see also: UT Austin Job Search

A full list of employment opportunities with both the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory can be found at https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/hr/jobs/nlogon/search/0/. For openings at the Observatory, enter 'McDonald' as the Hiring Department. Listings will include both Austin and Fort Davis, TX.

Please also see Fellowships.


Research Engineering/ Scientist Associate III - Resident Astronomer

Hiring department McDonald Observatory
Monthly salary $5,000+ depending on qualifications
Hours per week 40.00 Variable
Posting number 17-10-20-01-4209
Job Status Open
FLSA status Exempt
Earliest Start Date 01/01/2018
Position Duration Funding expected to continue
Position open to all applicants
Location McDonald Observatory (near Ft. Davis, TX)
Number of vacancies 1


General Notes

Position located 440 miles west of Austin, 16 miles outside Ft. Davis, TX. Frequent night, weekend, and holiday duty required. Occasional on-call duty required. Incumbent may be required to reside on-site in the Observatory's residential community and serve on emergency response team. Must be authorized to work in the U.S. on a full-time basis for any employer.


Required Application Materials

  • A Resume is required in order to apply

  • A Letter of Interest is required in order to apply.

  • A List of 3 References is required in order to apply.

Additional Information



Serve as on-site observing specialist with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) using multiple facility instruments. Work with instrument scientists and engineering staff to maintain and document the performance of the HET. Work with the HET partner scientists to optimize the scientific productivity of the facility.


Essential Functions

Science Operations: Lead night time science operations from sunset to sunrise safely and efficiently, including observing with facility instruments based upon weather constraints, as well as queue priorities as set by the PI and Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC). Instruments include the Visible Integral-field Replicable Unit Spectrograph (VIRUS), Low-Resolution Spectrograph 2 (LRS2), High Resolution Spectrograph (HRS), and Habitable-zone Planet Finder Spectrograph (HPF). Engineering Operations: Coordinate with visiting and remote engineering staff to complete engineering, instrument commissioning and observing goals. Provide support and advice to maximize observing run outputs. Communicate with the telescope operator about facility and weather constraints. Monitor the condition of the facility science instruments. Keep accurate, professional and clear night report and problem report logs. Contribute to a productive and efficient working environment. Day Operations: Support night operations by preparing the facility for science operations including testing and calibrating equipment and software, and communicating with the outgoing resident astronomer regarding the status of the facility and queue. Coordinate with partner institution astronomers about their observations. Documenting the current status of the facility through wikis and web pages. Projects and other duties: Conduct projects to characterize and/or improve night operations. Work with other resident astronomers to keep a fully staffed work schedule for every night of the year. Attend general and night-time operation staff meetings. Keep accurate and updated time sheets, and complete required training and paperwork in a timely manner. Research environment: Conduct personal research and become an active user of the Observatory instruments to contribute to the scientific life at the Observatory. Participate in outreach activities such as giving public talks, tours of the facility, and attending colloquia.


Marginal/Incidental functions

Other related functions as assigned. An essential employee will act as a member of the McDonald Observatory's Emergency Response Team that responds to fire, medical, or other emergencies that threatens or interferes with the normal operations.


Required qualifications

Master's degree and two years of instrumentation, observations, or data reduction experience with 1+m class telescopes collecting science grade astronomical data. Excellent written and verbal communication skills. Must be able to work efficiently and productively with small teams (listen, seek clarification, and take feedback) during the time critical science operations. Candidates should have at least two year of experience with a scientific programing language. Equivalent combination of relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.


Preferred Qualifications

Ph.D. in astronomy or physics, or equivalent, combined with two year instrumentation, observations, or data reduction experience working on 3+m class telescopes in optical and/or near infra-red spectroscopy, along with demonstrated capacity to oversee software development related to data reduction. Experience writing code in Python. A strong demonstrated commitment to service astronomy. Proven organizational, managerial and leadership skills to fill in for the HET Science Supervisor as needed or lead a small team on an improvement or characterization project. Ability to conduct personal research projects with the HET or other McDonald telescopes.


Working conditions

May work in all weather conditions May work in extreme temperatures May work around standard office conditions Repetitive use of a keyboard at a workstation Use of manual dexterity Climbing of stairs Required to work extended hours (sunset to sunrise) and on-call.

A criminal history background check will be required for finalist(s)  under consideration for this position.

The retirement plan for this position is Teacher Retirement System of  Texas (TRS), subject to the position being at least 20 hours per week  and at least 135 days in length.

The University of Texas at Austin, as an equal opportunity/affirmative  action employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws  regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action. The University is  committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not  discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital  status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression,  disability, religion, or veteran status in employment, educational  programs and activities, and admissions.

If hired, you will be required to complete the federal Employment  Eligibility Verification form, I-9. You will be required to present  acceptable, original documents - http://www.utexas.edu/hr/current/services/I9docs.html - to prove your 
identity and authorization to work in the United States. Information  from the documents will be submitted to the federal E-Verify system for  verification. Documents must be presented no later than the third day of  employment. Failure to do so will result in dismissal.


11 October 2016
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin
prospective student inquiries: studentinfo@astro.as.utexas.edu
site comments: www@astro.as.utexas.edu · web accessibility policy · web privacy policy