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Head of Optical Engineering

AURA/NOIRLab, Tucson , AZ, United States
Employer Description

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of 47 US institutions and 3 international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories for the National Science Foundation and NASA. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. In addition, AURA is deeply committed to public and educational outreach, and to diversity throughout the astronomical and scientific workforce. AURA carries out its role through its astronomical facilities. 

Job Description

NSF’s NOIRLab is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. NOIRLab is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) which operates as a matrix organization, providing services across a range of programs: Gemini, Rubin, MSO (CTIO and KPNO), and CSDC; with facilities in three geographic locations: Arizona, Chile and Hawai’i. The mission of NOIRLab is to enable breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics by developing and operating state-of-the-art ground-based observatories and providing data products and services for a diverse and inclusive community.

The Head of Optical Engineering (OE) is responsible for the strategic, long-term leadership and management of the integrated NOIRLab Optical group (~10 FTE) distributed over the three NOIRLab facilities in Chile, Hawai'i and Tucson. This area covers optical infrastructure, optical processes and coating across all facilities. This role integrates new work and new staff into ES function as new telescopes come online. This group will provide excellence in the design, construction, commissioning, and maintenance of all optical systems, optical infrastructure, laboratories and coating equipment at the telescopes and for observatories’ instrumentation.

The OE manager will support and work with Program leadership (site manager / telescope / engineering and project managers) to ensure optical expertise is available as required.  In addition to managing the OE resources, the OE manager will identify, manage and/or lead OE technical and process improvement projects. Additionally the role will include leading NOIRLab wide technical activities and projects in the optical domain like optical design/analysis, optical laboratory or coating improvements.

This is a full-time position that requires approximately equal split between managerial, administrative and technical leadership roles.

 Essential Functions:

  • Provides leadership for OE in operations, maintenance and development.
  • Continuous optimization of the OE organization
  • Technical leadership on optical projects.
  • Establishes and promotes a broad, innovative technology roadmap in consultation with the Programs, while optimizing the productivity and cost-effectiveness of optical systems with a strong focus on image quality and throughput.
  • Identifies synergies and opportunities for collaboration across sites by identifying technical areas of common interest by direct interaction with optical staff in NOIRLab and Program management.
  • Leads the planning and implementation of organization-wide optical activities (including coating) for NOIRLab , soliciting and incorporating input from the NOIRLab leadership team and domain experts from each of the NOIRLab Programs (MSO, Gemini, and Rubin Operations).
  • Performance management: Focus on developing competences (technical and soft skills) that help the optical engineering staff to achieve their goals as driven by the program needs.
  • Provides oversight and high-level directions to OE staff.
  • Establishes and maintains regular reporting on performance, progress and concerns to the ES director on the areas that fall within OE.
  • Workforce development: Maintains optical skills matrix up to date, builds and maintains competent workforce, responding to the program needs, by career development in the optical area.
  • Recruitment: Leads recruitment in the optical domain by seeking input from Programs on current and future needs, taking into account succession planning, expected turn-over and future resource needs.
  • Budget management, Responsibility for labor budget of optical staff, including training and travel for professional development. Works with managers in the Programs on non-labor budgets towards integration and optimizing the use of financial resources in the optical area.
  • Risk Management: Maintains risk register up to date in the optical area.
  • Set standards for optical engineering practices, explore opportunities for standardization on tools and processes.
  • Works with local managers to ensure the workplaces are compliant with all federal U.S. or local regulations, whichever are the most stringent.
  • Promotes environment, health, and safety (EHS) awareness through internal NOIRLab
  • Demonstrates for all audiences a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Other Functions:

  • Other functions as required by this job position and/or NOIRLab Directorship.

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • A bachelor’s degree in optics engineering or another relevant field.
  • Profound experience in Optical analysis, design skills & laboratory work.
  • Ability to lead diverse teams, across a multi-site environment, to high performance and excellence, through active career development.
  • Solid verbal and written communication skills; ability to clearly communicate at all levels within the organization.
  • Ability to develop and administer effective business and operations plans to meet the needs for NOIRLab including budget responsibility.
  • Strong focus on process optimization, safe working principles and operational excellence.
  • Must have a valid Driver’s License; clean driving record; ability to drive a vehicle.

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Advanced degree in optical engineering, optical science or similar technical field.
  • Experience in working at an astronomical observatory or a research facility
  • Bilingual English / Spanish skills
  • Training, experience and/or certification in project/program management.
  • Experience with systems engineering.

Physical Requirements:

The physical requirements described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to sit; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; and talk or hear.
  • The employee is occasionally required to stand; walk; reach with hands and arms and stoop; kneel; crouch; or crawl.
  • The employee must regularly lift and /or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.
  • Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.
  • 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.
  • 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, fire alarms, 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.
  • Some travel may be required, both domestically and internationally

  • Occasional work at high elevation summit sites may be required (summit elevations range from 6,800 feet to 14,000 feet).

Preference will be given to qualified internal candidates and qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

The position will remain open until it is filled. To be considered in the first round of reviews, please submit your application by September 28, 2023.

  • Please submit a cover letter and a CV or resume, PDF files preferred. Please name any attachments with the following format: Lastname Docname. 
  • Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to employment@aura-astronomy.org
  • Please enter 3 professional references in your application (references will only be contacted later in the recruitment process). 

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at employment@aura-astronomy.org 

AURA offers an excellent benefits package including paid time off and retirement plan contributions, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and a very attractive work environment. Details on benefits can be found at https://hr.aura-astronomy.org/employee-benefits-guide/ 

Consistent with the actions of the Biden Administration, as of 12 May 2023, AURA will no longer require COVID-19 vaccination of its employees in the U.S. AURA employees in the U.S. may be subject to COVID-19 vaccination requirements from other entities, such as host institutions or partner affiliations. 

08 September 2023
08 October 2023
Bachelor's Degree
Manager / Supervisor
Optical Components, Lasers, Sensors