Position Description

Staff Scientist
Job Category Fulltime Regular
ExemptOvertimeEligible Exempt
Benefits Eligible Benefit Based
Apply Now

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.

IPAC at Caltech invites applications for a Source Detection and Photometry Scientist to join the team that is developing the Survey Data System for NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission. 

IPAC, part of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy Division at Caltech, is a dedicated community of scientists, engineers, and administrative personnel who provide science operations, user support, data and archive services, and scientific vision to maximize discovery with observatories both in space and on the ground.  NEO Surveyor is a Planetary Defense mission, scheduled to launch in 2027, that is optimized to detect, track, and characterize solar system small bodies that pose a potential risk to the Earth.  NEO Surveyor consists of a passively cooled 50 cm telescope located at Sun-Earth L1 equipped with a wide-field camera that will image the sky simultaneously in two mid-infrared bands. NEO Surveyor will detect approximately 100,000 Main Belt asteroids, NEOs, and comets each day against a background of tens of millions of distant stars and galaxies.

IPAC is building the NEO Surveyor Survey Data System (NSDS) that ingests imaging and engineering data from the flight system, processes those data into calibrated image and source detection products, performs automated searches for moving solar system objects, assesses the quality of the survey data, and distributes data products to NASA archives and the user community.  The NSDS utilizes multiband source detection and profile-fit photometry algorithms to acquire accurate flux measurements that will enable estimates of the physical characteristics of solar system small bodies. 

Essential Job Duties

As Source Detection and Photometry Scientist, you will work with the NSDS Lead Scientist and System Architect to:

  • Maintain and continue to develop current software for performing source detection and photometry for both stationary and moving objects observed by NEO Surveyor
  • Assist with testing, tuning, and marshalling into operations the NSDS subsystems responsible for carrying out source detection and photometry
  • Assist with documenting the design and continued development of the subsystems and their key interfaces with other NSDS subsystems
  • Participate in designing, conducting, and documenting tests to assess the performance of the position reconstruction subsystem and validating results against project requirements. This will be performed prior to NEO Surveyor launch using simulated data and following launch using on-sky data

The Source Detection and Photometry Scientist will be encouraged to plan and conduct an independent research program that ideally makes use of data returned by the NEO Surveyor, and to be an active participant in the general activities of the IPAC Science Staff.

Basic Qualifications  

  • PhD in Astronomy, Planetary Science, or related discipline
  • At least 3 years of relevant experience developing and operating software to detect sources and perform photometry using data acquired from astronomical imaging
  • Knowledge of scientific programming for analyzing astronomical data and testing calibration methodologies
  • Knowledge of statistics and optimal estimation theory for the measurement of fluxes, positions, and angular velocities of detected sources
  • Good communication skills, including writing documents that describe software design and interfaces, or results from testing and analyses

Preferred Qualifications

Besides these basic qualifications, there are a set of skills and experience that will enhance your contributions as the Source Detection and Photometry Scientist. The following might give you a head start, but even if these don’t describe you or your experience, we would still like to hear from you.

  • Fluency with Fortran 90 in a Linux environment
  • Experience in developing robust software for inclusion in automated pipelines
  • Experience conducting statistical analyses of extremely large astronomical data sets

Required Documents

  • Cover Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Names and Contact information of 3 professional references
  • Planned Research Statement

People choose to work at IPAC for many reasons, and the casual, employee-centric culture often leads to fulfilling, long-term careers and lasting professional relationships. 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. IPAC staff have access to the Institute’s facilities, including the athletic center, libraries, on-site daycare, professional development and enrichment classes, and Athenaeum club membership.

Application Deadline: June 30, 2023

Hiring Range

$64,480 - $108,000 Per Year

The salary of the finalist(s) selected for this role will be set based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, internal equity, experience, education, specialty and training.

As one of the largest employers in Pasadena, CA, Caltech is committed to providing comprehensive benefits to eligible employees and their eligible dependents. Our benefits package includes competitive compensation, health, dental, and vision insurance, retirement savings plans, generous paid time off (vacation, holidays, sick time, parental leave, bereavement, etc.), tuition reimbursement, and more. Non-benefit eligible employees will have access to some benefits such as onsite counseling and sick time. Learn more about our benefits and staff perks

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

Back Apply Now