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A full list of employment opportunities with both the Department of Astronomy and the McDonald Observatory can be found via the links below. Listings for McDonald Observatory will include positions located at both Austin and Fort Davis, TX.

The University of Texas at Austin provides an outstanding benefits package to staff, including:

  • Competitive health benefits (Employee premiums covered at 100%; family premiums at 50%)
  • Vision, dental, life, and disability insurance options
  • Paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays
  • Teachers Retirement System of Texas (a defined benefit retirement plan)
  • Additional voluntary retirement programs: tax-sheltered annuity 403(b) and a deferred compensation program 457(b)
  • Flexible spending account options for medical and childcare expenses
  • Expansive employee discount program, including athletics tickets
  • Free rides on all UT Shuttle and CapMetro buses with staff ID card

For more details, please see https://hr.utexas.edu/prospective/benefits and https://hr.utexas.edu/current/services/my-total-rewards.


Click on the available job title to see the posting information.

General Notes

This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles from The University of Texas at Austin campus). Residence in the Observatory's residential community may be available and required. Position may be subject to “call-back” as an essential employee for emergency or critical response. Must be eligible to work in the US on a full-time basis for any employer without sponsorship.

Purpose

To apply mechanical engineering skills to support the maintenance and operations of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) equipment and telescope infrastructure. The telescope hardware and instrumentation cover a wide range of mechanical disciplines and includes both the latest technologies and older equipment. Responsible for the evaluation, selection, application, and documentation of standard mechanical engineering techniques used to support the maintenance and functionality of mechanical subsystems and instrumentation of the HET to achieve the scientific research goals of McDonald Observatory.

Responsibilities

  • Science Instrument Support. Responsible for the evaluation, selection, application, and documentation of standard mechanical engineering techniques to support the maintenance and continued improvement of science instruments. Coordinate with instrument specialists and developers in Austin. Monitor and maintain instrument vacuum levels. Swap multiplexers and controllers as needed to improve instrument performance. Install and remove units as needed. Maintain VIRUS maintenance and support hardware. Run Defocused Spectral Flats on VIRUS.
  • Preventive Maintenance. Tests, assists and inspects lifts, compressors, generators, and other equipment for conformity to specifications. Perform periodic detailed inspections and preventive maintenance of equipment and systems and maintains electronic records of inspections and maintenance. Follows and assists in developing maintenance procedures and establishes schedules for equipment or systems that have not yet been defined.
  • Repairs. Troubleshoot and follow detailed maintenance procedures and technical manual instructions for repairs. Maintains electronic records of inspections and maintenance.Design Projects. Provides system-level design and engineering support for components, products, and system applications. Evaluates and determines procedures to be used in the design of research projects. Performs and report results of professional-level work involving mechanical designs. When appropriate, proposes, designs, and implements hardware and/or procedural improvements.
  • Safety. Practices safe work habits. Identifies, reports, and helps remove safety hazards. Adheres to facility safety policies. Uses Personal Protective Equipment properly. Contributes to the development of newer safety policies.
  • Teamwork. Works within a team environment and with end users to determine project requirements. Work with the HET mechanical engineer, engineering manager, and facility manager to determine priority and schedules. Work with other HET teams to balance the use of limited resources and coordinate tasks. Assist personnel from Austin when necessary. Work with vendors and contractors.
  • Extended Duties. Respond as necessary to night-time/weekend repair and maintenance calls from telescope operations staff.
  • Machine Shop. Maintain machine shop and storage containers for cleanliness and safety. Ensure machines are in acceptable working order. Maintain stock of fasteners, tooling, spares, etc.
  • Operations. Periodically performs operations engineering duty.Administrative Tasks. Participate in the weekly HET staff meetings. Submit daily activity reports and weekly timesheets. Other duties as required to meet business needs.

Required Qualifications

Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering, Optical Engineering, or a related field with up to two years of experience maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting scientific instruments and/or mechanical systems in an astronomical research or optical lab environment. Hands-on experience with machine tools and workshop equipment. Ability to work with precision measuring tools. Good mechanical aptitude. Ability to organize and prioritize work to meet deadlines and expectations. Experience with Microsoft Office products. Positive attitude, strong work ethic, and willingness to work hard. Self-motivated and able to work with minimal supervision. Excellent interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills. Demonstrated ability to work in a team environment and in a professional manner. Demonstrated ability to develop and document procedures, update the information to a database and create reports of equipment status. Safety conscious.

Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications

Master's Degree in the field related to the work to be performed. Experience working with optics and/or instrumentation. Experience working with precision mechanical systems requiring fine motor coordination and a light touch. Experience in a scientific research field with both mechanical and electrical systems. Technical training in mechanical and/or electrical disciplines. Experience in maintaining fine mechanical equipment. Experience working on chillers, HVAC, cooling systems, air compressors, and electromechanical systems. Machining skills. Electrical skills. Basic computer-aided design (CAD) skills. Open to innovative procedures.

Driving Required

This job requires a class "C" operator's driver's license. The applicant selected must provide a current three-year driving record from the current state of residence. If not currently a Texas resident, a Texas driver's license must be obtained within 30 days of becoming a Texas resident.

Salary Range

$55,000 + depending on qualifications and experience

Working Conditions

 

  • Practice safe working habits.
  • May work in all weather conditions and extreme temperatures.May work around chemicals, chemical fumes, and cryogenic liquids.
  • May work around electrical and mechanical hazards.
  • May work around standard office conditions and repetitive use of a keyboard at a workstation.Use of manual, mechanical hand-tool, and fine motor dexterity.
  • Climbing stairs and ladders, and working at heights up to 100 feet in varied climate conditions with appropriate personal protection equipment, using a man lift or ladder; free climbing on/around heavy equipment.
  • Lifting, moving, and pushing heavy equipment.
  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including safety harnesses, hard hats, breathing respirators, and ear and eye protection, may require respirator fit testing.
  • Staff living on-site in the residential community are considered essential employees as determined by the HET Facility Manager and the Observatory Superintendent and will be required to serve in the Observatory Emergency Response team.
  • McDonald Observatory is approximately 6900 ft. above sea level; environmental conditions can be unpredictable; temperatures can range from -10˚F and +95˚F; inclement winter weather can be expected, which requires comfort driving in wintry conditions on mountain grades.

Work Shift

  • Generally, M-F, 8am – 5pm.
  • The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is a 24/7 operation. You may be expected to work at all hours of the day or night, weekends or holidays (when needed and within limits) to serve the scientific needs of the Observatory and specifically the HET.

Required Materials

  • Letter of Interest
  • Resume/CV
  • Three (3) letters from appropriate professional references which make the case that the nominee has an established record of independent research.

Additional information and to apply: HET Mechanical Engineering Associate.

 

HET Science Operations Manager (McDonald Observatory, Ft. Davis, Texas)

General Notes

This position is the science operations manager at the McDonald Observatory, Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), which operates on a 24/7 schedule. The Observatory is a major astronomical research observatory located 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles from the UT Austin campus).

This position involves responsibility for HET’s scientific output. It requires bridging two gaps: the gap between daytime engineers and night-time operations and the gap between operations in West Texas and the scientists who use the scientific data collected. Supporting efficient telescope operations will sustain the production of high-quality scientific observations. Supporting the scientists who rely on those observations will allow them to continue to make discoveries about the fundamental nature of the universe, including the formation and evolution of galaxies and stars, the nature and composition of planets outside of our solar system, and the history of the expansion of the universe itself.

Purpose

The Science Operations Manager for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at the McDonald Observatory will provide leadership, high-quality science, and technical support in the science operations of the HET, including managing the HET science and engineering support operations, supervising night-time operations, monitoring and reporting on HET optical and instrumentation performance, data acquisition and reduction.

Responsibilities

  • Manage HET science and engineering support operations. Coordinate with engineering and special program leads to facilitate HET Board discussions of these allocations and produce Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) allocations. Manage the HET observing queue and resolve time conflicts. Work closely with science and engineering staff to specify and conduct night-time engineering tests and analyze/reduce data/results as needed.
  • Conduct personal research. 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. Submit research proposals to outside funding agencies as principal investigator (PI) or on research grants/contracts.
  • Monitor and report on science operations. Lead operations meetings. Oversee HET Observing Metrics and report to the HET Board, Time Allocation Committees, and Users Committee on HET science operations performance and time usage.
  • Conduct night operations. Serve as a resident astronomer approximately two nights per month, or as needed, in the night operations team to conduct science observations on behalf of HET users, using facility instruments and based upon queue priorities, weather conditions, and facility constraints. In addition, also maintains a working understanding of the essential duties of the Telescope Operator position, including stacking and acquiring targets.
  • Supervise HET night-time operations staff. Manage projects to improve operations. Monitor and evaluate work performance. Supervise training.
  • Conduct projects to improve HET operations and/or add new capabilities or features. Projects may include theoretical work, documentation, hardware, and software projects, depending on the candidate's skill set.
  • Conduct daytime operations. Support daytime engineering testing, including instrument commissioning tests as needed and daily telescope functional tests on a rotation basis.
  • Observatory operations. Participate in observatory-wide duties and serve as deputy facility manager.
  • Perform other duties as assigned to meet business needs. Keep accurate and updated time sheets and complete required training and paperwork. Staff living on-site in the residential community are considered essential employees as determined by the HET Facility Manager and the Observatory Superintendent. They will be required to serve on the Observatory Emergency Response team “ERT" and perform tasks to help respond to emergencies, such as fire, medical, hazardous material, or other emergencies threatening or interfering with the facility's normal operations.

