Position Description

Vacuum Equipment Technician
Job Category Fulltime Regular
ExemptOvertimeEligible Overtime Eligible
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 Vacuum Equipment Technician 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 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

The LIGO observatories each operate a 10 million liter ultra-high-vacuum (UHV) system that consists of 8 km of meter-wide vacuum pipe and numerous interconnected chambers, among the largest such systems in the World. They each include 8 km of 1.2m-diameter beam tube, interconnecting approximately ten 3m-diameter vessels that house the detector apparatus. LIGO detectors operate in the 10 -9 Torr pressure range, relying on a combination of cryogenic, turbomolecular, ion and getter pump technologies, combined with stringent material and operating protocols. Its technologies include cryogenic, turbo-molecular, and ion pumps, and residual gas analyzers.

Reporting to the Vacuum Lead, the Vacuum Equipment Technician's primary responsibilities are maintaining the site wide vacuum systems/sub-systems and supporting planned engineering upgrades and repairs to the vacuum system.

  • Report to LLO Vacuum Group Team Lead.
  • Responsible for operating and maintaining UHV systems located at the LIGO Livingston Observatory under the guidance of a vacuum engineer.
  • Execute daily system performance checking, calibration, maintenance of Vacuum instrumentation.
  • Responsible for operating and maintaining UHV vacuum bake ovens and other systems and personnel to clean and test components for installation in UHV systems.
  • Execute formal written procedures to ensure LIGO’s vacuum equipment is monitored, protected and maintained.
  • Utilize LIGO’s Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to schedule, execute and record corrective and preventive maintenance work.
  • Escalate any operational fault issues to Vacuum Group Lead using LIGO’s Fault Report System.
  • Support the execution LIGO’s Detector Improvements projects. The DI work is planned many months in advance and requires a team of engineers and technicians to have access to within the vacuum chambers to make improvements to the LIGO detectors. The work requires a high degree of coordination, communication and scheduling and must be accomplished without causing chamber contamination. The vacuum team are responsible for the operation of gate valves, chamber vent process, provision of purge air and subsequent pump down to UHV and safely introducing the isolated chamber to main volume.
  •  Maintain all general and job specific safety certifications and carry out specific safety inspections. Report to site safety manager for all safety issues.
  • Operate forklifts, cranes, aerial lifts, and other mobile equipment.
  • Work from elevated platforms such as scaffolding, ladders and aerial lifts.
  • Other duties as assigned.
  • Some travel may be necessary.

Basic Qualifications

  • BS degree in Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Electrical Engineering, or related scientific or engineering field or 5 years of experience in related field.
  • 2 years of experience developing, testing or operating scientific or other instrumentation, or equivalent course work and laboratory experience.
  • Excellent English language written and oral communication skills.
  • Aptitude and enthusiasm to learn new skills, and to assist and train others.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license at the start of employment and maintain it throughout the course of employment.
  • Ability to work a varied schedule during observing runs; this may include responding to vacuum related emergencies during evenings, overnights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Ability to lift equipment and/or instruments weighing 20 or more pounds.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Previous technical experience working in clean room or high vacuum technology.
  • 2+ years of vacuum-equipment-related engineering or research experience.
  • Hands-on experience in building, improving and/or maintaining ultra-high vacuum (UHV) systems.
  • Experience with, and quantitative knowledge of, UHV-compatible materials and mechanical design practice.
  • Experience and knowledge related to UHV sensors and instrumentation.
  • Experience and knowledge related to industrial automation that is applicable to UHV systems.
  • Written and verbal communication skills and habits.
  • Level-headed professionalism, excellent inter-personal skills, and reliability.
  • Proactive approach to work quality and completion.
  • Strong teamwork skills and an ability to collaborate with coworkers having diverse skills and backgrounds.
  • Proficient with standard office computing applications (e.g.., Word, Excel, and web applications).
  • Ability to follow complex procedures in timely manner.
  • Safety oriented

Required Documents

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter

COVID-19 Vaccine Required for All Employees

Caltech has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy effective October 15, 2021, requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees (with Institute-approved exemptions for religious or medical contraindications only). At present, an individual is deemed “fully vaccinated” when that person has received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (e.g., Pfizer or Moderna) or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., Johnson & Johnson). As a condition of employment, employees must submit official COVID-19 vaccine documentation. More information may be found here.

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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