HET Mechanical Engineer - Optical Systems | The University of Texas at Austin

Date Posted: 
Friday, October 15, 2021
Position Location: 
Job Description: 

As part of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) Optics Team, the HET Mechanical Engineer will lead or participate in the mechanical design relating to optics and managing the optical maintenance. This position will participate in all activities in the HET optics lab including the maintaining the reflectivity of the primary mirror segments, and operating and maintaining the mirror coating facility. In addition, this position will work closely with colleagues at the HET and in Austin to design, build, and maintain optomechanical tools and instrumentation as needed for the efficient operation of the HET.

Job Details:

General Notes - This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Fort Davis, Texas (440 miles away from the UT Austin campus). The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) operates on a 24/7/365 day schedule. This position will be expected to respond to failures and business needs, relating to the telescope or observatory, outside of normal work hours (nights, weekends, and holidays). Candidates selected for on-site interview will be required to demonstrate the ability to perform the optomechanical physical tasks including climbing ladders, stairs, and a lattice shell structure; moving mirror maintenance equipment; wearing fall protection equipment; and assembling/disassembling mechanical components.

Residence in the Observatory's residential community may be available and may be required. Position may be subject to “call-back” as an essential employee for emergency or critical response.


  • Leads or participates in projects to improve the performance of the telescope from a mechanical and/or optomechanical perspective. Such projects may include both mechanical and optical design from first principles to an operational instrument, tool, or fixture.
  • Maintains all optics and optomechanical subsystems on the HET with emphasis on the reflectivity of the HET primary mirror segments, the overall optical throughput of the telescope, the performance of the primary mirror Segment Control System (SCS), the primary mirror Segment Alignment Measurement System (SAMS) and the Center of Curvature Alignment System (CCAS).
  • Works with the optics team to operate and maintain the 15kW, 10,000V, E-Beam mirror coating system to coat 1-meter hexagonal mirror segments with aluminum. This includes all vacuum equipment, ion assisted vapor deposition system, and optical coating metrology instrumentation. Operates and maintains the class 10,000 clean room housing the mirror coating facility and the Strip and Wash (SAW) room where the 1-meter segments have old coating removed and are prepped for the new coating.
  • Investigates and solves telescope failures or performance deficiencies related to optomechanical and electro-optical subsystems on the telescope.
  • Works closely within the HET Optics Team and with Operations Management to provide leadership as needed in defining and scheduling all optics team activities. Participates in weekly meetings or work sessions.
  • Other related functions as assigned.

Required Qualifications

  • Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering with two years work experience in related field or Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering with four years experience in related field.
  • Understanding of system level interactions between mechanics, optics, electronics and software to enable effective problem solving and troubleshooting at the system level down to the individual part level.
  • Experience with mechanical design using Solid Works, Inventor, or similar solid modeling CAD packages.
  • Basic fabrication skills using tools for material cutting, drilling, milling, and turning.
  • Self-driven individual with keen technical ability, systematic approach, detailed-oriented, excellent theoretical and hands-on problem-solving skills, positive attitude, strong work ethic, and strong team player.
  • Demonstrated problem solving ability, including designing of experiments and carrying out tests to collect and analyze data.
  • Has excellent technical writing and documentation skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills and the ability to interface with all levels of staff and leadership.
  • Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with more than five years related experience.
  • Experience with optical coating processes, more specifically ion assisted electron beam vapor deposition, and the process control requirements that lead to optimal coating performance in terms of reflectivity and durability.
  • Experience with vacuum system operation and maintenance for optical coating processes.
  • Proficient in mechanical and optomechanical design using Solid Works and/or Inventor.
  • Basic optical design experience and some exposure to optical design/simulation tools such as ZEMAX and/or optical system performance measurement.
  • Hands on experience in optical component mounting, interfaces and adhesive bonding.
  • Experience with cleaning and handling optical components.
  • Experience in statistical process control (SPC)
  • Practical programming experience (Python, MATLAB or equivalent).

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 - $80,000 + depending on qualifications

Working Conditions

  • McDonald Observatory is located at approx. 6900 ft. above sea level; environmental conditions can be unpredictable; temperatures can range from -10˚F and +85˚F; inclement winter weather can be expected which requires comfort driving in wintry conditions on mountain grades
  • May work in all weather conditions and extreme temperatures
  • Wearing appropriate safety equipment when working with chemicals or working at heights up to 90 ft in varied climate conditions
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including safety harnesses, hard hats, breathing respirators, and ear and eye protection during mirror stripping and working with chemicals; may be required to undergo respirator fit testing
  • May work around chemical and chemical fumes, and cryogenic liquids
  • May work around electrical and mechanical hazards
  • Use of manual, mechanical hand-tool, and fine-motor dexterity
  • Climbing and working at heights up to 100 feet, using man lift or ladder; free climbing on/around heavy equipment
  • Climbing up to three flights of stairs at a time
  • Lifting and moving up to 66 pounds
  • Ability to move around in a mirror truss, a steal lattice shell structure
  • Pushing heavy loads including a mirror cart requiring force
  • May work around standard office conditions, computer, and repetitive use of a keyboard at a workstation
  • May require working extended hours in inclement weather with hazardous equipment or materials
  • Ability to travel to Observatory headquarters at The University of Texas at Austin and to meet vendors as required

Work Shift

  • Generally, M-F, 8 am – 5 pm
  • The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is a 24/7/365 operation and this position may be expected to work at all hours of the day or night, weekends, or holidays (when needed and within limits) to serve the needs of the Observatory and specifically the HET
  • Staff living on-site in the residential community are considered as 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
  • Occasional travel

Required Materials

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

Important for applicants who are NOT current university employees or contingent workers: You will be prompted to submit your resume the first time you apply, then you will be provided an option to upload a new Resume for subsequent applications. Any additional Required Materials (letter of interest, references, etc.) will be uploaded in the Application Questions section; you will be able to multi-select additional files. Before submitting your online job application, ensure that ALL Required Materials have been uploaded.  Once your job application has been submitted, you cannot make changes.

Important for Current university employees and contingent workers: As a current university employee or contingent worker, you MUST apply within Workday by searching for Find UT Jobs. If you are a current University employee, log-in to Workday, navigate to your Worker Profile, click the Career link in the left hand navigation menu and then update the sections in your Professional Profile before you apply. This information will be pulled in to your application. The application is one page and you will be prompted to upload your resume. In addition, you must respond to the application questions presented to upload any additional Required Materials (letter of interest, references, etc.) that were noted above.

Employment Eligibility - Regular staff who have been employed in their current position for the last six continuous months are eligible for openings being recruited for through University-Wide or Open Recruiting, to include both promotional opportunities and lateral transfers. Staff who are promotion/transfer eligible may apply for positions without supervisor approval.

Retirement Plan Eligibility - 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.

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

Equal Opportunity Employer - 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.

Pay Transparency - The University of Texas at Austin will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge, (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information.

Employment Eligibility Verification - If hired, you will be required to complete the federal Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 form.  You will be required to present acceptable and original documents to prove your identity and authorization to work in the United States.  Documents need to be presented no later than the third day of employment.  Failure to do so will result in loss of employment at the university.

E-Verify - The University of Texas at Austin use E-Verify to check the work authorization of all new hires effective May 2015. The university’s company ID number for purposes of E-Verify is 854197. For more information about E-Verify, please see the following:

Compliance - Employees may be required to report violations of law under Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act). If this position is identified a Campus Security Authority (Clery Act), you will be notified and provided resources for reporting. Responsible employees under Title IX are defined and outlined in HOP-3031.

The Clery Act requires all prospective employees be notified of the availability of the Annual Security and Fire Safety report. You may access the 2020 report here or obtain a copy at University Compliance Services, 1616 Guadalupe, Suite UTA 2.206, Austin, TX 78701.


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