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The universe awaits

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 Adaptive Optics (AO) Scientist will have significant responsibility in advancing the AO system design to full maturity working at both the AO system engineering level and in the hardware design space. The primary task is support for the development of the adaptive and active optics observation modes (GLAO, NGAO, LTAO) with emphasis on phasing the segmented telescope and rejecting atmospheric and observatory disturbances. This task includes system analysis, performance simulation and requirements development.  The AO Scientist will also support the oversight of the hardware design being executed by GMTO partner institutions such as SAO, INAF, the University of Arizona and the Australian National University.

The current phase of GMTO’s AO development is opportunity-rich for AO scientists/engineers in early or mid-career. This includes active participation in technology development and testbed validation of the GMTO segment phasing strategy and high order wavefront control. In addition the current tasks leading to the final design phase are simulation of atmospheric disturbance rejection and telescope-segment phasing performance, developing/updating requirements and performance budgets, developing calibration processes and planning for the integration and testing of all of the AO hardware subsystems. This position will evolve from design and development in the final design phase to integration, test and commissioning in the observatory construction phase.

The AO Scientist will work within the Wavefront Sensing and Control group reporting directly to the Wavefront Sensing and Control Manager and will collaborate closely with team members.


  • Actively contribute to the design of real time AO and phasing control systems
  • Carry out wavefront sensing and control performance using analytical models
  • Review test results and contribute to data processing of optical testbeds designed to verify active and adaptive optics control algorithms and end-to-end performance
  • Prepare technical reports to document the GMTO AO 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
  • Plan and participate in execution of testing at the AO test labs in Italy and Chile.


  • 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 development and delivery of adaptive optics systems or astronomical instruments
  • Outstanding analytical and simulation skills
  • Strength in AO theory, modeling techniques, components, and testing methods
  • Superb written and oral communication skills in English
  • Willingness to travel to foreign and domestic vendor and observatory locations as the need arises


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


Normal office and laboratory environments


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


$150,000- $195,000

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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