Scientific Programmer

Posted on
Current state: Approved
Department: Gemini Observatory
City: Hilo
State/Province: Hawaii
Country: United States
Contact Email: [email protected]
Institution: NOIRLab
Application Due Date: Monday, November 30 2020
Web Link:

NSF’s NOIRLab has an immediate opening for a Scientific Programmer at the International Gemini Observatory. The successful candidate will join our international team operating two of the world’s premier ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile.  We are looking for a talented individual to become part of the Science User Support Department at either Gemini North in Hilo, Hawaii or Gemini South in La Serena, Chile.  This is a fixed-term 3-year position with the possibility of extension.

NOIRLab is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) and is the US national center for ground-based night-time astronomy. Principally sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NOIRLab operates and provides services across a range of Observatory Programs (including Gemini Observatory) with facilities in three geographic locations: Arizona, Chile and Hawai’i.  

The Scientific Programmer will join the Science User Support Department, to develop Python software to support Gemini’s principal investigators in their production of world-class scientific results in a timely manner.  In the era of multi-messenger astronomy, Gemini is developing DRAGONS (Data Reduction for Astronomy from Gemini Observatory North and South), a software suite to provide reliable, automatic reductions of science data.  This position also provides support and maintains existing, installed software used in Operations.

The ideal candidate should be a motivated self-starter who can manage multiple projects and priorities. The position requires close interaction with team members located at both Gemini North and Gemini South.

Essential Functions:

  • Contributes to the development, testing, and optimization of the DRAGONS (Data Reduction for Astronomy from Gemini Observatory North and South) core infrastructure and scientific algorithms used to assess the quality of data as it is being obtained, reduces that data for rapid access by a transient follow-up system, and provides end-users with a flexible tool to make customizable non-standard reductions.
  • Applies knowledge of astronomical concepts and techniques to the design, development, documentation, and deployment or release of data processing software for all facility instruments.
  • Follows a rigorous software development cycle from requirements and design documentation, coding standards, test driven development, and the application of quality control and configuration control methodology.
  • Writes clear technical documentation for two different audiences: end-users and developers.
  • Provides support and tutorials to external and internal users of the Gemini astronomical data reduction software.
  • Contributes to the development and maintenance of continuous integration test platform.

Other Functions:

  • Acts as a consultant to external instrument developers as they develop data reduction software for DRAGONS and assist in the integration, testing, and deployment of that software.
  • Through testing of the Operations software, helps maintain astronomical data reduction and pipeline software installations at Gemini North and Gemini South.
  • Contributes to the preparations of public releases of the Gemini astronomical data reduction software.
  • Contributes to the development and maintenance of the Python-based Gemini data archive.

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Master’s degree in Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science or related field is required; a PhD degree is preferred.
  • Advanced knowledge of UNIX/Linux, Python, and Object-Oriented principles with at least two years of experience developing Python packages for public distribution is required.
  • Experience working as part of a team on a significant python software package is strongly desired.
  • Experience performing astronomical data reduction for scientific publication is required.
  • Experience providing support, especially in the area of data reduction, to users of astronomical facilities is required.
  • Fluency in English is essential.
  • Requires attention to detail, especially in developing, documenting, and testing of scientific processing software and infrastructure software.
  • Must possess excellent troubleshooting skills.
  • Ability to write clear technical documentation and communicate effectively with a diverse community of scientific software users and developers is essential.
  • Must be able to handle the conflicting demands of development and operations support.
  • Must be able to work in a geographically distributed team environment.

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Bilingual capability in Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Korean is preferred.
  • Familiarity with the Software Development Life Cycle is desirable. 
  • Independence, the ability to embrace challenge, and a sense of curiosity will aid in the successful completion of the essential functions.

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.

  • 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 necessary in or outside the United States and Chile.
  • Given the international nature of NOIRLab, occasional work at high elevation summit sites may be required (summit elevations range from 6,800 feet to 14,000 feet).  

If you would like to apply for this opportunity, please submit your CV/Resume along with a Cover Letter in English (PDF files preferred). The Cover Letter should relate your education and experience to the requirements of the position and include a link (e.g. to a GitHub repository) to a sample of Python code that showcases your ability and illustrates your relevant skills.

Also, kindly provide contact information of 3 professional references in your application, as references will be contacted later in the recruiting process. 

For full consideration please submit your application by November 30, 2020. Please name any attachments with the following format: LastnameDocname. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to [email protected]

At NOIRLab we are committed to diversity and inclusion; 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 

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

AURA offers competitive salaries based on market rates and a generous package of benefits.  

** NOIRLab has all staff working virtually during the 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 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.