HET Optomechanical Technician | The University of Texas at Austin

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

Position Open To - All Applicants

Weekly Scheduled Hours - 40

FLSA Status - Exempt

Earliest Start Date - Sep 13, 2021

Position Duration - Expected to Continue

Serves as the technical resource for the optical systems of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), including optical maintenance such as cleaning, metrology, coating removal, computer maintenance of the Segment Alignment Maintenance System (SAMS), and basic mechanical maintenance for the mirror supports.

Job Details:

General Notes - This position is located at McDonald Observatory, 16 miles from Ft. Davis, Texas (440 miles west of UT Austin campus). This position supports the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), which is a 24/7 operation. Occasionally expected to respond to failures on the telescope outside 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 not be available. If housed on-site, position may be subject to "call-back" as an essential employee for emergencies or critical response.


  • Responsible for removing mirror segments and replacing with freshly coated segments (swapping). Sets up the mirror segments according to position angle in the array. Keeps accurate logs and communicates these segment swaps to the night staff for alignment. Troubleshoots mechanical issues with mirror segments.
  • Responsible for the Segment Alignment and Maintenance System (SAMS) of the HET primary mirror. This includes using fine motor skills to adjust sensors in the array and characterize SAMS performance. Keeps accurate SAMS logs of spare components and communicates necessary repairs to head of optical group. Performs basic troubleshooting of electronics issues within SAMS. Develops an understanding of underlying algorithms within SAMS that control the figure of the primary mirror.
  • Responsible for the adjustment of mirror actuators and troubleshooting both the actuators and actuator controllers. Keeps accurate segment control system (SCS) logs of spare components and communicates necessary repairs to the head of the optical group.
  • Helps maintain the database of spares and consumables and work with the head of the optical group to set an accurate budget. Provides feedback on procedures and systems to improve efficiency. 
  • Supports the re-coating process of the primary mirror. Evaluate the mirror coating before and after this process. Keeps accurate logs of the meteorology and communicates this information to the optical lead. 
  • Attends and constructively participates in the morning meetings and weekly HET staff meetings. Submits daily list of tasks performed to supervisor and to site manager. 
  • Other related functions as assigned.

Required Qualifications - Bachelor's degree in Science or Engineering. Demonstrated good manual dexterity with fine motor skills using hand tools. Strong communication skills. Demonstrated ability to work cooperatively in a team environment. Able to work independently and is self-motivated. In addition, candidates should have the work ethic and drive to maximize the scientific output of the telescope. Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications - Two years of experience working with optical systems and/or in a laboratory environment. Math skill set including linear algebra and calculus. Computer skill set including programming fundamentals, MATLAB, LabView. Ability and/or experience with directing and/or managing projects. Ability to do basic troubleshooting on both electrical and mechanical systems.

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. Employees who are required to have a CDL are subject to drug and alcohol testing (pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, random, return-to-duty, and follow-up drug and alcohol testing).

Salary Range - $44,000 + 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
  • Wearing appropriate safety equipment when working with chemicals or working at heights up to 90 feet in varied climate conditions
  • Personal protection equipment (furnished) required 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
  • May work around standard office conditions, computer, and repetitive use of a keyboard at a workstation
  • Use of manual, mechanical hand-tool, and fine-motor dexterity
  • Working in/from man-lifts and scissor lifts
  • Working with heavy machinery
  • Climbing of ladders up to 90 feet, free climbing on/around heavy equipment
  • Ability to move around in a tight mirror truss – a lattice shell structure
  • Pushing heavy loads including a mirror cart requiring force
  • Lifting and moving up to 50 pounds
  • Climbing up to three flights of stairs at a time

Working Shift: 

  • Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), which is a 24/7 operation
  • Occasionally expected to respond to failures on the telescope outside normal work hours (nights, weekends, and holidays)

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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