NOIRLab Optical Engineer

Job Summary

Science Engineering
Number of Positions Available
Work Arrangement

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  NOIRLab Optical Engineer position is part of the Optical Engineering (OE) group, within the NOIRLab Engineering Services (ES), a distributed team of optical experts providing excellence in optical and opto-mechanical design, analysis, maintenance and handling, and coating of telescope optics.

The NOIRLab Optical Engineer can participate in designing, testing, troubleshooting and maintenance optical systems and coating plants of the NOIRLab Facilities in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona. The NOIRLab Optical Engineer is responsible for providing expertise to all aspects of optics for telescopes and must apply his/her experience to maximize the performance of optical systems. The engineering activities include optical design of new optical and optomechanical systems, system integration, testing, commissioning, and maintenance of existing instruments. This role requires good interpersonal skills and team spirit to work in conjunction with technical staff, engineering staff, scientific staff, and external organizations to guide the development of instruments, prepare maintenance documentation and procedures, participate in design reviews, and to provide guidance to technicians.

Within the OE group, this position participates in a wide variety of projects for large and mid-scale observatories. This position is primarily assigned to the Gemini South Observatory, supporting the design, integration, installation and start-up of multiple instrument projects, with additional responsibilities for design of new instrumentation for the SOAR Telescope and operational support of the Blanco Telescope, all located in Chile.

Given the nature of the work, this is an on-site position that can be located at any of NOIRLab major operations centers in Arizona, Chile or Hawaii. The working time is divided between the telescope site and the sea level base facilities. This position will require occasional international travel to the different NOIRLab locations. If based in Chile, the position holds a 5-day work week predominantly on-site, at the Cerro Pachon and Cerro Tololo facilities; and it will also be expected to work at the AURA Recinto facilities in La Serena, as needed.

Essential Functions:

  • Designs optical or optomechanical systems for astronomical instruments, both new as well as upgrades to existing ones.
  • Provides project support (planning, scheduling, coordination, integration, installation, start-up, troubleshooting) to astronomical instruments projects.
  • Participates in planning and execution of telescope and instrument shutdowns.
  • Is responsible for optical integration and testing of delicate and complex astronomical instruments.
  • Troubleshoots malfunctioning optical equipment.
  • Analyzes data to characterize optical systems and identify causes.
  • Writes technical reports.
  • Identifies technical performance gaps.
  • Works in cross-functional project teams with colleagues in other branches of engineering (mechanics, electronics, software) and other NOIRLab programs.
  • Makes sure safety regulations are met
  • Keeps up to date, with developments in technologies.

Other Functions:

  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor.

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Bachelor's degree in Optical or Optomechanical Engineering, Photonics or Applied Physics.
  • 3 years of relevant experience in design or support of optical systems.
  • Good command of English: oral, reading and writing
  • Ability to manipulate fragile components, dexterity.
  • Understanding of Telescope optics and astronomical instruments.
  • Knowledge with Optical engineering software (Zemax OpticStudio).
  • Some practical experience with alignment tools.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary and international environment.
  • Team spirit and self-learning.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license, clean driving record, and ability to drive 4-wheel vehicles.

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Master's degree in Optical or Optomechanical Engineering, Photonics or Applied Physics.
  • 5 or more years of relevant experience.
  • Knowledge of adaptive optics.
  • Knowledge of laser systems.
  • Hands-on laboratory experience, or some observatory experience.
  • Familiarity with data analysis software (OriginLab, Matlab, Excel, Python).
  • Ability to present work in conferences.
  • Knowledge of Opto-mechanics and mechanical software (SolidWorks).
  • Knowledge of mirror coating process.
  • Professional certification in Optical system design with Zemax Optics Studio.

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.
  • Given the international nature of NOIRLab, work at high elevation summit sites is required (summit elevations range from 6,800 feet to 14,000 feet). Mauna Kea: Ability to work at 14,000’ for 8-hour shifts. Longer shifts and working during inclement weather occasionally required. Cerro Tololo: Able to climb stairs and work at 2,225 mts altitude. Cerro Pachon: Ability to work at 2,713 meters altitude, sometimes during inclement weather.
  • Required to pass medical examination post Offer Letter and, if medically necessary, at specified intervals while employed.

Salary Range (For US Locations Only): $87,100-$115,610. The final salary will depend on skills, qualifications, experience and job location.

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 Employee Benefits Guide (

The position will remain open until it is filled. To be considered in the first round of reviews, please submit your application by March 22, 2024.

Please submit a cover letter and a CV or resume in English, 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). 

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

Application Details

Publication Start Date
2024 Feb 23
Application Deadline
2024 Mar 22
Reference Code