W. M. Keck Observatory


The Chief Scientist is accountable to the Observatory Director for the science stewardship of the observatory, responsible for ensuring that the scientific mission of the observatory is fulfilled. The Chief Scientist serves as a key advisor to the Observatory Director on all matters of science policy and strategy and is a member of the senior leadership team of the observatory.

Principal Activities

  • Advise the Director on science strategy, observatory science policy and relevant scientific matters.
  • Lead the scientific mission of the observatory: foster strategic scientific use of telescope and instruments; monitor observatory scientific productivity and impact; recommend strategies to maximize scientific impact.
  • Responsible for keeping observatory management, SSC and CARA Board fully informed of the status of science instrumentation projects; proactively leads teams, internal and external, in development of remedial fiscal and schedule actions, when necessary.
  • Lead interaction with the Science Steering Committee (SSC) and NASA Mission Operations Working Group (MOWG): communicate plans and issues; lead efforts to implement science operations guidance.
  • Serve as the observatory's ambassador to the W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO) scientific community: University of California, Caltech, NASA, University of Hawaii and other scientific collaborators.
  • Lead observatory scientific strategic planning, in conjunction with the SSC.
  • Supervise the Observing Support Manager, and jointly with him/her responsible for hiring and career mentoring of Support Astronomers.
  • Supervise the Instrument Program Manager, and jointly develops remedial actions, when needed, for science instrumentation projects.

Additional Activities

  • Promote WMKO science results and capabilities: oversee science content of press releases; act as editor for observers' newsletter; coordinate the communications of scientific results, information and capabilities to users and the broader scientific community; organize the annual Keck Observatory Science Meeting and other science workshops as needed.
  • Cultivate the scientific environment at the observatory: foster Support Astronomers' research including managing Director's Time allocated by Director for Support Astronomers' research.
  • Partner with the Observatory Director to maintain and build relationships with NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other national/international institutions as needed.
  • Prepare and coordinate presentations for oversight committees and external institutions, assisting the Director in Board, SSC, NASA MOWG preparation and follow-up.
  • Participate in full as a member of the senior leadership team, the Observatory Council.
  • Support Fund Development activities as needed, including attendance at and presentations to selected donor events and occasional travel for donor meetings and events.

Required Qualifications

  • Ph.D. in astronomy or a closely related field.
  • At least five years' experience in a scientific leadership role.
  • Ability to be an excellent emissary for the observatory: strong communicator, able to build good relationships, knowledgeable, credible, enthusiastic.
  • Demonstrated ability as a strategic thinker, with understanding of the opportunities afforded by new directions in astronomy, capabilities elsewhere, evolving technologies and practices.
  • An enthusiasm for, and ability to, articulate the excitement of astronomy in an engaging way to connect with sponsors, staff, the public, donors and philanthropic foundations.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Five (5) years' of post-Ph.D. experience as a research scientist.
  • Experience leading small teams of scientists.
  • Familiarity with ground-based and/or space-based observatory operations.
  • Wide network of contacts in the broader national/international astronomy community.
  • Good understanding of the current national and international astronomical environment Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, NSF and NASA plans, and the capabilities and intentions of major observatories worldwide.
  • Practical knowledge of astronomical instrumentation for optical/infrared astronomy.


  • Professional; dependable; highly competent and perceived as such. Consultative but capable of being decisive when required. Ability to balance people needs with business needs.
  • Tactful; approachable; stays calm under pressure; treats others with respect and consideration; accepts responsibility for own actions; follows through on commitments.
  • Energetic; committed to success; ability to be thrive under pressure; adaptable to changing circumstances; able to accommodate multiple simultaneous demands.

Other Requirements

  • Possess superior written and oral communication skills.
  • Ability to work effectively within the broader WMKO partner environment: collaborative style of working, influence without direct authority, supportive of aspirations of WMKO partners.
  • Ability to work within a performance-oriented team environment.
  • Ability to build collaborative, effective relationships.
  • Ability to work in a constant state of alertness and in a safe manner.
  • Ability to work at 14,000 feet altitude.
  • Willingness and ability to travel regularly to the U. S. mainland and occasionally travel internationally.
  • Willingness to commit to WMKO core values: Stewardship and Service.
  • Willingness to abide by WMKO "Permission to Play" values: Integrity, Respect for Others, Safety.

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: Remain in the seated position.
  • Use hands/fingers: Operate, activate, use, prepare, inspect, place, detect and position.
  • Talk/hear: Express or exchange 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, carry weight: Raise or lower an object from one level to another (includes upward pulling) up-to 25 pounds.
  • Travel: Able to travel by air to national and international locations.

Work Environment

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

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
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