2020 BL/TESS Postdoctoral Scholar


The Department of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kavli Institute (MKI) for Astrophysics and Space Research seek applications for a postdoctoral associate in the areas of astrophysics, astrobiology, machine learning and/or optical time series analysis in support of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission.

This position is at 100% time, with an expected start date of no later than 1 September 2021, which is flexible. Substantially earlier start dates would be welcomed. The position will allow up to 50% time to be spent on personal research and 50% in support of the science operations of the "Breakthrough Listen Initiative" with a focus on synergies with the TESS mission.

The incumbent will be appointed as a Postdoctoral Scholar at UCB, and once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted as a Visiting Scholar at MIT. The incumbent will be expected to split their time between UCB and MIT, for which travel funds are available.

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative, funded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, employs telescopes around the world to conduct the most comprehensive, intensive and sensitive search for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence ever undertaken. Deploying the necessary instrumentation for the search involves designing and constructing new high-speed digital electronics and novel signal processing software, able to process terabit-scale data streams. The work also involves deploying, testing, and operating these electronics and software on the world's largest telescopes, and leveraging them to conduct sensitive and methodical searches for artificial emission. Breakthrough Listen instrumentation and data products can also be used to study natural astrophysical objects in novel ways.

On 23 October 2019, Breakthrough Listen announced a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Science Team. The collaboration will include observations of targets identified by the TESS team using Breakthrough Listen assets, as well as examination of TESS light curves to identify photometric anomalies. The incumbent will be expected to serve as a lead scientist in the Breakthrough Listen / TESS team collaboration, including participation in the development of state-of-the-art novel algorithms and observing techniques at radio, infrared and/or optical wavelengths.

Basic qualifications: A PhD or equivalent degree in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Physics, Planetary Science, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or a related field is required at the time of application.

Preferred qualifications: (By the time of application):

Experience in time series data analysis, including, but not limited to NASA’s Kepler, K2, and/or TESS missions.

Experience with exoplanet detection and characterization.

Experience with signal detection in the time or frequency domain.

Experience with large data sets, distributed scientific data analysis, and / or training deep learning algorithms on large and complex datasets.

Publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals involving technosignature and/or exoplanet search/characterization algorithm design and research.

Salary and Benefits: Salary will be commensurate with experience and qualification based on classification. The position is initially for one year and is renewable for up to two further years based on performance and available funding.

To apply, please visit https://aprecruit.berkeley.edu/JPF02713.

All application materials will be treated as confidential per institutional policies and state law. Please refer potential referees, including when letters are provided via a third party (i.e., dossier service or career center), to the UC Berkeley statement of confidentiality (http://apo.berkeley.edu/evalltr.html) prior to submitting their letters.

Application deadline: 19 November 2020

Please direct administrative questions to Breakthrough Listen Administrator Karen Aguilar: kaguilar@berkeley.edu and scientific/technical questions to Dr. Andrew Siemion: siemion@berkeley.edu, Prof. Sara Seager: seager@mit.edu, or Dr. Avi Shporer: shporer@mit.edu.

About the University of California, Berkeley:

UC Berkeley offers excellent health and welfare packages. It also has a number of policies and programs in place to support employees as they balance work and family. Information on available plans and eligibility can be found at: http://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/compensation-and-benefits/index.html 

As part of the College of Letters and Science, the Department of Astronomy offers undergraduate and graduate instruction in a wide variety of fields, including theoretical and observational astrophysics; infrared, optical, and radio astronomy; galactic structure and dynamics of stellar systems; high-energy astrophysics and cosmology; and spectroscopy.

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or protected veteran status.

About the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

Working at MIT offers opportunities, an environment, a culture – and advantages – that just aren’t found together anywhere else. If you’re curious, motivated, want to be part of a unique community, and help shape the future – then take a look at this opportunity.