Organisation STFC
Organisation Detail Science and Technology Facilities Council
Reference Number IRC251217
Location Edinburgh See on Map
Salary £38318 - £42576
Date Posted 27 September 2019
Grade RC-E
Contract Type Open Ended
Hours Full Time
Closing Date 02 November 2019
Interview Date

Brief Description

Salary: £38,318 to £42,576 (dependent on experience)
Grade: UKRI-E
Contract Type: Open-Ended (permanent)
Hours: Full time
Closing Date: 2nd November 2019



The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) is the national centre for the design and development of astronomical instruments, telescopes and systems for both ground-based and space-based astronomy programmes. It has a world leading reputation for the design, construction, integration, and commissioning of state of the art astronomical instrumentation. Our customers are the leading observatories and astronomical organisations around the world (e.g. ESO, ESA, and NASA). We have leading roles in many of the highest level current and future astronomy projects, such as the HARMONI, METIS and HIRES instruments for the ELT. We also deliver instrumentation for non-astronomy fields such as earth observation and bio-medical imaging. We design and build systems that operate over a range of wavelengths from UV to sub-mm wavelengths, with a strong heritage and expertise in infrared instrumentation.

Optical payloads and instruments for ground-based astronomy and space borne Earth Observations (EO) are in constant demand for higher spatial resolution and for providing imagery/data with greater sensitivity. Adaptive optics is a significant element of ground-based astronomy and is an integral part of all planned Extremely Large Telescope. Achieving high-resolution in space poses a major difficulty because of the limited payload fairing, launch weight restrictions, or implementation on small platforms such as CubeSats. Active optics is a key enabling technologies for future space missions for both Earth Observation and Science mission that would notably compensate for the adverse effect of the mirror segmentation.

About the role

We seek an experienced Adaptive Optics Engineer/Scientist to join our Applied Optics group. You will be involved in a number of projects. These may range in size from small design studies to large instrumentation projects (often involving multi-national collaborations). You may be involved at any stage of a project, from working with scientists to define requirements and generate conceptual designs for new instrumentation through to commissioning of instruments at a telescope site. Interest and experience in ground-based astronomy or space projects would be beneficial but we also encourage candidates with strong relevant skills and experience outside of this field to apply.

List of duties/Work programme/Responsibilities

The Applied Optics Group at the UKATC is responsible for the conception, design, development, and testing of optical systems for ground-based astronomical projects and space instrumentation. You will be required to show a high-level of understanding of adaptive optics theory and have significant practical experience with adaptive optics instruments. You will contribute to relevant AO-related project within STFC, including astronomical and non-astronomical activities.

As an Adaptive Optics Engineer/Scientist your specific tasks and duties include:

  • Numerical modelling of adaptive optics systems
  • Design and analysis of adaptive optics systems
  • Development of concepts and methods to reach the diffraction limit of optical systems
  • Design and support laboratory experiments
  • Testing of opto-mechanical components and sub-systems
  • Supporting the integration and testing of instrumentation projects
  • Commissioning of instrumentation.

The post will be based at the UKATC in Edinburgh. Some travel will be involved to partner organisations worldwide. This may include extended periods at remote telescope sites.

Personal Skills and Attributes

You will be able to work efficiently both individually and as part of a larger project team. You will have good communication skills and be able to effectively prioritise working on a number of different projects.

Organization Description

UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, and a vision to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. More information can be found at

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation, and our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world.

Shortlisting and Interview Criteria

The criteria will be assessed through shortlisting (S), at Interview (I) or both (S&I)



  • Post Graduate qualification (e.g. M.Sc. or equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline or equivalent experience. (S)


  • Ph.D. level qualification in a relevant science or engineering discipline. (S)

Knowledge and Experience

Candidates with a strong hands-on experience in adaptive optics for ground-based astronomical instruments and experimental laboratory work are encouraged to apply, as are candidates with strong background in simulations and theoretical modelling. We also encourage candidates with strong relevant skills and experience outside of this field to apply.


  • Significant experience working in an adaptive optics engineering/scientific role (modelling, design, integration and testing) (S&I)
  • Significant hands-on experience with the operation of adaptive optics (S&I)
  • Significant experience of high-level and data analysis software such as Matlab, Python, IDL. (S)


  • Experience of design, construction and testing of adaptive optics systems for astronomical instrumentation (S&I)
  • Experience in the use of computer-aided optical design tools, especially Zemax, CodeV (S&I)
  • Knowledge of signal processing, wave front reconstruction algorithms, inverse problems, control algorithms and familiarity with AO telemetry (S&I)
  • Knowledge and experience of active optics systems for space applications (S&I)
  • Experience of real-time operating systems and/or real-time applications development. (S&I)

Personal Skills and Attributes


  • Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary project team (I)
  • Ability to multi-task and prioritise effectively (I)
  • High level of drive, enthusiasm and focus on the achievement of goals (I)
  • Excellent inter-personal skills, particularly in communication, negotiating networking and team building, motivation and problem solving (I)
  • Ability to attract funding and commercial interest to the organisation. (S&I)


  • Experience of team leadership and/or project management in an engineering environment (S&I)
  • Line management experience (I)
  • Proven people management skills (I)

Special Requirements


  • Must be able to travel occasionally (typically up to 1 week), within the UK and overseas (S)
  • Quality of cover letter. (S)

UKRI supports research in areas that include animal health, agriculture and food security, and bioscience for health which includes research on animals, genetic modification and stem cell research. Whilst you may not have direct involvement in this type of research, you should consider whether this conflicts with your personal values or beliefs.

To enable us to hire the very best people we will conduct a full and comprehensive pre-employment check as an essential part of the recruitment process on all individuals that are offered a position with UKRI. This will include a security check and an extreme organisations affiliation check.

Employee Benefits

UK Research and Innovation recognises and values employees as individuals and aim to provide a pay and rewards package that motivates staff to perform to the best of their ability. The reward package includes a flexible working scheme, a Career Average Revalued Earnings pension scheme, 30 days annual leave allowance and a number of other benefits.

Developing Talent

We are committed to developing employees in their roles throughout their career. Learning and development plans enable employees to continue their professional development through training and development opportunities such as e-learning, classroom training and on-the-job experiences. We encourage our employees to share their learning across teams and organisations.

Equal Opportunities

We strive to make decisions based on individual merit and ability. We welcome applications from all sections of the community and promote equality of opportunity in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. As holders of Disability Confident Employer status, we guarantee to interview all applicants with disabilities who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

Online applications only. Please submit a covering letter and CV ensuring that the IRC reference is included in the filename description of each document uploaded. Please note that failure to address the above criteria or submitted without a covering letter may result in your application not being considered.

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