Research Assistant / Associate in Exoplanet Applications Data Science

University of Cambridge

United Kingdom

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available until 31 March 2022 in the first instance with good prospects for further extension subject to grant funding.

This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious Exoplanet Data Scientist to work within the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit (CASU) at the Institute of Astronomy (IoA), West Cambridge, as part of the PLATO exoplanet analysis system development team.

PLATO is a European Space Agency mission that will detect and characterise a huge sample of exoplanets around bright stars. Within the PLATO Consortium, the IoA team are responsible for the development and operation of the Exoplanet Analysis System, which will enable the detection of the signatures of exoplanets from precision photometric light curves of the host stars.

Staff at CASU undertake a range of activities in wide field astronomy including: developing and operating pipeline processing and analysis systems for optical and near-infrared mosaic imaging surveys (e.g. VISTA, VST); spectroscopic surveys (e.g. WEAVE, 4MOST); together with other space mission projects including CHEOPS and Euclid; developing pipelines tailored for the analysis of various oncological imaging data related to the IMAXT/CRUK Grand Challenge project; managing a data processing and archive centre.

The successful candidate will work within CASU's PLATO software development team and be responsible for contributing to the development of novel scientific algorithms and applications in the areas of light curve analysis and data mining of the catalogues extracted as an output of the analysis of PLATO photometric light curve data. The role will also involve: contributions to the supporting computational infrastructure, liaising with the wider PLATO project team and external science users; contributing to the documentation and user manuals; and collaborating in the PLATO and exoplanet related research programs to optimise interpretation and use of such PLATO data.

The successful candidate will have a good practical knowledge of scientific algorithm development and a PhD degree in a numerate discipline or be close to completion (preferably Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science, Computer Engineering or related field). Candidates are expected to be familiar with the acquisition and reduction of data from astronomical facilities and with the use of database and web-based systems. Previous experience in large-scale exoplanet transit and/or imaging surveys would be advantageous. The candidate should be able to demonstrate knowledge of Python and C/C++, while knowledge of database systems and containerisation systems (e.g. Docker/Kubernetes) would be advantageous. Travel to meetings elsewhere in the UK and overseas (pandemic permitting) is expected.

The successful candidate who has not been awarded their PhD by the appointment date will be appointed as Research Assistant at Grade 5 (£26,715 to £30,942 per annum). Upon award of the PhD the individual will be promoted to Research Associate, Grade 7 (£32,806 to £40,322 per annum).

Interviews will take place in the week 14-18 Sep 2020. Starting Date: From 1st October 2020 or as early as possible thereafter.

The University of Cambridge thrives on the diversity of its staff and students. Applications from underrepresented groups are particularly welcome. We have an active Equality and Diversity Committee which continually works to further the aims of the Athena SWAN charter. The University has a number of family- friendly policies and initiatives, including a returning-carer scheme, childcare costs support, university workplace nurseries, university holiday play-schemes, and a shared parental-leave policy. As part of its commitment to providing a family-friendly environment for researchers, the IoA ensures that should parental leave be needed during the course of employment, there is provision for extension to contract to compensate for the parental leave taken.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Please submit your application by midnight of the closing date of Monday, 31st August 2020. If you have any queries about your application please contact Ms Joy McSharry (jpm(at)ast.cam.ac.uk). Informal enquires may be addressed to Dr. Nicholas Walton (naw(at)ast.cam.ac.uk).

Please quote reference LG23509 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


In your application, please refer to Polytechnicpositions.com

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