Scientist, Space Sciences (Visiting)

The USRA Science and Technology Institute (STI) is seeking a two-year appointment for a visiting scientist.  The ideal candidate would have experience in thin film research toward the advancement of space-borne x-ray optics that utilize thin films to enhance their reflective performance.

The selected candidate will work closely with the Principle Investigator (PI) for Thin Film Research at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC) in a well-equipped deposition laboratory.    The facility houses unique deposition technology hardware that facilitates the coating of a broad range of optics types including grazing incidence, segmented and full-shell Wolter x-ray optics, as well as Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) normal incidence multilayer coatings used in Heliophysics missions.

The laboratory facilities for this position are located at the NASA Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).  Huntsville recently ranked 3rd in the 2021 U.S. News and World Report’s best twenty- five places to live.  Foreign nationals are encouraged to apply.

Primary Duties/Responsibilities: 

Principle Goal: The deposition of near-zero stress Iridium (Ir) films which will be deposited onto state-of-the-art prefigured segmented silicon substrates developed by GSFC. This work is critical for achieving the goal of the next generation of sub arcsecond resolution x-ray optics.

Contribute to a peer reviewed publication based on the work described below:

  • Deposition and characterization of single and multilayer thin films (i.e. of sub-nanometer thickness) by the process of magnetron or reactive magnetron sputtering using: x-ray reflectometry, AFM, XPS, and stress characterization using in-situ stress measurement.  Specific tasks include:
  • Upgrading an x-ray reflectometer (XRR) to include laser alignment capability as well as the installation and testing of a recently procured micro source with collimating x-ray optic.
  • The investigation of the use of ultra-thin glass, which is bent using a fixture into a conical shape, as a method of calibrating the film stress and coating uniformity on curved substrates.
  • Testing the reflective and adhesive properties of Iridium films under various values of intrinsic film stress. 
  • A study of the effects of thermal extrinsic stress due to CTE mismatch between film and substrate on substrate figure.
  • A study of the deposition geometry’s influence on the isotropy of the film stress and surface roughness.
  • The investigation of methods for reducing the high intrinsic stress in boron-carbide (B4C), or doped (B4C) thin films that could otherwise be used as an Ir overcoat (i.e. Ir/B4C) to enhance x-ray reflectivity at lower photon energies.
  • Contribute to peer-reviewed journal publications and/or conference presentations.
  • Other job-related duties as assigned.

Required Qualifications: 


  • PhD in Physics, Astronomy, Material Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, or a closely related discipline.         


  • Equivalent of >3 years of experience beyond the PhD thesis, as a post-graduate, or other capacity, in a related field is preferred. 
  • Due to the limited time frame of this solicitation, and the unpredictable nature of future funding, preferred candidates will be capable of demonstrating, through a presentation to the x-ray optics group, a completed body of work beyond the PhD thesis that led to at least one publication(s).  

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  

  • X-ray Astronomy
  • Reflective Optics
  • Thin Films (sub-nanometer thickness)
  • Magnetron Sputtering
  • Vacuum Deposition Systems
  • Mechanical and Optical Properties of Various Materials
  • Data acquisition and motion control programming 
  • Possess excellent Oral, Written, and Presentation Skills (both technical and non-technical)
  • Achieve meaningful contributions with minimal supervision and training.
  • Focused on the coating related activities described above.
  • Possess a sense of urgency, results driven.


  • Communication
  • Technologically Competent
  • Desire to keep learning
  • Professional



  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc), its applications and image processing software.
  • Knowledge of electronic equipment, computer hardware and software, including applications, preferably LabView
  • Proficient use of standard office equipment.

Working Conditions: 

This job operates in a professional office and laboratory environments. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, etc. This is largely a sedentary role.  However, the employee may need to lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.  This role also involves adhering to safety standards and practices for operating in the laboratory environment.


Position is not eligible for telecommuting.


Up to 10% travel.

Applicants should apply to the posting at USRA Careers and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Additional information on USRA can be found at

Effective December 8, all USRA employees must be fully vaccinated (2 weeks past final dose) unless they are entitled to a reasonable and legal accommodation. If you are not vaccinated, please consider getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact your HR Recruiter for further information.

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity.

Apply Here: