W. M. Keck Observatory


The Systems/Project Engineer will be responsible for providing systems level technical oversight and leadership for assigned projects. The nature of projects could range from science instruments to telescope or adaptive optics upgrades to infrastructure projects. The Systems/Project Engineer will collaborate with project managers and teams at the observatory, and partner institutions and vendors, to ensure successful planning and delivery of projects. The Systems/Project engineer will provide technical leadership across a wide range of engineering disciplines at a systems level.

Essential Functions

  • Provide technical leadership for the development of project plans, with an emphasis on ensuring that the appropriate level of systems engineering is included.
  • Develop and maintain the requirements, interface definitions and performance budgets; ensure that the project is in compliance with these requirements and will meet the desired system performance.
  • Perform system level analysis and modeling, and technical studies and tradeoffs in support of projects.
  • Ensure technical designs and plans address system reliability and quality.
  • Lead project acceptance testing and handover to operations.
  • Provide technical guidance and information to team members to support their project responsibilities.
  • Lead efforts to resolve technical issues in a proactive manner.
  • Lead technical meetings, peer reviews for designs and resolution of technical issues.
  • Ensure that the appropriate project technical documentation is developed.

Additional Responsibilities

  • Foster a project team working environment that emphasizes transparency, clarity, good flow of information, collaboration, cooperation, resiliency and positive attitudes.
  • Provide technical support and mentorship in areas of expertise.
  • Drive WMKO vehicles as necessary.
  • Perform other duties consistent with the scope of this position.

Required Qualifications

  • A Master's degree or equivalent in engineering or physical sciences with experience in an engineering environment.
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully deliver multi-disciplinary engineering projects, of $1M or greater, as a lead engineer, including at least three years of systems engineering experience.
  • Demonstrated experience integrating complex, high performance hardware and software systems.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Formal systems engineering credentials.
  • Five or more years of experience building scientific instruments.
  • Two or more years of experience working at an astronomical observatory.
  • Practical hands on experience creating and managing requirements, interface definitions and risks.
  • Experience in development of specifications, technical management of contracts and vendor selection.
  • Experience supervising technical work.
  • Experience with systems engineering tools.
  • Experience with complex integrated systems designs and architectures.
  • Experience working with real-time control systems and motion control systems.
  • Experience with engineering tools such as Zemax, SolidWorks and Matlab.
  • Experience with optical design, analysis, fabrication, alignment and metrology.
  • Experience with facilities infrastructure (e.g. electrical and cooling)


  • Microsoft Office Proficiency, including Microsoft Project.
  • Strong analytical skills with the ability to see both the big picture and to drill down into technical details where needed.

Certificates and Licenses

  • Valid driver's license and clean abstract.


To perform the job successfully, an individual should demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Leadership: Professional; dependable; highly competent and perceived as such. Consultative but capable of being decisive when required. Ability to balance people needs with business needs.
  • Communications: Ability to communicate effectively and concisely at all levels and across multiple technical disciplines. Ability to communicate effectively with vendors and contractors to ensure timely resolution of issues.
  • Interpersonal skills: Ability to build collaborative, effective relationships with staff: within the project and with group managers throughout organization. Able to build collaborative relationships with key vendors.
  • Commitment: High energy level; long-term commitment to success of project; ability to be successful under pressure; adaptable to changing circumstances; able to accommodate multiple simultaneous demands.

Our Values

  • Core values: Stewardship and Service
  • Permission to play: Safety, Integrity, Respect for Others
  • Aspirational Values: Get stuff done, Care for others, Optimism, Collaboration, Drive to achieve

Physical Demands

These physical demands are representative of the physical requirements necessary for an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the physical demands that may be required.

  • Sit: Remaining in the seated position continuously.
  • Use Hands/Fingers: Picking, pinching, or otherwise working primarily with fingers rather than with the whole hand or arm as in handling.
  • Talk: Expressing or exchanging ideas by means of the spoken word to impart oral information to clients or to the public and to convey detailed spoken instructions to other workers accurately, loudly, or quickly.
  • Lift: Raising or lowering an object from one level to another (includes upward pulling) up to 25 lbs.
  • Ability to work at the Observatory (14,000 feet elevations).

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment.  This role may use standard office equipment such as computers, telephones, photocopiers, filing cabinets and fax machines.

Environmental Conditions

These environmental conditions are representative of what an employee will encounter while performing the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the environmental conditions that may be encountered.

  • Exposure to weather: Subject to extreme cold. Temperatures can be below 32 degrees for periods of more than one hour.  Consideration should be given to the effect of other environmental conditions such as wind and humidity.
  • Subject to Hazards: Moving mechanical parts.
  • Subject to constrained spaces: Required to function in narrow aisles or passageways.

The above information on this job description has been designed to indicate the general nature and level of work performed by an employee in this classification.  It is not to be interpreted as a comprehensive inventory, or all duties, responsibilities, and qualifications of employees assigned to this job.  Management has the right to add to, revise, or delete information in this description.  Reasonable accommodations will be made to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of this position.


W. M. Keck Observatory
  • Apply Now

  • * Fields Are Required

    What is your full name?

    How can we contact you?

    By clicking the button above, I agree to ApplicantPro's Applicant Information Use Policy.

  • Sign Up For Job Alerts!

  • Share this Page
  • Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
Logo About News Videos Events Photos Cosmic Cams Donate Visit Contact