W. M. Keck Observatory
  • 128887-158850 per year

4 weeks annual paid vacation + 8% 403(b) employer contribution (4% employee contribution) + 100%-paid employee health insurance + additional benefits

The W. M. Keck Observatory is seeking a talented and visionary individual to join our team as the Head of Adaptive Optics Development. In this pivotal role, you will be instrumental in realizing our 2035 Science Strategic Plan and shaping the future of adaptive optics (AO) at our observatory. With a focus on three major themes-AO at visible wavelengths, enhanced seeing with ground layer AO, and high contrast AO science-you will lead the development and delivery of AO upgrades, as well as initiate new developments to support our strategic goals.


The starting salary range for this full-time position is $128,887 - $158,850 + 4 weeks annual paid vacation + 8% 403(b) employer contribution (4% employee contribution) + 100%-paid employee health insurance + additional benefits.



From Hawaii's Maunakea, astronomers around the world use our observatory to observe the universe with unprecedented power and precision. Our twin observatory telescopes are the world's most scientifically productive optical and infrared telescopes! With our highly advanced technology, we focus on service and stewardship and are very committed to being the science leader in large ground-based telescopes. We support the mission of the observatory and work to unravel the mysteries of the universe!

Each employee is a part of our mission. We provide meaningful jobs and an exciting place to pursue careers. Employees are able to work with a variety of equipment and scientific applications for the good of humanity and pure science. We work in a wonderful setting and environment and are passionate about what we do. We're looking for more individuals to join us!



The Head of Adaptive Optics Development will have several essential functions critical to the success of the W. M. Keck Observatory's high angular resolution capabilities and the realization of the 2035 Science Strategic Plan. Firstly, you will lead the ongoing development efforts, identifying, assessing, and proposing new AO capabilities and techniques that enhance performance and enable new scientific advancements. It is crucial to understand the needs of the user community and ensure their requirements are addressed in the development process. Secondly, you will be responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of new and optimized AO capabilities to science operations. This includes taking a lead role as the principal investigator (PI) and system architect, overseeing the design, development, characterization, optimization, and commissioning of these capabilities, and effectively transitioning them to operational use. Additionally, you will lead and manage the AO development team, nurturing their expertise, fostering teamwork, and supporting their professional development. You will also provide leadership for funding proposal development to secure resources for the implementation of new AO capabilities. Effective communication, negotiation, and relationship management with stakeholders at all levels will be essential to achieve the objectives of the AO program. In addition to these primary responsibilities, you will have the opportunity to conduct research to further enhance the Keck Observatory's high angular resolution capabilities, performance, and productivity. Finally, you will perform other duties consistent with the scope of the position to contribute to the overall success of the AO development program.



  • Ph.D. level degree in AO or high angular resolution astronomy, or equivalent experience.
  • Eight years of relevant experience in the development and/or use of AO for astronomical research.
  • Ability to develop a concept from an initial proposal to a fully functional and operational system.
  • Personnel management skills including coaching, mentoring, and motivation of team members.
  • A system architecture level perspective on AO systems.
  • A broad understanding of the multiple engineering disciplines needed to develop AO systems, with detailed knowledge in at least one discipline (e.g. systems engineering, opto-mechanical systems, operations software, real-time AO control).


Preferred qualifications for the role include: A proven track record in the development or optimization of AO systems specifically for astronomy. An understanding of the scientific requirements and needs related to AO systems is highly valued. Experience in the development and use of key systems analysis tools such as performance modeling, error budgets, requirements analysis, and system verification is advantageous. Previous experience working in an observatory setting provides valuable insight into the operational aspects of AO systems. Additionally, experience in developing funding proposals is a valuable asset to secure resources and support the development of AO capabilities.



If you feel that you would be right for this position, please fill out our initial 3-minute, mobile-friendly application. We look forward to meeting you!


Our salary ranges are determined by the role and level of the position. The range displayed on each job posting reflects the minimum and maximum starting base pay for new hire salaries for the position. Within the range, individual pay is determined by experience, skillset, and qualifications of the new hire. Should you be selected for an interview, the HR team will be happy to further discuss the compensation details of this position with you.

W. M. Keck Observatory
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