Stanford University / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Fundamental Physics Directorate

Position ID:Stanford University / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory-Fundamental Physics Directorate-ROSPD [#20177]
Position Title: Postdoctoral Research Associate - Rubin Observatory Observing Specialist
Position Type:Postdoctoral
Position Location:Menlo Park, California 94025, United States [map] sort by distance
Subject Areas: Astrophysics & Cosmology
Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Appl Deadline:2021/11/26 11:59PMhelp popup finished (2021/10/20, finished 2022/05/28, listed until 2022/04/20)
Position Description:    

*** this position has been closed and new applications are no longer accepted. ***

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is a next-generation astronomical facility currently under construction in Chile, with staff distributed across multiple sites, one of which is SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Rubin Observatory will undertake the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) which will be one of the largest and most comprehensive astronomy surveys of its kind. Rubin will enable countless discoveries in almost every area of modern astronomical research—discoveries made possible by the team that built the Rubin Observatory system, and by the global science community that Rubin Observatory serves. SLAC has been the lead lab for construction of the LSST Camera, and will continue to provide scientific and technical support for LSSTCam during Rubin survey operations.  SLAC is also the host laboratory for the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration.

More generally, SLAC has a broad and vibrant scientific program in fundamental physics, with current research topics including cosmic survey science, cosmic microwave background, direct dark matter searches, proton collider physics and neutrino physics, as well as theoretical and computational physics. SLAC and Stanford are partners in the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, which hosts a broad program in astrophysics.

SLAC invites you to apply for a 4-year postdoctoral research associate position at Rubin Observatory and SLAC. For the first two years, after a brief training period at SLAC, you will be an “Observing Specialist” in Chile, working in a diverse team to operate the Simonyi Survey Telescope and LSST Camera, with skills including understanding software scripts and conducting hands-on technical work and image diagnostics, with a common duty of operating the Rubin instrumentation during nighttime. You will then spend the remaining two years at SLAC, exploiting the deep understanding of the Rubin system that you will have gained to carry out a program of cutting edge cosmology research. The term of your position will be a very exciting time for Rubin Observatory, making this a truly unique opportunity to join the operations team that will make Rubin reach its ground-breaking science goals.

Your responsibilities will include the following:

  • Learning how to control and operate a wide variety of systems that make up the Rubin Observatory including the Simonyi Survey Telescope, its commissioning instrument (ComCam), and later the main science camera (LSSTCam), the calibration systems and more. 
  • Night-time operation of the primary Simonyi Survey Telescope and the auxiliary calibration telescope, AuxTel, including troubleshooting of both the hardware and software, and prompt assessment of environmental conditions, optical performance, image quality, and general system performance.  
  • Carrying out, in 50% of your time averaged over the term, a program of original cosmology and astrophysics research as a member of the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration.

To be successful in this position you will bring:

  • A recent Ph.D. in astronomy or physics (or the expectation that you will receive the degree prior to starting your appointment).  
  • Including your thesis work, at least 3 years of research experience involving at least one of the following:
    • Hands-on observing at optical or infrared astronomical observing facilities, or comparable laboratory activity;
    • Reduction and analysis of astronomical imaging data;
    • Development and/or execution of data analysis or instrumentation projects in wide field optical survey cosmology. 
  • Familiarity with ticket-based work management systems such as Jira, and high level software scripting knowledge in Python (preferred) or equivalent.
  • Organizational and communication skills, with the ability to learn quickly and convey complex technical concepts effectively with a diverse population, such that you are able to work productively in a multinational team.
  • Dependability, flexibility, and willingness to take the initiative.
  • Demonstrated ability to carry out independent research, collaborating closely with colleagues working both locally and remotely. 

