Data System Operator
Pasadena, CA 
Posted Today
Job Description

Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions. We thrive on finding and cultivating talented people who are passionate about what they do. Join us and be a part of the diverse Caltech community.

Job Summary

IPAC at Caltech is looking for a Data System Operator to support data processing for the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE; ). As a part of the Caltech's Physics, Math, and Astronomy Division, IPAC () provides science operations, user support, data and archive services, and scientific vision to maximize discovery with observatories both in space and on the ground. We are partners with NASA, NSF, JPL, and the international research community to advance exploration of our Universe. Over our three-decade history, we have provided a range of support for more than 20 astronomy and planetary science missions, helping each to bring forth major scientific advances.

Where You Fit In

As a Data System Operator, you will be a member of the IPAC team that carries out data processing, data distribution, and archiving for NEOWISE. NEOWISE is a NASA Planetary Defense mission that uses a space-based infrared telescope to detect, track, and characterize asteroids and comets that may pose a hazard to the Earth. IPAC operates a computing cluster and automated data system that processes the infrared images of the sky taken by NEOWISE each day. Our system produces completed data products including lists of candidate solar system objects that are reported daily to the International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center. The Data System Operators ensure the automated system is running as expected and carries out maintenance activities, working with the scientists and engineers on the IPAC/NEOWISE team.

Regular tasks include:

  • Managing the operation of automated processes including aliveness checks, suspending and restarting.
  • Monitoring storage volumes.
  • Sending out summary reports of the previous night's processing. Rerunning processes as needed.
  • Ensuring the data system is ready to receive data for the upcoming night.
  • Regularly reviewing Slack channels.
  • Developing and maintaining scripts to assist with these activities.
  • Communicating regularly with the rest of the NEOWISE team.

We work a regular work week; however, you will sometimes need to support off-hours activities. We encourage continuing career education, and this position offers occasional opportunities to attend industry conferences and related training.

Basic Qualifications

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Astronomy, Physics, Math or a related technical field
  • At least 2 years of experience with Linux or other Unix operating systems including writing shell scripts will enable you to support the data system.
  • Experience with SQL queries.
  • Good written and interpersonal communication skills -- with an emphasis on the ability to share ideas in a collaborative setting -- will enable you to work as part of our team.
  • Being able to organize and manage priorities across multiple tasks will enable you to handle the challenges of this position.

Preferred Qualifications

Beyond these basic qualifications, there are a set of skills and experiences that will add to your ability to contribute to the roles and responsibilities of an NEOWISE data system operator. The following might give you a head start here, but even if these do not describe you or your experience, we would still like to hear from you:

  • Have you done scripting in Perl or the c-shell?
  • Do you have experience with SQL queries in general, and with Postgres in particular?
  • Experience with submitting batch jobs to a computing cluster would be a plus, especially experience using condor.
  • Familiarity with Zoom, Slack, Jira, Github or Confluence will enable you to jump in quickly.

Required Documents

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter

Life at IPAC

IPAC is located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California by the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Caltech is small, but has an extraordinary science impact, with 41 Nobel Prizes awarded to faculty and alumni. Caltech manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA, the leading US center for the robotic exploration of the Solar System. Caltech also operates large-scale research facilities such as the Palomar and Keck Observatories, and LIGO, which in 2016 observed gravitational waves from colliding black holes for the first time.

Pasadena is a city known for its contributions to science and technology, and its rich history, cultural treasures, scenic beauty, and year-round comfortable weather create a desirable environment for life and ideas to thrive. See .

People choose to work at IPAC for many reasons, and the casual, employee-centric culture often leads to fulfilling, long-term careers and lasting relationships. Caltech offers a quality, competitive benefits package that is affordable for you and the Institute. The program provides a strong base of coverage for you and your dependents, and the ability to choose the plan and the level of coverage that best meet your needs. We also offer a 403(b) defined contribution plan to eligible staff as well as a Voluntary Retirement Savings (TDA) Plan. IPAC staff have access to the Institute's facilities, including the athletic center, libraries, on-site daycare, professional development and enrichment classes, and Athenaeum club membership.

COVID-19 Vaccine Required for All Employees

Caltech has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy effective October 15, 2021, requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees (with Institute-approved exemptions for religious or medical contraindications only). At present, an individual is deemed "fully vaccinated" when that person has received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (e.g., Pfizer or Moderna) or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., Johnson & Johnson). As a condition of employment, employees must submit official COVID-19 vaccine documentation. More information may be found .

EEO Statement

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Caltech is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

To read more Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) go to eeoc_self_print_poster.pdf.

Disability Accommodations

If you would like to request an accommodation in completing this application, interviewing, or otherwise participating in the employee selection process, please direct your inquiries to Caltech Recruiting at .

Caltech is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer and will, whenever possible, actively recruit and include for employment members of underrepresented minority groups, females, disabled veterans, protected veterans, and otherwise qualified persons with disabilities. Caltech will hire, transfer, and promote based on the qualifications of the individual to ensure equal consideration and fair treatment of all.


Job Summary
Start Date
As soon as possible
Employment Term and Type
Regular, Full Time
Required Education
Bachelor's Degree
Required Experience
2+ years
Email this Job to Yourself or a Friend
Indicates required fields