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/LA  .

This position is located in Livingston, LA.

Life at LIGO Livingston as a Caltech Employee
LIGO’s observatory in rural Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is an approximately 35-minute commute from Baton Rouge, LA., and is about 1 hour 20 minutes from New Orleans. Caltech employs a staff of 42 at the Livingston 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.

South Louisiana enjoys a friendly and unique blend of cultures, food, art, music and festivals—including Mardi Gras each spring. Baton Rouge, the State capital, hosts Louisiana State University. New Orleans, founded in 1718, is one of the most distinctive and well-known cities in the Americas, and is considered the birthplace of jazz. The region along the Mississippi River, which flows through both cities, includes a significant petrochemical industry base and several high-volume shipping ports. Area rivers, lakes and the Gulf of Mexico provide opportunities for recreation and fishing.

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 LLO Lead Detector Engineer.
  • Establish and maintain expertise in the LIGO detector’s various systems and subjects, such as lasers, squeezed light and precision feedback control systems.
  • 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.
  • Contribute to the dynamic characterization and calibration of the detector.
  • Provide troubleshooting, debugging 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, up to 6 weeks per year.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications

  • B.S. degree in Engineering, Physics, or a related field.
  • 3 years work experience in a position that required design, characterization or operational maintenance of precision optical, mechanical and/or instrumentation systems, or 1 year relevant work experience and a Master’s or Ph.D. degree in Engineering, Physics, or a related field.
  • Experience constructing and/or installing precision scientific instruments and instrumentation systems that include lasers and/or optics.
  • Competence with common office and scientific software.

Preferred Qualifications

  • M.S. or Ph.D. in Optical, Mechanical, Aeronautical or Electrical Engineering, Physics or a related field.
  • Experience designing, commissioning, or maintaining laser systems, precision optical systems, opto-mechanical systems, and/or electro-optic systems.
  • Experience using Matlab.
  • Experienced with, Python, C/C++, Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) and UI/UX design (e.g. HTML5), modern software management practices (e.g. git, gitlab/github).
  • Experience using SolidWorks or a similar modern 3D design system.
  • Experience in highly collaborative research and operating environments.
  • Academic training in control systems, and/or work experience in a position that required design and characterization of precision feedback control systems.
  • Experience supporting the characterization and/or operation of a complex scientific instrument facility or observatory.

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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