Instrument Scientist

The Historic Lowell Observatory was founded in 1894.  In 2012, we embarked on our greatest adventure yet with the completion of the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). This new facility, in full science operations as of 2015, vastly expands the breadth of our research capabilities for our astronomers and those of our institutional partners. Even more exciting, our partnership with Discovery Communications provides an avenue to bring our results and breathtaking images to hundreds of millions worldwide.

Lowell Observatory located in Flagstaff, Arizona, is seeking an Instrument Scientist, a position within the observatory’s technology group.  The Instrument Scientist is responsible for the creation and maintenance of all astronomical instrumentation as well as related hardware and software across all Lowell observatory sites in northern Arizona including: the 4.3m Lowell Discovery Telescope, existing and planned 1-m class facilities on Anderson Mesa, and smaller aperture telescopes on Lowell’s main campus on Mars Hill.  The position may be filled at any experience level.


The Instrument Scientist (IS) will support Lowell Observatory’s technology group. In particular, the IS will assist bringing new instruments and capabilities on line at the various facilities such as: fully-robotic telescope control systems, adaptive optics and wavefront sensing projects, site monitoring improvements, calibration and performance trending of existing instruments, and the design, implementation, and commissioning of next-generation 4m-class instruments.  The IS will also play a pivotal role in the preparation of grant proposals for instrumentation or technology projects, and may include meeting with potential donors or advisory boards. Additionally, the IS will occasionally assist observers and operators of the various telescope facilities, and will generally support all technical activities across the observatory.  The IS may apply for observing time on any of the Lowell observatory facilities.


Candidates should hold a MS or Ph.D. in Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, or a closely related field.  A successful applicant will be able to demonstrate experience in some of the following areas; given the broad scope below, expertise in all of them is not required or expected:

  • A strong background designing, building, or working with:
    • IR and optical detector systems development and operations
    • Optomechanical systems, including general optics design (especially Zemax or similar) and electronic controls
    • Closed cycle cryogenic (e.g. Stirling, GM, or JT) coolers and associated vacuum systems
    • Data reduction and processing
    • Troubleshooting instrumentation problems
    • Mechanical design
  • Software development, including system administration and overall design
  • Ability to work with multidisciplinary teams, including external collaborators

Additionally, the IS should have strong communications skills, and should be prepared for occasionally time-critical and potentially high-pressure situations.

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