Optical Scientist

Position Title: Optical Scientist
Status: Exempt
Reports to: NASA Ames Exoplanet Technology Group
Location: NASA Ames Research Center - Moffett Field, CA
Salary Range: $102,489 – $230,000 (depending on experience)


Position Summary:

The NASA Ames Exoplanet Technology Group is looking for candidates with bold and innovative ideas to develop unique solutions to challenging problems and to contribute to NASA’s future missions to directly image and spectrally characterize exoplanets. These missions include the Roman space telescope flagship (specifically, the coronagraphic instrument), and the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO) flagship. As part of this work, there will be potential opportunities for participation on NASA’s Great Observatory Maturation Program (GOMAP) for the HWO, as well as planning, conducting, and proposing for astronomical observations, including supporting a contributed mode for the Roman coronagraphic instrument.

The successful applicant should have a strong interest in the responsibilities listed in the next section, as well as experience in areas related to at least some of these responsibilities. 


  • Innovate and invent techniques to improve performance and/or accelerate the maturation of high contrast imaging technologies. In the first few years, this will focus on currently funded projects (MSWC, PIAA-Vortex, AstroPIC), but the successful applicant is expected to invent new ones in the longer term.
  • Computational modeling of instruments and missions (preferably in MATLAB and/or Python), including optical propagation, wavefront control, and expected science.
  • Design and conduct laboratory experiments to characterize the performance of high-contrast imaging systems and components, including throughput, aberration sensitivity, and contrast, both on in-air and vacuum testbeds.
  • Conduct experiments using prototype photonic-circuit based coronagraphs.
  • Write and contribute to scientific papers.
  • Present results at scientific workshops and conferences.
  • Write and contribute to grant proposals.


  • PhD in Astronomy, Physics, Optics, Engineering, or related field.
  • 2+ years of experience in high-contrast imaging instrumentation (including PhD work).
  • Experience with instruments and/or missions that have flown is a significant plus.
  • 2+ years of experience with Python and/or MATLAB, including modeling as well as data acquisition and analysis.
  • Experience in working in a team environment, ability to work synergistically in collaboration with other researchers/scientists. 
  • Excellent communications skills.

Physical Requirements:

  • Perform desk-based computer tasks for extended periods of time.
  • Assemble and manipulate optical layouts on a testbed (grasp lightly, and use fine manipulation, lift, carry, push and pull objects that weigh up to 25 lbs).
  • Stand, walk, reach, or work above shoulders and use a telephone.

Diversity and Inclusion:

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.

The SETI Institute is an Affirmative Action Employer and members of underrepresented communities and demographics are particularly encouraged to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. 

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