Optical Engineer | W.M. Keck Observatory

Date Posted: 
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Job Description: 

W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO) operates two of the largest and most scientifically productive optical/infrared telescopes on Earth.  The twin 10-meter telescopes are located amidst several other world class observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea, at 13,796 feet above sea level on the Big Island of Hawaii, one of the premier sites for astronomy. The observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.  To learn more about us, visit us at www.keckobservatory.org. 

WMKO offers a robust rewards package which includes: a competitive salary; a broad benefits bundle including a 403(b) plan; a highly regarded tuition assistance program for dependent children (K-12 grade); and an unmatched focus of excellence all while working on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii.  

The observatory has the following positions open:

Adaptive Optics Scientist

The Adaptive Optics Scientist leads and supports efforts in the development and optimization of the Keck Adaptive Optics (AO) Systems; from initial requirements and concepts to astrophysical results. Current development activities include a near-infrared pyramid wavefront sensor, a new real-time control system and point spread function reconstruction, as well as the integration of a coronagraphic fiber injection feed to a nearinfrared spectrograph. Future plans include a laser tomography system.

Principal activities include:

  • Play a lead role in the design, development, characterization, optimization and commissioning of new AO capabilities and their handover to operations. 
  • Play a lead role in the characterization, optimization and improvement of the operational AO systems.
  • Help guide the continued development of WMKO’s high angular resolution capabilities.
  • Document new AO capabilities and performance to support operations and development. 
  • Play a lead role in the preparation for and performance of engineering observing runs, in order to efficiently and effectively carry out the nighttime engineering observing programs.
  • Conduct AO research to further the Keck high angular resolution capabilities, performance or productivity, and to stimulate research at WMKO.


Required Qualifications include:

  • Ph.D. level degree in adaptive optics or high angular resolution astronomy, or equivalent experience.
  • Three (3) years' of relevant experience in the development and/or use of adaptive optics for astronomical research.
  • Two (2) years' of work experience in instrumentation development or operations.

Optics Engineer

 The Optics Engineer leads engineering efforts in optimization, development, integration and operations of the Keck I and Keck II telescope optics. The optics engineer is responsible for the overall delivered image quality to the science instruments. Current development activities include upgrades and improvements to the telescope phasing, the primary mirror active control system and telescope focus maintenance.

Principal activities include:

  • Play the lead role in optimizing the optical performance of the Keck telescopes 
  • Understand and reduce the telescopes’ overall wavefront error budget.  
  • Support the overall optical optimization and efficiency of the science instruments with the telescope.  
  • Perform data acquisition, data evaluation, and database management for the purpose of monitoring and optimizing the telescope optics and instrument performance.
  • Play a lead role in the maintenance of the health of the telescope optics through monitoring, developing safe handling procedures and providing optical expertise in all activities related to the repair of the telescope optics.
  • Perform a role in the commissioning of new science instruments or capabilities and in upgrading existing science instruments and facilities to assure maximum optical performance.

Required Qualifications include:

  • Masters of Science level degree in optics, physics, or engineering, or equivalent experience.
  • Five (5) years' experience in optical engineering with practical experience in the alignment, testing, and optimization of telescope and/or instrument optics.