Required Qualifications

  • Doctoral degree in astronomy or closely related field.
  • Five years demonstrated experience working in a collaborative service astronomy role.
  • Two or more years of experience in a scientific operational leadership and management role, including managing diverse teams of research staff.
  • Significant research experience in observational optical astronomy.
  • Proven record of objectivity and the ability to coordinate and direct research project activities and meet reporting and project deadlines.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills and professional demeanor.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Ability and willingness to work some nights, weekends, and holidays to assist in conducting science operations.
  • Ability to be adaptable, work independently, and as an integral project team member.
  • Demonstrable good judgment.
  • Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications

  • More than the minimum years of experience with optical and near-IR spectroscopy using high, medium, and low-resolution spectrographs. 
  • Three years of experience with fiber-fed integral field spectroscopy.  
  • Willingness to adapt to changing research programs and project needs.
  • Proven ability to interact with scientific principal investigators, the public, and industry stakeholders on complex astronomical topics.  

Driving Required

This job requires a class "C" operator's driver's license. The applicant selected must provide a current three-year driving record from the current state of residence. If not currently a Texas resident, a Texas driver's license must be obtained within 30 days of becoming a Texas resident.

Salary Range

$100,000+ depending on qualifications and experience

Working Conditions

  • Since we are a 24/7 operation, this position, on occasion, is expected to respond to problems and business needs relating to the telescope outside of regular work hours (nights, weekends, and holidays) to serve the needs of the Observatory and, specifically, the HET.
  • Residence in the Observatory’s residential community may be available and required.
  • The position may be subject to “call-back” as an essential emergency or critical response employee.
  • Must be eligible to work in the US full-time for any employer without sponsorship.
  • Working at a computer, including repetitive keyboard use at a workstation.
  • Use of manual dexterity.
  • Climbing of stairs and ladders up to 90 ft.
  • Heavy lifting and moving.
  • Working in potentially hazardous chemicals, cryogenic liquids, and chemical fumes environments.May work around electrical and mechanical hazards.
  • May require working extended hours in inclement weather with hazardous equipment or materials.
  • Acts as a senior member of the Observatory’s Emergency Response Team that responds to fire, medical, hazardous material, or other emergencies threatening or interfering with the facility’s normal operations. Handles emergencies calmly and quickly.
  • Staff on-site in the residential community may serve as essential employees as determined by your manager.
  • McDonald Observatory is located approximately 6800 feet above sea level. Environmental conditions can be unpredictable, and temperatures can range from -10˚F to +95˚F. Inclement winter weather can be expected, which requires being comfortable driving in wintry conditions on mountain grades.

Work Shift

  • Typically, 40-hour work weeks, including night and weekend work. Flexibility is essential, given that we operate 24/7/365.
  • Required to conduct some shifts of night operations.
  • Occasional interstate, intrastate, and international travel.

Required Materials

  • Letter of Interest
  • Resume/CV
  • Three letters from appropriate professional references which make the case that the nominee has an established record of independent research.
  • List three work references and their contact information; at least one reference should be from a supervisor.

Additional information and to apply: HET Science Operations Manager.

 

Mechanical Engineer (McDonald Observatory, Ft. Davis, Texas)

General Notes

This position is for a mechanical engineer at the McDonald Observatory, Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), which operates on a 24/7 schedule. The Observatory is a major astronomical research observatory located 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles from the UT Austin campus).

The engineering work from this position will apply to a wide range of disciplines, including mechanical, optical, electronic, vacuum, cryogenic, and software engineering, used together to build state-of-the-art research instrumentation for astronomy. The research with those instruments includes the discovery and characterization of exoplanets, understanding how the elements and their various isotopes were formed, understanding how the successive generations of stars have changed the chemical composition of the universe, understanding the mechanisms that alter the galaxies with time, and understanding the history of the expansion of the universe itself.

Purpose

This position leads a small team of technicians and performs mechanical engineering maintenance, design, and performance improvements on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope’s (HET) equipment and facility infrastructure. This position reports to the HET Facility Manager at McDonald Observatory.

