Lead Engineer

The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science is an astronomical research organization headquartered in Pasadena, California. Carnegie scientists and engineers have produced over a century of remarkable scientific breakthroughs including Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the existence of a universe beyond the Milky Way almost a century ago to the recent discovery of the most distant supermassive black hole and the light from merging neutron stars first detected with the LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory. Carnegie Observatories has a century-long legacy of designing and building telescopes and their instruments to enable such breakthroughs.

Carnegie Science owns and operates the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile (http://www.lco.cl/), which includes the twin 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes as well as the 2.5- meter du Pont and 1.0-meter Swope telescopes. Our scientists study extrasolar planets, nearby stars, the Milky Way and its neighbors, the births and deaths of galaxies, and the shape and scale of the universe. Central to our scientific mission is the development of innovative telescopes and optical systems that have changed the practice of astronomy. Current projects include instrumentation for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey V, our 1-meter, 2.5-meter, and 6.5- meter telescopes, and the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope.

For this job, we are looking for a lead engineer on the MIRMOS project. MIRMOS is a new vacuum-cryogenic spectrograph for the Magellan 6.5-meter telescope. MIRMOS is an order of magnitude improvement over the state of the art. Once built MIRMOS will be a workhorse instrument used for many hundreds of nights over the next decade to study objects from the most distant galaxies found right after the birth of the universe, to the atmospheres of newly discovered worlds orbiting around other stars. MIRMOS will continue Carnegie’s legacy of exciting fundamental discoveries, and we are looking for team members who will join us in this exciting endeavor.

At Carnegie, we are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. We believe academic environments should be places where diverse groups of people with a variety of viewpoints and ideas can thrive and work together. We strongly encourage applications from candidates who will enrich and foster a culturally diverse and inclusive environment.

Typical Job Activities include:

  • Be the lead engineer for the MIRMOS team, shepherding the engineering effort through multiple project design phases: preliminary, detailed, and integration and test.

  • Organizing and supervising the engineering effort, and checking the work of all the team members.

  • Play a hands-on role in the design, fabrication, and assembly of the instrument, working in a collaborative environment of scientists, engineers, mechanical technicians, our in- house machine shop, students, postdocs, and vendors.

  • Writing and monitoring design documentation including reports, drawings, test plans, and the like.

  • Performing systems engineering including performance budgets, as well as schedule and cost estimates.

  • Work closely with vendors to understand constraints, trades, and design for manufacturing. Monitor and support key contracts.

  • Travel and work at the world-class Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

  • Participate as a mentor and educational lead in the Carnegie Astrophysical Summer Student Internship (CASSI) Program. Train undergraduate students during an annual one-week workshop for summer undergraduate interns and mentor engineering-focused student interns.

  • Continued professional development through membership in professional societies, attending conferences, reading journals, learning about constructing astronomical optical systems of all types, and serving on international instrument review committees.

Requirements for this position include:

  • B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, optical engineering, physics, or equivalent knowledge as demonstrated by work experience.

  • At least 3-years of experience in a lead engineer role in an optomechanical system, with an additional 3 years of experience as an engineer demonstrating independent design responsibility for mechanisms, structures, vacuum systems, and precision mechanics.

  • Experience with precision mechanism design and assembly, error budgeting, tolerance analysis, and GD&T.

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.

  • Strong knowledge of parametric CAD, with a preference for Solidworks.

  • Ability to travel domestically and internationally (up to 20%) and work at observatory summits at 8,000 feet.

  • Authorized to work in the US. 

Preferred Qualifications

  • Design for vacuum cryogenic systems

  • Strong understanding of optomechanical and thermal engineering.

  • Experience with Zemax or Code V.

  • Interest in our mission to impact the state of practice of astronomy by building new astronomical instruments.

  • Demonstrated commitment to and support for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in STEM.

  • Interest in Carnegie Observatories’ ongoing outreach and public programs. Application Process

  • For consideration, please submit a cover letter and resume for the position. Candidates meeting requirements will be invited for a Zoom interview with the hiring team, followed by an on-campus interview.

  • The cover letter is an important part of our evaluation process. Written communication skills for this position are highly valued, and the cover letter will be evaluated in this way. Our hiring team enjoys thoughtful explanations for wanting to work at Carnegie.

  • Candidates are encouraged to comment within this cover letter on their previous contributions to strengthening diversity, equity, and/or inclusion within their previous educational or work communities or ideas for contributing to DEI on our campus. This could be through the candidates lived experiences or through their demonstrated or planned commitment to promoting DEI.


The position comes with a competitive salary, retirement, health insurance, and other benefits. Only electronic applications submitted through our website will be considered. The Carnegie Institution is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity, protected veteran status, disability, or other protected group status.


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