Advert. No. 2018_0055
Working at ESO

Are you interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment? Do you feel your profile matches our requirements? Learn more about our current vacancies and apply online. Read more..

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries.

ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor (home to ALMA and APEX), and the ESO Headquarters are located in Garching, near Munich, Germany.

At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory.


Due to the need for additional resources associated with the ESO's programmes, for its Optical Engineering Department, within the Directorate of Engineering at its Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

Optical Engineer


Vacancy closed on 27/01/2019

Deadline 27/01/2019

We are looking for an optical engineer to support mainly ESO's instrumentation programme, with a focus on spectroscopy as well as optical fibres and photonics systems for astronomy applications. This position provides the opportunity to work in a collaborative international environment and hands-on participation at different stages in the development and procurement of large scale optical systems for astronomy.

The Optical Engineering Department provides engineering expertise to ESO's projects within the ESO matrix organisation, in the areas of optical design for telescopes and instruments, active optics and wavefront control, metrology for telescope alignment, laser guide stars, optical fibre technology and Assembly Integration and Testing of optical systems and instruments. In addition, the department manages 900m2 of optical and opto-mechanical integration laboratories at ESO headquarters and supports the observatory in solving optical problems arising in systems in operation.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

The successful candidate will work on a subset of the below mentioned fields:

  • Follow-up the detailed optical architecture and design of instruments with emphasis on spectroscopy and associated optical fibers technologies;
  • Develop simulation tools to support the analysis of image quality and efficiency of spectrographs, including grating calculation;
  • Follow-up as technical expert, the design, manufacturing and test of critical optical and photonics components, scrutinizing their compliance with respect to the specifications;
  • Actively liaise, in coordination with ESO's project managers, with external institutes and/or contractors during the design, manufacturing and testing phase of VLT and/or ELT instruments;
  • Develop the department's know-how in the field of spectroscopy and associated key-components (e.g. high performance gratings, laser systems, fibres, etc). This includes the definition and implementation of relevant R&D activities to validate key-components or methods, by dedicated studies and tests;
  • Provide support during the instrument's "Assembly, Integration and Verification" phase, for planning and executing related activities on ESO's sites;
  • Provide support for problem solving on optical systems already in operation at ESO's observatories.

Reports to:

Head of the Optical Engineering Department as Functional Manager within ESO's matrix structure.

Key Competencies and Experience:

The essential competencies are:

  • Photonics technologies for astronomy applications, including optical fibres;
  • Architecture definition and implementation of optical test set-ups;
  • Knowledge of opto-mechanical design principles;
  • Strong analytical skills. Ability to identifying key issues, assessing options, and proposing a way forward to guaranty risk and problem control;
  • Be proactive in acquiring new skills and quickly develop expertise;
  • Provide clear, concise and timely oral and written communications;
  • Plan activities, monitor progress of your own work, deliver to agreed deadlines and standards;
  • Ability and motivation to work in a team. Building strong collaborative working relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds and engineering disciplines.

The desirable competencies, which are not mandatory, but considered an asset would be:

  • Spectroscopy instrumentation including dimensioning and testing of gratings;
  • Familiarity with optical design software (preferably Optics Studio);
  • Generation of optical tolerance analysis, error budgets;
  • Knowledge of Matlab, Mathematica or Python.

You should have at least three years of professional work experience within the area of the aforementioned essential competencies.


University degree in either Optical Engineering, Photonics Engineering or Physics (MSc or equivalent).

Language Skills:

A very good command of the English language - oral, reading and writing - is essential and a working knowledge of German or Spanish would be an advantage.

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary (tax free), comprehensive pension scheme and medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family and the possibility to place your child/children in day care.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years, and is subject to successful completion of the probation period. There is a possibility of extension(s) subject to individual performance and organisational requirements, in particular for the ELT Programme, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For further information, please view ESO's conditions of employment.

Duty Station:

ESO Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The position requires frequent traveling within the ESO Member States. In addition, extended visits to ESO's observatories in Chile may be required.

Career Path: V


If you are interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment, please visit the ESO homepage for further details.

Applicants are invited to apply online via the ESO Recruitment Portal. Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and CV.

Deadline for applications is 27 January 2019.

Interviews are expected to start soon after this date.

No nationality is in principle excluded, however, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race or religion.

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