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The universe awaits

Senior Adaptive Optics Scientist

Wavefront Sensing and Control
  • Full-Time
  • Science
Pasadena, CA
Temporary remote work due to COVID-19
Position code


The Giant Magellan Telescope is the most powerful ground-based telescope ever engineered. It was designed to push the boundaries of human knowledge and discover the unknown. With unmatched image quality, seven of the world’s largest mirrors will launch our view into the universe to uncover the cosmic mysteries of dark matter, investigate the origins of chemical elements, and search for signs of life on distant exoplanets for the first time.

The 30-meter class telescope is under construction at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the best locations on Earth to view the heavens. From this unrivaled vantage into the southern sky, the Giant Magellan Telescope will produce the sharpest and most detailed images ever taken of our universe.

When complete in the early 2030s, the Giant Magellan Telescope will be the largest public-private funded science project in history. The endeavor was founded by an international consortium of 14 research institutions representing Australia, Brazil, Chile, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States, and is managed by the GMTO Corporation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pasadena, California. Our culture is impactful, inclusive, and fearlessly innovative. We solve the most difficult engineering challenges and scientific questions with talented individuals who share a passion for revolutionizing humanity’s knowledge of the universe.

We invite you to join our team and leave your mark on astronomy’s future and beyond.

The Universe Awaits™


Wavefront Sensing and Control


Wavefront Sensing and Control Manager


The Senior Adaptive Optics (AO) Scientist will assume a leadership role in bringing the AO system design to full maturity. The current phase of GMTO’s AO development is opportunity-rich for creative solutions and significant contributions to the design of a cutting edge ELT on the frontiers of astronomy.

The responsibility includes technical oversight of the final design, technology development and the verification of the GMT adaptive and active optics controls and the hardware subsystems needed for the adaptive optics observation modes (GLAO, NGAO, LTAO).  In the current development phase, emphasis is placed on phasing the segmented telescope and rejecting atmospheric and observatory disturbances.

As we enter final design phase the key tasks are simulation of AO and telescope-segment phasing performance, developing/updating requirements and performance budgets, reviewing and analyzing the results of laboratory prototypes and Wavefront Control testbeds.

The responsibility also includes technical oversight of AO subsystems under development by partner institutions and industrial vendors such as SAO, INAF, the University of Arizona and the Australian National University. The Senior AO Scientist will assume a lead role in the assembly, integration, testing, and commissioning of the GMTO AO system in both Italy and at Las Campanas Observatory.

The Senior AO Scientist will work within the Wavefront Sensing and Control group reporting directly to the Wavefront Sensing and Control Manager and will assist in supervision of the  team members responsible for technical work.


  • Lead in the concept and design of real time AO and phasing control systems
  • Oversee simulation of wavefront sensing and control performance using analytical models
  • Review test results and contribute to data processing of optical testbeds designed to verify control algorithms for active and adaptive optics and end-to-end performance
  • Prepare technical reports to document the GMTO AO requirements, design and performance
  • Prepare and deliver presentations at technical reviews and conferences
  • Participate in the procurement and testing of AO-related subsystems such as wavefront sensors, calibration sources, real-time computer systems and/or laser guide star systems
  • Lead the measurement of GMTO AO performance during telescope commissioning


  • Ph.D. degree in optical science, astronomy, physics, or a related field
  • Demonstrated ability to work in a cross functional global collaborative team environment
  • Experience in the following areas:
    • Delivery of Adaptive Optics systems on sky
    • Optical Systems Engineering
    • Hands-on experience developing and adaptive optics systems and/or HIL optical testbeds
    • Resource management
  • Strength in AO theory, modeling techniques, components, and testing methods
  • Superb written and oral communication skills
  • Capable of calculations to support the development of AO control, hardware requirements and image quality budgets.
  • Outstanding communication skills, reporting status to project management
  • Willingness to travel to foreign and domestic vendor and observatory locations as the need arises


  • Real time controls experience
  • Systems Engineering experience
  • Competency using high-level programming languages such as Matlab, IDL, or Python
  • Hands-on experience developing and testing astronomical adaptive optics systems or laboratory optical testbeds
  • Versed in use of Zemax, Code V, or similar optical design and analysis tools


Normal office and laboratory environments


No direct reports at start; it is expected that the responsibility level will increase with time.


  • Medical insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • 401(k)
  • Dental insurance
  • Disability insurance


$185,000- $235,000

The salary for this role will be set based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, internal equity, experience, education, and training.


To apply send your resume or CV and a cover letter to

If your skills and experience are a match for the position or if we need additional information, we will contact you. If we do not see a suitable match between your qualifications and the position, we will keep your information on file in the event future positions become available that are more suitable to your qualifications.

We are an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

If you are a qualified individual with a disability or a disabled veteran, you have the right to request an accommodation if you are unable or limited in your ability to use or access our career center as a result of your disability. To request an accommodation, contact a Giant Magellan Telescope Corporation Human Resources Representative.

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