizona, Hawaii, and Chile operated by NOAO and its partners, including the 570 megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam). The raw and processed data are archived & served by NOAO, with current data holdings of 2 PB and growing. Large survey datasets like those being generated using NOAO facilities provide excellent opportunities for scientific discoveries by the broad community.

Essential Functions:

  • Lead the design, implementation, operation, and optimization of multi-terabyte-scale and distributed astronomical catalog databases for the NOAO Data Lab, and provide support for similar work within the ANTARES project.
  • Lead the modernization of database systems supporting the main NOAO telescope data archive.
  • Work in collaboration with NOAO scientific, administrative, and technical staff to develop modern, efficient, and maintainable database solutions to other Observatory needs through analysis of existing databases, scientific applications, and administrative processes.
  • Identify and pursue opportunities to employ commercial database technology, consultant services, and systems from other astronomical projects (e.g., Qserv from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.)
  • Collaborate with other NOAO developers to create and deploy database-enabled applications and services.


Minimum Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in computer science, engineering, physics, astronomy, or related field, or equivalent work experience.
  • 5 years’ experience architecting, deploying, and supporting modern relational database systems (e.g., PostgreSQL, MySQL), plus familiarity with other database technologies (e.g., NoSQL).
  • Ability and willingness to work across all stages of the database lifecycle: requirements gathering, schema design, implementation, commissioning, administration, data ingestion, maintenance, performance optimization, and user support.
  • Ability to work collaboratively on complex technical projects.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills.

Applicants are also encouraged to describe additional strengths and qualifications within their applications, for example:

  • Experience and comfort working within diverse teams.
  • Experience within a research or academic workplace in physics, astronomy, or other natural science.
  • Demonstrated ability to follow new developments in best practices and technologies for database systems design and administration.
  • Familiarity with commercial database technologies.
  • Good skill with common modern programming languages, especially Python and C/C++.
  • Ability for accurately estimating levels of effort associated with specific database development and operation tasks.
  • Ability for elicitation, gathering, and consolidation of technical requirements within complex domain scenarios.
  • Interest in public service consistent with the mission of a national observatory.

To apply send cover letter and resume or CV, and please include a telephone number where we may contact you during business hours between 8 AM – 3 PM. Please reference Job #16-0266 when applying. If you have any attachments, please save them with the following format: 16-0266_lastname_docname. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to Questions regarding this position may be addressed to Adam Bolton, NOAO Associate Director for Community Science and Data,

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.
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