Position Description

Detector Specialist
Job Category Fulltime Regular
ExemptOvertimeEligible Exempt
Benefits Eligible Benefit Based
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Job Summary

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) seeks a highly motivated and skilled Detector Specialist to join its team. This position is located in Richland, WA.

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.

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.

Essential Job Duties

Using knowledge of one or more detector elements such as hardware, optics, eletro-mechanical components, electronic controls, or data acquisition and control hardware/software, assemble, install, inventory, test, and commission Advanced LIGO and Advanced LIGO Plus subsystem components.

Test and troubleshoot detector component designs using prototype and production hardware, evaluating, interpreting, refining as needed, communicating information to systems engineers (web-based collaboration, presentations, drawing redlines, etc.).

Maintain, calibrate, and upgrade Observatory instrumentation and tooling, including interferometer subsystem components, infrastructure, support equipment, and other apparatus as required.

Characterize instrumental signatures in interferometer data and develop operational techniques and analysis methods to discriminate these signatures.

Procure additional and new components, materials, supplies needed for the operation and maintenance of detector hardware and related support equipment.

Maintain inventory control of all parts of assigned assemblies and equipment packages as assigned.

Create, analyze, and provide schedule input to Install managers regarding subsystem work packages.

Occasionally assist in the operation of a large-scale gravitational wave interferometer through monitoring and adjustment of interferometer systems, associated observatory equipment, and facilities to ensure desired performance and data integrity. The work schedule may cover some off-hours time during the 24­-hour operations and schedules may vary.

Assist with oversight of hardware throughput of contamination control processing for in-vacuum use.

Establish fluency in LIGO cleanroom protocols and best practices.

Participate in safety trainings and promote safety by demonstrating commitment to personal responsibility and value for environment, safety, and security.

Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications
*  A B.S. in physical science or engineering, or 4 years of equivalent progressive experience in a relevant technical field.
*  Ability to read and understand mechanical drawings, technical specifications, assembly instructions, and testing procedures.
* Experience in a position that required design and characterization of complex systems.
*  Proficiency with standard computer applications (web-based/server-based documentation, MS Word, Excel, etc)
*  Must have excellent organizational skills.
*  Ability to work in a diverse, collaborative environment while also working independently. This includes the ability to exhibit good verbal and written communication skills, inter-personal skills, team attitude, nd reliability.
•  Ability to lift at least 20 pounds.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience supporting the installation, characterization and/or operation of a complex scientific facility or observatory.
  • Familiarity with LabView, Matlab, optical modematching software, and camera equipment.
  • Experience in highly collaborative research and operating environments.
  • Operational experience working in clean room environment.
  • Laser safety knowledge and experience.

Required Documents

  • Cover Letter
  • Resume


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). Upon eligibility, employees are required to receive the COVID-19 booster as part of the vaccine mandate. 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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