Responsibilities

  • Engineering.  Designs, models, analyzes, troubleshoots, fabricates, assembles, tests, and supports new and existing mechanical equipment on the telescope and facility infrastructure.
  • Operations and Supervision. Leads a small team of technicians in a technical leadership and mentoring role, emphasizing operating and maintaining the HET telescope.
  • Preventative Maintenance. Coordinate the effort to develop, implement and conduct a professional preventive maintenance program on HET systems.
  • Project Management. Works with the Facility Manager and other HET group managers to establish priorities and schedules for the maintenance and repair of existing equipment and the design, upgrade, and deployment of existing and new systems.
  • Team Coordination and Backup. Coordinates the mechanical engineering efforts internal to the HET and with Austin staff and other staff on the Observatory site. Periodically performs operations engineering and day engineering duties.
  • Respond to Problems. Respond to problems on the telescope during the daytime, after hours, and over weekends.
  • Planning Meetings. Attend and constructively participate in the morning planning meetings, weekly HET staff meetings, weekly mechanical team meetings, periodic technical and/or design review meetings, and other meetings as needed for an efficient and productive operation.
  • Other Duties. Performs other duties as required to meet the business needs. Serves as an essential employee, and acts as a member of the McDonald Observatory’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), responds to fire, medical, hazardous material, or other emergencies that threaten or interfere with the facility’s normal operations.

Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering or field related to the work to be performed and at least six (6) years of related experience, or a master’s degree in a field related to the work to be performed and at least four (4) years of related experience.
  • Experience with engineering and/or scientific equipment ordinarily used in a lab setting on mechanical, optical, and electronic assemblies used in research.
  • Experience and knowledge of engineering and scientific methods in instrumentation-based research, design, assembly, and commissioning of precision instrumentation.
  • Experience using or designing specialized research equipment as required by the research project.
  • Proficient in using 3D CAD software, Solid Works (preferred), or Inventor. Proficiency with AutoCAD will be considered.
  • Strong verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills.
  • Effective organizational skills.
  • Ability to be adaptable, work independently, and as an integral project team member.
  • Demonstrable good judgment.
  • Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with six years’ work experience in a related field, or bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with eight years of experience in a related field.
  • Additional experience handling, assembling, and troubleshooting astronomical instrumentation in a lab setting and at telescopes.
  • Expert (power user) in 3D CAD software, Solid Works (preferred) and/or Inventor.
  • Knowledgeable and experienced in opto-mechanical design.
  • Experience assembling and handling precision optical components.
  • Demonstrate the ability to learn new disciplines outside of those learned during formal education.
  • Familiarity with the electronic systems used in instrumentation and motion control systems.
  • Experience with vacuum and cryogenic systems.
  • Project management training and/or experience.

Salary Range

$80,000 + depending on qualifications and experience

Working Conditions

  • Since we are a 24/7 operation, this position, on occasion, is expected to respond to problems and business needs relating to the telescope outside of regular work hours (nights, weekends, and holidays) to serve the needs of the Observatory and, specifically, the HET.
  • Residence in the Observatory’s residential community may be available and required.
  • The position may be subject to “call-back” as an essential emergency or critical response employee.
  • Must be eligible to work in the US full-time for any employer without sponsorship.
  • Working at a computer, including repetitive keyboard use at a workstation.
  • Use of manual dexterity.
  • Climbing of stairs and ladders up to 90 ft.
  • Working at height above ground using man lifts to 150 ft.
  • Free climbing on and around heavy equipment at and above ground level.
  • Heavy lifting and moving (must be able to lift 35 lbs.).
  • Working in potentially hazardous chemicals, cryogenic liquids, and chemical fumes environments.
  • May work around electrical and mechanical hazards.
  • May require working extended hours in inclement weather with hazardous equipment or materials.
  • Use of approved safety equipment is required, including climbing safety equipment. May be required to undergo respirator fit testing and periodic training for the use of safety equipment.
  • Acts as a senior member of the Observatory’s Emergency Response Team that responds to fire, medical, hazardous material, or other emergencies threatening or interfering with the facility’s normal operations. Handles emergencies calmly and quickly.
  • Staff on-site in the residential community may serve as essential employees as determined by your manager.
  • McDonald Observatory is located approximately 6800 feet above sea level. Environmental conditions can be unpredictable, and temperatures can range from -10˚F and +95˚F. Inclement winter weather can be expected, which requires being comfortable driving in wintry conditions on mountain grades.

Work Shift

  • Generally, M-F, 8 am – 5 pm. Flexibility is essential, given that we operate 24/7/365.
  • Ability to travel to the University of Texas at Austin, the Observatory’s headquarters, as required for reviews or work forums.
  • You are required to respond to problems outside regular business hours.

Required Materials

  • Letter of interest
  • Resume/CV
  • Three work references with their contact information; at least one reference should be from a supervisor

Additional information and to apply: HET Mechanical Engineer, McDonald Observatory.