Institute of Astronomy

Gaia/PLATO Research Software Engineer (Technician)

Published on 07/09/2022 
Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
Starting Date: 
1st December 2022 or as soon as possible thereafer
31st March 2025

Limited funding: The funds for this post are available until 31 March 2025 in the first instance with good prospects for further extension subject to grant funding. The anticipated start date is 1st December 2022 or as early as possible thereafter.

This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious research software engineer to work at the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit (CASU) in the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) as part of the Gaia and PLATO system development teams.

Gaia is space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA), launched in 2013 and expected to operate until 2025. Gaia's key objective is a detailed study of the Milky Way that will reveal our Galaxy's content, dynamics, current state and formation history.

The IoA Gaia team are responsible for the processing and analysis of the photometric and low-resolution spectroscopic data collected by ESA's Gaia mission.

PLATO is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission that will detect and characterise a huge sample of exoplanets around bright stars. PLATO is currently scheduled to be launched at the end of 2026. Within the PLATO Consortium, the IoA team are responsible for the development and operation of the Exoplanet Analysis System, which will enable the detection of the signatures of exoplanets from high-precision photometric light curves of the host stars.

The successful candidate will work within CASU's PLATO and Gaia software development teams. The role will focus on development of the data processing software for both Gaia and PLATO, including automation, large scale distributed processing, data analysis and data management. The work involves all phases of the development cycle, including systems analysis, design, implementation, testing, documentation and improvement of existing code. The post-holder will have the opportunity to build upon their experience and to take on a wide selection of roles as needed. The role will also involve: liaising with the wider PLATO and Gaia project teams and external science users; contributing to the documentation and user manuals. The role will include opportunities to interact with the wider CASU team.

The successful candidate will have a good practical knowledge of scientific processing development and at least a BSc (Hons) degree in a numerate discipline (preferably Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a science with a significant computing element). Systems administration experience would be advantageous.

Knowledge of Python and/or Java and object oriented programming is required. An understanding of abstraction including familiarity with software design patterns is essential. Experience with Spark, Kubernetes and knowledge of database systems would be advantageous.

The post-holder will be required to attend meetings both elsewhere in the UK and overseas.

The University of Cambridge thrives on the diversity of its staff and students. Applications from underrepresented groups are particularly welcome. We have an active Equality and Diversity Committee which continually works to further the aims of the Athena SWAN charter. The University has a number of family-friendly policies and initiatives, including a returning-carer scheme, childcare costs support, university workplace nurseries, university holiday play-schemes, and a shared parental-leave policy. As part of its commitment to providing a family-friendly environment for researchers, the IoA ensures that should parental leave be needed during the course of employment, there is provision for extension to contract to compensate for the parental leave taken.

Interviews will be held in the week beginning 7th November 2022

Informal enquires can be addressed via email to Dr Nicholas Walton naw(at)

Please quote reference LG33062 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Application Information: 

Click 'Apply' to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

Application Deadline Date: 
19 October 2022
Application Deadline Information: 
Applications to be received by 23:59 BST
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Page last updated: 7 September 2022 at 17:02