Advert. No. 2018_0046
Working at ESO

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The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the world's preeminent facility for millimeter and submillimeter-wave astronomy with transformational capabilities to study the origin of galaxies, stars, and planets. ALMA consists of 66 antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile, and equipped with receivers covering atmospheric windows between 30 and 950 GHz.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI). ALMA continued development and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia.

The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the continued development, enhancement, and operation of ALMA.

The Joint ALMA Observatory invites applications for the position of:

Head of the ALMA Department of Science Operations


Vacancy closed on 15/01/2019

Deadline 15/01/2019

The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is seeking a senior science manager, with extensive experience, to lead its Department of Science Operations, which is responsible for the science operations of the international ALMA radio astronomy observatory in Chile. This is an outstanding opportunity to lead the scientific operations of the most ambitious ground-based observatory operational in the world today. The Head of the ALMA Department of Science Operations (DSO) is responsible for the management and leadership of the scientific program from data acquisition to data delivery, observatory calibration, and improvements to overall performance of the observatory. The Head of DSO is expected to manage, directly or indirectly, a team of approximately 56 staff members. The Head of DSO will report to the ALMA Deputy Director and will be a member of the JAO's Core Management Team where it is expected that he/she will make key contributions to the strategic planning, policy development and implementation, as well as the overall decision-making at the JAO, ensuring they are adopted within DSO staff and procedures and monitoring their effectiveness.

The Head of DSO also plays a critical role outside the JAO as well by coordinating a team of science operations managers from the ALMA regions. The Head of DSO will, in coordination with the Directorship and the Observatory Scientist, interact with the user community and various agencies regarding ALMA's performance and future. The Head of DSO is expected to carry out an active research program with a fraction of time dedicated to research based on contractual conditions.

The ALMA observatory is fully operational, with all 66 antennas dedicated to science. The operation of the array requires careful attention, coordination and consultation on the part of the Head of DSO within the JAO and the Executives (ESO, AUI/NRAO, NAOJ). ALMA also has a dedicated development line which will continue to provide new capabilities and instrumentation to keep its position as a cutting edge astronomical facility. The Head of DSO is central in assessing the potential consequences of any proposed development idea on ALMA operations and will help plan the Science Operations portion of the integration and commissioning plan for any approved ALMA Development projects.


1. Leading the team responsible for science operations outcomes, science program optimization, data quality assurance and monitoring, and associated budget and staffing.

2. Delivering all JAO science operations outcomes, including:

  • Collection, processing and delivery of scientific data;
  • Observation queue and potential modifications to the required configuration schedule;
  • Commissioning and validation of upgrades of the array;
  • Up-to-date Quality Control of the scientific and calibration data;
  • Identification of opportunities to improve the scientific performance of the array;
  • Execution, maintenance and update of the Observatory Calibration Plan.

3. Leading a high performance and diverse team and keep it highly engaged through the implementation of policies and best practices in people management, including professional development and training of DSO staff. Empower the managers and supervisors to create high performing sub teams, while maintaining the unity within the team.

4. Optimizing and executing the science program, including:

  • The approved projects submitted by the community;
  • Necessary calibrations, which needs to be optimized given weather, testing, and general improvements in array operations;
  • Close coordination with the Heads of the ALMA Departments of Computing and Engineering, as well as the Observatory Scientist and Observatory System Engineer, to provide input on optimal program execution and completion.

5. Overseeing scientific data quality assurance, including trend analysis and fault investigation and reporting.

6. Monitoring the array status and providing science program requirements to the Deputy Director for integration and eventual implementation with the Departments of Engineering and Computing activities.

7. Coordinating the testing, validation, and acceptance of relevant software for science operations.

8. Managing the DSO resources, including the budget, staff plan, and the allocation of staff to tasks and projects.

9. Leading an integrated team consisting of the science operations leads from the three regional ALMA Support Centers, which provide considerable portions of ALMA science operations. This integrated team's role includes:

  • Coordinating science operations globally;
  • Making important decisions and recommendations regarding how to serve the user community and execute the global aspects of ALMA Science Operations. 10. Maintaining awareness of, and some active participation in, the research astronomy community. To this end, the Head of DSO will have support and a fraction of time reserved for active research that will depend on the applicant contractual conditions.


Applicants for this position should fulfill the following requirements:

1. PhD in Astronomy or Physics, or closely-related discipline;

2. At least eight years of operations experience in a large research, observatory or laboratory facility, including:

  • At least four years of management responsibility of medium to large groups, with multiple critical tasks;
  • A proven track record in planning and delivering timely outcomes;
  • Excellent leadership and communication skills to lead a high performing and diverse team
  • Effective interpersonal and communication skills required to work within a multi-cultural international partnership,
  • Proven ability to operate in complex international organizational structures and to integrate organizational strategy and departmental goals;
  • Proven capability to establish, identify and communicate a broad and compelling organizational direction;
  • Excellent managerial and leadership skills;
  • Demonstrated ability to perform and/or oversee the analysis of complex policy and program issues in areas such as human resources, finance, logistics and administration;
  • Strong ability to lead, supervise, mentor, and evaluate staff with diverse skills and cultural backgrounds, as well as to design training and skills-enhancement initiatives that ensure effective staff development;

3. Fluency in English (oral and written) is essential; knowledge of Spanish will be an asset.

4. Due to travel requirements and work at high altitudes, a successful high altitude medical check is a necessary condition of employment for this position. Previous research experience in astronomically relevant subfields is also desirable.

Duty Station / Location of Position

The duty station is the Santiago Office with frequent ('20%) travel to the ALMA operations site near San Pedro de Atacama: the Operations Support Facility (OSF) at 2900 m and the Array Operations Site (AOS) located on the nearby Llano de Chajnantor at 5000 m altitude. Occasional international travel may be required as well.

Starting Date

As soon as possible.

The successful candidate may request contract offers from any or all of ESO, AUI/NRAO or NAOJ. The selected candidate will be assigned to the Head of DSO position at the JAO for an initial period of three years with mutual options for renewal thereafter; however, actual contractual terms will be revised accordingly by the relevant employer (ESO, AUI/NRAO or NAOJ).


The remuneration will be revised between the selected candidate and the employing Executive, according to the relevant rules and regulations. Furthermore, if applicable, an expatriation allowance as well as some other allowances will be added.

How to apply

Qualified scientists with extensive relevant experience are invited to apply by submitting an application to one of the ALMA Executives. Each application should be written in English and must include:

  • Motivational cover letter;
  • Curriculum Vitae;
  • Research interest statement and list of publications;
  • Three reference letters.

Applicants submitting their application to ESO are invited to apply online at Letters should be sent to

Applicants submitting their application to AUI/NRAO are invited to apply online at Please send letters of recommendation to Candice Waller at

Applicants submitting their application to NAOJ are invited to send the application and all documents to

The initial deadline for receipt of applications to be considered for the position is January 15th 2019. However, applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled.

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