NCOA Director

Tucson, Arizona
Up to $244,625 per year with benefits
April 01 2019
Life Sciences, Other
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

NCOA Director

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is seeking a Director for NSF’s National Center for Optical-Infrared Astronomy (NCOA).

NCOA will integrate the operations in the United States and Chile of the Gemini Observatory, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and will serve for the foreseeable future as a focal point for the federal investment in ground-based optical and infrared (OIR) astronomy.

NCOA will:

  • be the U.S. national Center for open-access, ground-based, nighttime OIR astronomy;
  • operate and maintain OIR observational research facilities and related data systems;
  • develop, build, coordinate, and integrate observational, technical, and data-oriented capabilities available throughout the U.S. OIR System of federal and nonfederal assets;
  • Initiate, develop, and sustain domestic and international collaborations and partnerships to advance ground-based OIR facilities and capabilities;
  • develop and advance a strategic vision for NSF-funded OIR capabilities in collaboration with community scientists, partner organizations, other U.S. OIR System operators, and NSF.

NCOA Programs—initially LSST Operations, Gemini Observatory, Mid-Scale Observatories (including Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory), and the Community Science and Data Center—will be responsible for the delivery to the community of science capabilities and products. Program operations and development will be supported by three centralized, internal Services (science, engineering and center operations) in a matrixed management structure.

The NCOA Director is responsible to provide strategic, scientific and managerial leadership, inclusive of defining the vision and structure of NCOA, setting priorities and establishing goals across the organization, and providing leadership, guidance and support to the NCOA senior management team. The NCOA Director is responsible to ensure that existing and future Program missions are conducted successfully, working with all partners and stakeholders and with the broad national and international research community. The NCOA Director reports through the AURA President to the AURA Board of Directors and is responsible for ensuring that NCOA is led and managed in a manner consistent with the policy guidelines provided by AURA and NSF and, as appropriate, to recommend extension and modification of such policy.

The NCOA Director is expected to be located at NCOA headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, with frequent travel to Hawaii, Chile, and other locations. The NCOA Director is expected to serve a term of five years, with renewable additional terms.

The NCOA Director will be selected through an open competition with the objective to appoint the exceptional candidate for a term beginning no later than 1 October 2019. The NCOA Director is designated by NSF as Key Personnel and thus requires NSF approval of the selection prior to appointment. NSF approval is also required for the launch of NCOA as a Center integrating the operations of the Gemini Observatory, NOAO, and LSST and is anticipated in the first half of 2019. 


  • Leads and supervises the NCOA senior management team comprised of the Deputy Director and the Directors of Programs and Services.
  • Working with and through the NCOA Deputy Director, other members of the NCOA senior management team, and AURA Corporate:
    • Innovates, motivates and drives forward the NCOA mission in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders;
    • Develops and implements NCOA strategic plans, initiatives, budgets and priorities;
    • Advocates to all stakeholders for the NCOA mission and strategic plan; develops and sustains high-level dialogue with all stakeholders;
    • Strategically manages and prioritizes intra-NCOA services and resolves conflicts in the allocation of shared resources;
    • Strategically optimizes resources and priorities across NCOA Programs in consultation with stakeholders;
    • Recruits, manages and develops NCOA staff within an effective work environment;
    • Ensures the maintenance, operations and safety of NCOA facilities on behalf of AURA, NSF, and other funding agencies;
    • Supports the programmatic interface to relevant funding agencies;
    • Executes the NCOA program in a manner consistent with the policy guidelines provided by NSF and AURA;
    • Produces and delivers reports and plans required by NSF for integrated NCOA operations, in coordination with the Programs as required by their specific NSF awards and/or governance agreements.
  • Demonstrates for all audiences a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Establishes and maintains regular reporting to the AURA President and other Corporate staff to provide information on progress and concerns on the areas that fall within NCOA.  
  • Ensures compliance with government award terms and conditions assigned to this position or subordinates of this position as defined in the AURA Vela Award Management system.

Requirements and Qualifications:


  • Ph.D. in astronomy or a closely related field.
  • Experience in strategic planning, budgetary planning, and financial management.
  • Demonstrated critical analysis, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Ability to lead teams through organizational change.
  • Ability to manage multiple, potentially conflicting priorities.
  • Experience in the management of large scientific projects.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to build diverse, high-performing teams.


  • Demonstrated record of accomplishment in a leadership role in complex, international, and/or geographically distributed astronomy projects or major facilities.
  • Knowledge of funding agency policies, needs, and expectations.

If you wish to pursue this opportunity to lead the NCOA team, please submit to an application containing (PDF files preferred): a curriculum vitae or resume; information on skills, experience and accomplishments as they relate to the position; a personal statement on diversity and inclusion; and the names of three professional references. Review of applications began on 1 April 2019 and the position will remain open until filled. It would be appreciated for any new applications to be submitted by 15 April 2019. Please name any attachments with the following format: LastnameDocname.

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws.

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at


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