Associate Director KPNO

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Current state: Approved
Department: MSO
City: Tucson
State/Province: Arizona
Country: USA
Contact Person: AURA Human Resources
Contact Email: [email protected]
Institution: AURA/ NOIRLab
Application Due Date: Thursday, December 31 2020
Web Link:

NSF’s NOIRLab is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. 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. 

At an elevation of 2098 m, Kitt Peak is located 88 km from Tucson on the Tohono O’odham nation.  It is home to approximately 20 operational telescopes, include the 4 m Mayall and the 3.5 m WIYN.  The Mayall telescope is host to the Department of Energy’s Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI).  This 5,000 fiber, wide-field spectrometer is just starting a 5-year spectroscopic survey, and will produce the most detailed map of the cosmos to date.  WIYN is the home of a new, NASA-funded high precision radial velocity spectrometer, NEID (meaning “to see” or “to visualize” in the Tohono O’odham language).  NEID is at the center of the NN-EXPLORE, a joint program by NASA and NSF to support exoplanet discover and characterization.  The successful candidate will have the opportunity to participate in the DESI and NN-EXPLORE research programs. 

Kitt Peak is also home to the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory 2.3m Bok telescope and the Arizona Radio Observatory 12m submillimeter telescope, NRAO’s VLBA 25m radio telescope, LPL’s Space Watch telescopes (0.9m, 1.8m), the KPNO 2.1m telescope (currently operated by Caltech), the MDM Observatory (1.3m, 2.4m), the RCT (1.3m), SARA (0.9m), WIYN 0.9m, Case-Western Burrell-Schmidt, and several telescopes operated by the Kitt Peak Visitor Center, including the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope.  

As part of the Mid-Scale Observatories program (MSO) and NOIRLab, the Associate Director for KPNO reports to the MSO Director and will be responsible for the performance of observatory science and public operations, stewardship of the Observatory and mountain, and long-term planning. The position is based in Tucson, with frequent travel to Kitt Peak. 

Essential Functions: 

Responsibilities of the Associate Director include but are not limited to:  

  • Performance of observatory science and public operations, including 
    • Successful operation of the Mayall telescope for the DESI survey.  
    • Successful operation of the WIYN Observatory, including the NEID RV survey and WIYN partner programs. 
    • Participation in scientific research using KPNO facilities. 
    • Support of tenant facilities and management of tenant agreements.  
    • Support of public operations, including the Kitt Peak Visitor Center and Windows on the Universe Center for Astronomy Outreach. 
  • Stewardship of the Observatory and mountain  
    • Build and maintain strong and productive relationships with Tohono O’odham Nation officials, educators, students, parents, artisans, and civic groups through word and action. 
    • Protect the Observatory site from light pollution from commercial, residential, and recreational outdoor lighting, working with tribal, county, and state officials and stakeholders. 
    • Create and nurture a diverse, inclusive and equitable working environment.  
    • Develop and maintain Observatory infrastructure long-term maintenance, upgrade, and sustainability plans, in collaboration with NOIRLab Central Operations Services (COS). 
  • Lead the long-term planning for KPNO, including 
    • Planning for future scientific use of the DESI instrument after 5-yr survey is complete.  
    • Planning for further work w/NEID following NN-EXPLORE.  
    • Representing KPNO in future developments through the WIYN partnership.  
    • Preserving the viability of support services to tenants. 
    • Ensuring KPNO maintains a vital place in the suite of US community facilities. 

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities: 

  • PhD in astronomy, astrophysics, or related field. 
  • Experience in the management of major scientific programs. 
  • Significant record of publication of scientific papers in an area of astronomical research. 
  • Ability to present and communicate ideas effectively both verbally and in writing. 
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships internally, with diverse stakeholders, and with the scientific community. 
  • Ability to provide scientific leadership to peers and junior colleagues. 

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. 

  • The work is mostly carried out in an office environment. Long periods of sitting and computer usage may be required. 
  • Must be able to work and climb stairs at an altitude of 2098m/6,800 ft  
  • Occasional travel is required 

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. 

We are committed to diversity and inclusion at NOIRLab.  Our managing organization, AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, 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 

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

Please list 3 professional references in your application (references will only be contacted later in the recruitment process) and attach: 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]

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

The position will remain open until filled. To be considered in the first round of reviews, please submit your application by December 1, 2020.  

****NOIRLab has the majority of  staff working remotely during COVID-19 crisis. The safety of our staff and community is our top priority. We will continue to interview and screen candidates in this new virtual landscape. Offers of employment can be extended and new hires can on-board virtually and arrangements may be made for remote work. Relocation benefits will be available to those eligible when travel can be supported**** 

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), is a consortium of over 40 US institutions and three international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. AURA is responsible for managing the operations of the NSF’s NOIRLab, the National Solar Observatory, and the construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and operations of the Space Telescope Science Institute under contracts with NASA.  

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.