Position Description

Detector Engineer
Job Category Fulltime Regular
ExemptOvertimeEligible Exempt
Benefits Eligible Benefit Based
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Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions. We thrive on finding and cultivating talented people who are passionate about what they do. Join us and be a part of the diverse Caltech community.

Job Summary

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) seeks a highly motivated and skilled Detector Engineer to join its team. LIGO Laboratory is a National Science Foundation major facility dedicated to observing the newly discovered gravitational-wave universe. Jointly operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the LIGO Laboratory operates world-leading observatories near Richland, WA and Baton Rouge, LA as well as R&D centers on the Caltech and MIT campuses. The LIGO Laboratory’s mission spans a broad and vibrant array of activities related to gravitational-wave physics and astronomy, including detector operations, R&D toward detector improvements, gravitational-wave astrophysics, observatory operations, and education and public outreach.

For more information, please visit the Laboratory website at https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/

This position is located in Richland, WA.

Life at LIGO Hanford Observatory as a Caltech Employee
LIGO’s observatory in the shrub-steppe of Eastern Washington is an approximately 20-minute commute from Richland, WA., where it is located on the edge of the Department of Energy Hanford Site. Caltech employs a staff of 49 at the Hanford observatory. Caltech has an extraordinary science impact across many fields. Its small size creates a community where innovation and collaboration are the norm. Caltech manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA, the leading US center for the robotic exploration of the Solar System. Caltech also operates large-scale research facilities such as the Palomar and Keck Observatories.

The Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco) is a rapidly developing community set in the heart of wine-country in southeast Washington state, where the Columbia, Yakima, and Snake rivers meet. The rivers and nearby Cascade and Blue mountain ranges provide ample outdoor recreation opportunities from water-skiing to fishing to hiking. The region is known for its contributions to science and technology in the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the DOE Hanford Site.

People choose to work at LIGO for many reasons, often with fulfilling, long-term careers. LIGO is a family-friendly laboratory and strives to ensure everyone is able to achieve the work-life balance they desire. Employees have access to a wide range of benefits including a child-care assistance program. Caltech’s benefits program offers a quality, competitive benefits package that is affordable for you and the Institute. The program provides a strong base of coverage for you and your dependents, and the ability to choose the plan and the level of coverage that best meet your needs. We also offer a 403(b) defined contribution plan to eligible staff as well as a Voluntary Retirement Savings (TDA) Plan.

Caltech HR diversity page: https://hr.caltech.edu/careers/2commitment-diversity

Caltech and LIGO Laboratory’s goal is to build a world-class, diverse workforce and support an inclusive environment that encourages professional development and offers top-notch benefits. Our talented staff, who work at the Caltech campus, or one of our Observatories, come from a variety of fields. Positions include scientists, engineers, information technology staff, outreach professionals, managers, writers, business professionals, and administrative staff. We are deeply committed to encouraging people of all backgrounds to apply for these opportunities. Our experience has demonstrated that the broader the styles, characteristics, backgrounds, and abilities of our staff—in other words, the more diverse our team is—the greater potential we have for success. Caltech is an equal opportunity employer.

LIGO Laboratory is committed to being a welcoming place for everyone regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, or veteran status.

Job Duties

  • Report to the LHO Lead Detector Engineer.
  • Establish and maintain expertise in the LIGO detector’s various systems and components, especially seismic isolation systems intended to decouple electro-optical detector components from ground motion.
  • In close collaboration with other engineers, scientists, and detector operators, participate in the design of detector modifications to enhance reliability, performance and maintainability.
  • Participate in the construction and installation of detector subsystems.
  • Perform testing of designs using prototype and production hardware, evaluating, interpreting, and refining as needed, to ensure that the LIGO detector functions consistently and accomplishes its scientific mission.
  • Characterize seismic isolation systems by taking transfer functions, spectral frequency responses, noise measurements and any other tests as needed. Produce digital filters for feedback control and noise reduction.
  • Maintain and improve various noise and performance models, in close collaboration with LIGO’s commissioning team and others. 
  • Provide troubleshooting and rapid, on-call response of performance issues with the detector.
  • Prepare reports to communicate and document procedures, results and findings, within LIGO and/or for publication.
  • Occasional travel to other LIGO Laboratory sites may be required.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications

  • BS in physical sciences or engineering or equivalent experience.
  • Experience designing, constructing and/or installing precision scientific instruments and instrumentation systems.
  • Experience in software controls of precision scientific instruments and instrumentation systems.
  • Experience supporting the characterization and/or operation of a complex scientific instrument facility or observatory.
  • Lifting of items weighing 20 or more pounds.

Preferred Qualifications

  • M.S. or Ph.D. in Mechanical, Aeronautical or Electrical Engineering, Physics or a related field.
  • Familiarity with, and working knowledge of Matlab.
  • Experience in highly collaborative research and operating environments.
  • Responsible for professionally communicating (written and verbal) within the observatory and to the broader collaboration.
  • Competence with common office and scientific software.
  • Work experience in a position that required design and characterization of control systems

Required Documents

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter


EEO Statement

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Caltech is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

To read more Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) go to eeoc_self_print_poster.pdf.

Disability Accommodations

If you would like to request an accommodation in completing this application, interviewing, or otherwise participating in the employee selection process, please direct your inquiries to Caltech Recruiting at employment@caltech.edu

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