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Job Details

Requisition Number 15-0189
Post Date 10/1/2015
Title Sr. Control Software Engineer
City La Serena, Chile or Hilo, Hawaii

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


Position Summary: Provide technical leadership and expertise in the field of control system software for large astronomical telescopes and instrumentation. Provide control system solutions that support the needs of the observatory. Support and maintain existing, installed software for the optimum performance of the telescopes and instruments. Actively participate in training and technical leadership for software engineers, new hires and summer interns.  


Duties and Responsibilities :

  1. Provide daytime and night-time operational support by troubleshooting, diagnosing and solving problems with installed control systems.
  2. Develop conceptual / detailed control system designs that integrate with existing telescope systems.
  3. Develop, maintain and configure high and low level control system software to operate and calibrate high performance, custom designed telescope systems.
  4. Develop and maintain high level Adaptive Optics software tools and wave front sensor correction algorithms.
  5. Develop and maintain system models, diagnostics and support utilities.
  6. Follow a rigorous software development life cycle, including all phases: requirements gathering, design, documentation, development, testing, deployment, production and disposal.
  7. Collaborate with engineers from other disciplines as well as the science staff to gather and document requirements for new software systems and improvements to existing systems.  
  8. Participate in planning, documentation, and tracking of software development projects and processes.
  9. Assume technical ownership and future development, for one or more software systems applying the software development cycles employed at the Observatory.
  10. Provide clearly written documentation, both technical and user-oriented, including software interface control documents, user manuals and operational procedures.
  11. Review software designs done by external contractors and participate in the integration, testing and commissioning phases of new hardware and software systems.
  12. Provide technical leadership and mentoring of software engineers, supervising their work and giving direction as needed.
  13. Research new technologies and investigate ways in which they may be applied to solve problems faced by the observatory. Write proposal documents and whitepapers that explain software systems in a language that can be appreciated by an educated but non-expert audience.
  14. Perform other duties as assigned.

Job Specifications:


The position requires the ability to support existing tools and utilities used in the control of Observatory systems, including the cutting edge Multi Conjugate Adaptive Optics (MCAO) system.  This position will also participate in development of the next generation of Observatory systems and tools. While the primary role is focused on motion control software, wavefront sensor correction algorithms, and high level adaptive optics software, the candidate is also expected to work with other systems as well. The ideal candidate will be a senior level C developer with an in-depth understanding of the EPICS framework. Experience with Java, Python and other programming languages is also a plus. He/she must be able to work as part of a team (i.e. able to collaborate constructively with other developers, participate in peer reviews, etc.) and also be able to work independently. We are always looking to improve our processes and prefer engineers that are eager to contribute in this area. We develop software using VxWorks/RTEMS and Linux using the EPICS control system framework.  Our target platforms include VME-based Motorola CPUs and Linux-based soft IOCs.


Education Required:

Bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field. Master's degree may be considered in place of some of the required experience.

Experience Required:

Must have a minimum of five years of experience in software development for control systems with significant exposure to low level device programming. Previous experience in an astronomical research or scientific environment highly desirable.

Skills Required:

 Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills. Must be proficient in a wide range of software design principles. Experience in the astronomy field is not mandatory, but previous experience in scientific environments will be an advantage. Engineers with the background indicated below and proficiency in several of the following areas will be preferred: • Working experience with the EPICS framework • Experience with the VxWorks/RTEMS operating systems and Linux. • Sound experience with C. Python and other scripting languages is a plus. DSP programming, PLC programming, and C++ or Java desirable • Familiarity with wavefront sensing and Adaptive Optics is highly desirable • System automation, motion control, or real-time control experience desirable. • Experience with VME-based systems • 5+ years of software development experience • BS or higher (CS, ECE, EE or similar); or 6+ years of experience if no degree.

Essential Job Functions:

 Part A – Must possess – sufficient mobility, strength, or dexterity in both arms and hands and both legs to a) reach upward, sideways, downward to work with paper files; b) sufficient mobility and dexterity to utilize computer systems, fax machines, copiers, and other office machines .

Part B – Must possess – 1) ability to read and understand instructions, drawings, safety guides, and other written materials necessary to perform job; 2) sufficient visual capacity to perform the applicable functions without assistance of visual aids other than eye contacts or eye glasses; 3) sufficient spoken aural capacity to hear and understand instructions, warning bells, horns or shouted instructions without assistance of auditory aids other than a hearing aid; and 4) ability to impart information orally so that others understand and can respond appropriately.

Part C – Must be able - to sit for long periods of time; must be able to drive a 4-w drive vehicle and possess a clean driving record; to take and pass high altitude physical; to travel internationally and must possess or be able to obtain a valid passport.

As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA does not discriminate because of race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws.

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.

  • 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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