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A cover letter is required for consideration for this position and should be attached as the first page of your resume. The cover letter should address your specific interest in the position and outline skills and experience that directly relate to this position.

Job Summary

The assistant director for astronomy will hold a 50% appointment in the Bentley Historical Library/Detroit Observatory, reporting to the director of the Observatory.   This will be a three-year appointment with the possibility of renewal.  The position is eligible for full benefits, commensurate with appointment percentage, see hr.umich.edu/benefitswellness for more information.  It is possible that an additional 50% appointment will become available at some point.

The work schedule for this position will be variable and will include nighttime and weekend work, especially during the period in which programming is ramping up and staff and volunteers are being trained.

Program objectives:

  • Target activity when DO reopens includes:
    • Regular observing nights for students, U-M constituencies and the public, including talks or demonstrations, frequency to be determined, but at least several times per month  
    • Daytime observing on a regular basis, several times per month.
    • Scheduled observing associated with private events.
    • Telescope demonstrations and labs for U-M astronomy courses; engagement of other courses in science, engineering, history, etc., as appropriate.
    • Observing will be weather-dependent, events will not: our goal is to develop a regular and reliable schedule of engaging activities that involve observing when that is possible.
  • NB: All of the above is contingent on the timely completion of construction and on the status of coronavirus restrictions in place at the time of opening.  If necessary, virtual/remote programming — including observing — may substitute for in-person programming or supplement it if in-person activity is limited in scope.  All programming will be compliant with applicable University and governmental public health regulations and guidance. 

Responsibilities*

The assistant director for astronomy will:

  • Work with the director to develop and implement a program of informal astronomy education and outreach at the Detroit Observatory, including talks, demonstrations, observing experiences, and exhibits. The audiences will include college and high school students, the public, and various U-M constituencies including guests at special events scheduled at the Observatory by University departments.  
  • Supervise and manage observing activities using the Observatory’s historical telescopes and other instruments.
    • Train, certify and supervise undergraduate and graduate students as well as volunteer amateurs as telescope operators and docents.
    • Develop, implement and manage observing protocols to ensure use of equipment is safe for staff and visitors and protective of the historic equipment itself.
    • Recommend technological and programmatic enhancements for the observing experience and work with the director of the Observatory on implementing them.
    • With the director, oversee maintenance of the observatory’s telescopes, active astronomical instruments, dome/shutters, and other viewing accoutrements, engaging consultants as needed.
    • Coordinate efforts with the U-M Department of Astronomy.
  • Assist the director in seeking and maintaining partnerships with relevant departments and organizations on campus and off (e.g., Astronomy, Physics, CLASP, Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Student Astronomical Society, Lowbrow Astronomers, Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, Ann Arbor District Library).

Required Qualifications*

  • A masters or doctoral degree or the equivalent in combination of education and experience in an area relevant to the position
  • Demonstrated knowledge of astronomy including contemporary developments, capacity for outreach and education in astronomical sciences, an imaginative approach to engaging audiences, and enthusiasm for science outreach
  • Intimate familiarity with the night sky and ability to train others about it 
  • Advanced proficiency with the principles and practices of telescopes and other instruments, including their maintenance, and the ability to train others
  • Deep respect for historic instruments and facilities and uncompromising care in using them
  • Strong leadership and teamwork skills; excellent communication skills; ability to work independently; sound judgment.

Desired Qualifications*

  • A degree in an astronomical science; a graduate degree in an astronomical science is strongly preferred
  • Experience with solar observing is highly desirable.
  • Knowledge of the history of astronomy and of historic instruments 
  • Experience organizing events in science education 
  • Interest in the history of the University of Michigan and of the Observatory’s role in it

Additional Information

The University of Michigan’s Detroit Observatory is an historic observatory, constructed in 1854; it was one of the leading observatories in the United States during the second half of the 19th century.  Restored in 1997, the building houses its two original telescopes, a 12.5” Henry Fitz refractor and a 6” Pistor & Martins meridian circle.  Both telescopes are functional and usable for observing.  The Fitz refractor was fully restored in the 1990s; the meridian circle has been largely restored, with details waiting to be completed.  In fall 2021, a new visitor/education center connected to the Observatory is expected to open, including a multipurpose classroom and state-of-the-art IT/AV for exhibit, demonstration, and educational purposes.  As the first dedicated research facility at the University of Michigan, and one of the first in the country, the Observatory will serve as a center for education in the history of U-M, the history of research, and the history of astronomy, as well as engaging in outreach and education in astronomical sciences, including nighttime and daytime observing for students, members of the University community, and the public. Please see detroitobservatory.umich.edu

Application Deadline

Job openings are posted for a minimum of seven calendar days. The review and selection process may begin as early as the eighth day after posting. This opening may be removed from posting boards and filled anytime after the minimum posting period has ended.

U-M EEO/AA Statement

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.