Institute of Astronomy

Research Associate/Senior Research Associate in Gaia/PLATO Data Science

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

Fixed-term: 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 data scientist 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.

PLATO is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission that will detect and characterise a huge sample of exoplanets around bright stars. 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 Gaia and PLATO software development teams. The main tasks will be in data analysis and development of novel scientific algorithms and applications in the areas of photometric and spectrophotometric processing (Gaia) and photometric light curve analysis (PLATO). The role will also involve: contributions to the software infrastructure, liaising with the wider PLATO and Gaia project teams and external science users; contributing to the documentation and user manuals; and collaborating in the Gaia and PLATO exoplanet related research programs to optimise interpretation and use of such Gaia and PLATO data. The role will include opportunities to interact with the wider CASU team.

The successful candidate will have experience in data analysis and validation activities, a good practical knowledge of scientific algorithm development and a PhD degree in a numerate discipline (preferably Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science, Computer Engineering or related field). Candidates are expected to be familiar with the acquisition and reduction of data from large-scale astronomical facilities or surveys and with the use of database and web-based systems. Knowledge of Python/Java and object oriented programming is required, while knowledge of database systems would be advantageous.

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

Salary will be either on the Research Associate scale (grade 7, from £34,308 to £42,155) or, for exceptional and established researchers, on the Senior Research Associate scale (grade 9, from £43,414 to £54,949).

Appointment as a Research Associate (grade 7) is dependent on having a PhD. Those who have submitted their thesis but not yet been awarded their PhD will initially be appointed as a Research Assistant and amended to Research Associate when the PhD is awarded. The Research Assistant salary (grade 5) falls within the range £27,929 to £32,348.

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.

Please ensure that you upload your Curriculum Vitae (CV), cover letter, publications list and research statement (three A4 pages maximum in 11pt font) in the Upload section of the online application. The names and email contact details of three academic referees are a necessary part of the submission. You should advise nominated referees that their references will be requested with a deadline of 25th October 2022.

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

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

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.

Please quote reference LG33025 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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 17:15