Chief Scientist (Gemini Observatory)

Job Summary

Science Management
Number of Positions Available
Work Arrangement

Job Description

Gemini Observatory is among the world’s largest and most scientifically productive ground-based astronomical observatories. Gemini’s twin 8.1-meter optical/IR telescopes provide nightly access to both hemispheres of the sky and operate at two of the world’s best sites for ground-based astronomy (Maunakea, Hawai‘i and Cerro Pachón, Chile). The telescopes currently host a wide suite of imaging and spectroscopic instrumentation, covering wavelengths between 0.4 and 5 microns, with adaptive optics (AO) capabilities optimized for the near-IR (~ 1–5 microns).  The International Gemini Observatory is funded by an international partnership including the United States, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and the Republic of Korea, and is operated by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical and Infrared Laboratory (NOIRLab), under the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).

Over the next decade, Gemini seeks to drive investigator-led breakthrough discoveries spanning from the closest exoplanets to the most distant quasars,  while achieving its goal of becoming the premier large-aperture time domain astronomy follow-up facility in the era of Rubin Observatory, Roman Space Telescope, and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Gemini will meet this challenge through a major revitalization of its instrumentation suite, AO facilities, user support infrastructure, and the realization of new capabilities gained by harnessing NOIRLab’s significant infrastructure in data science, communications, and outreach.

The Chief Scientist (Gemini Observatory) is a tenure-track appointment, with a nominal 50% research time. This position reports directly to the Gemini Observatory Director, part of the Gemini Program within NOIRLab. The position may be based in Tucson, AZ; Hilo, HI or La Serena, Chile.   COVID-19 permitting, will be expected to travel regularly between the Gemini sites in Hawaiʻi, Chile, and Tucson.

  • Advise the Director on science strategy, observatory science policy, and relevant scientific matters; lead the implementation of the Gemini Scientific Strategic Plan and develop future science plans; develop, manage and monitor observatory-led science programs.
  • Lead the Observatory’s scientific mission: foster strategic scientific use of the Gemini telescopes and instruments; monitor observatory science productivity and impact; oversee the Time Allocation process; manage Director’s Discretionary Science time on behalf of the Director; liaise and coordinate with the Science Technology Advisory Committee jointly with the Associate Director for Development.
  • Lead the Gemini Observatory science user support efforts: supervise the Science User Support Department; organize and liaise with the Gemini Users’ Committee.
  • Promote Gemini science results and capabilities; organize the Gemini Science User Conference; coordinate with NOIRLab Communications, Education and Engagement group on Gemini science communications and press releases; act as science editor for the Gemini eNewscast and Gemini contribution to NOIRLab Mirror.
  • Foster Gemini and NOIRLab science staff research environment. Coordinate with NOIRLab on hiring and promotion of research staff.

Required education/experience:

  • PhD in astronomy, astrophysics or closely related field
  • Internationally recognized scientist with broad interests beyond her/his field of research
  • Familiarity with ground-based and/or space-based observatory operations
  • Demonstrated strategic thinking skills
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Effective technical writing and public speaking communication skills
  • Must be willing to spend significant time at Gemini telescope sites (Hawaii and Chile).

 Preferred education/experience:

  • Management experience within an Observatory Operations or similar environment
  • Experience with community engagement and/or user support.

Physical Demands:

The physical demands 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.

This work is mostly carried out in an office environment. Long periods of sitting may be required.

This position requires significant travel to each of Gemini’s sites (Hawaii, Chile, Arizona), and international travel to engage with our vendors and partners.

The ability to work at high altitude (14,000 ft) is preferred. This role may be based in Hilo, Hawaii; La Serena, Chile, or Tucson, Arizona.

The position will remain open until it is filled. To be considered in the first round of reviews, please submit your application by June 23, 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 [email protected]
  • Please enter 3 professional references in your application (references will only be contacted later in the recruitment process). 

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

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at [email protected] 

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. 

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 

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. 

Application Details

Publication Start Date
2023 Jun 01
Application Deadline
2023 Jun 29
Reference Code