Applying for these positions, you should know that:

SLAC is committed to increasing the diversity of its staff and to fostering an inclusive and respectful work environment, and we encourage applications from candidates who will diversify the lab’s workforce in scientific computing and fundamental physics. Above all we are looking for someone enthusiastic with a desire to learn and experiment in a highly supportive and collaborative environment. A research mentor on the faculty or staff at KIPAC will support you throughout your four-year term, helping you develop your research program, establish and maintain good strong connections to the collaboration, and capitalize on your observatory experience. While in Chile, you will be a member of a 10-person Observing Specialist team working the same observing shift rotation but with (on average) 20% of your time available for research.  This 20% should provide ample time to contribute to DESC working group discussions and develop research projects within the collaboration while you are in Chile, to be carried out on your return to SLAC. In your final two years, you will focus on your research program, but spend 20% of your time providing remote observing support from SLAC.   

SLAC offers an excellent benefits package including paid time off, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and an attractive, inclusive and collaborative work environment in the foothills of Silicon Valley. Relocation expenses (to Chile, and back to SLAC) will be covered.

Working at the Rubin Summit Facility is demanding. While in Chile, Rubin Observing Specialists must be:

  • Able to work both at day or night on the Cerro Pachón summit, which is at 3,000m (9,000 feet) 
  • Willing to stay at the summit for multiple days/nights (food and lodging provided). 
  • Willing to work scheduled shifts, including over weekends and holidays. Schedule is subject to change and varies by person within the group based on their responsibilities. 
  • Fluent in English, while command of the Spanish language is an advantage.
  • Responsible for the safety of people and equipment while working at night.

Observing Specialists are required to have a valid driver’s license and experience in driving a 4WD.  Specific training/certification on driving in the summit is provided by the AURA-O Safety Department.

The essential functions of the Rubin Observing Specialists are to:

  1. Support Nighttime activities by:
    1. Developing and documenting procedures associated with nighttime operations of the primary Simonyi Survey Telescope and the Auxiliary Telescope (AuxTel) and associated subsystems;
    2. Safely operating the AuxTel and/or the Simonyi Survey Telescope at night;
    3. Becoming familiar with the Simonyi Survey Telescope and Auxiliary Telescope operation and monitoring software and their respective GUIs;
    4. Monitoring Simonyi and Auxiliary telescope subsystems’ health through subsystems GUIs;
    5. Monitoring summit weather conditions, and executing predetermined actions when conditions are adverse for operations; 
    6. Basic evaluation of the delivered image and spectra quality; 
    7. Carry out software basic troubleshooting and debugging. Rubin Observatory has an Engineering Facility Database (EFD) that will be used to help querying different telemetry from different subsystems and understand the sources of issues;
    8. Taking calibration data for both telescopes (i.e. flat fielding). 
    9. Acting, when on duty, as primary authors of the nightly observing reports that consist of their nightly log entries and automated technical assessments derived from the EFD, including fault reporting.

  2. Support Daytime activities by:  
    • Participating in some daytime software testing;
    • Acquiring basic knowledge of all the subsystems to understand their functions and operation;
    • Participating in the review and refinement of the Simonyi and Auxiliary telescopes’ operational procedures. 
    • Providing feedback to optimize the telescopes’ operations and monitoring software.

In your application, you should please include a 3-page statement of research interests and plans, a CV, a publication list, and arrange to have at least three letters of recommendation to be submitted. We also welcome you to strengthen your statement by including a discussion of your experience with, and ongoing commitment to, engaging in mentoring, outreach, fostering inclusive environments, or activities that support the increase of diversity and/or equity in the field. We encourage applicants to follow the structure of the AAS advice on the contents of CVs and research statements given here:

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, but must be received by November 26, 2021 to ensure full consideration. You should direct questions to the Chair of the Search Committee, Phil Marshall ( 

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer and supports diversity in the workplace. All employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, marital or family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic information. All staff at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory must be able to demonstrate the legal right to work in the United States. SLAC is an E-Verify employer.

Application Materials Required:
Submit the following items online at this website to complete your application:
And anything else requested in the position description.

Further Info:
email address
2575 Sand Hill Road, MS 95 Menlo Park, CA 94025