Detector Controls Engineer
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA

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California Institute of Technology

Closing Date: Open Until Filled

Job Summary
Caltech operates two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) labs, near Richland, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, for the National Science Foundation, to discover and observe gravitational waves from distant astrophysical sources. LIGO uses laser interferometry to measure miniscule changes among carefully suspended optical components to deduce the changes in the spacetime metric that are due to passing gravitational waves. LIGO's design involves precision engineering in optical, electronic and mechanical systems, as well as state-of-the-art digital signal processing and data communications systems.

A new detector apparatus, Advanced LIGO, is currently being commissioned and is expected to extend LIGO's range by a factor of ten. To address the additional complexity of this detector, LIGO is expanding its Detector Group engineering staff at each site.

This listing is for a Detector Group engineer who specializes in servo controls. The LIGO detector relies on hundreds of feedback control loops, many of which are part of multi-input-multi-output (MIMO) systems, to establish and maintain positioning and alignment of the optics, the seismic isolation system, as well as the laser frequency and many other operating parameters.

The Career Level and Salary determination will be based on the applicant's experience, skills and competencies as they relate to the requirements of this position. We have the ability to hire either:

Research Engineering - IC / Assistant, salary grade 42 or
Research Engineering - IC / Associate, salary grade 43 or

Job Duties

The detector control engineer's principal duties are to:
  • Reporting to the Detector Group Leader, and in close collaboration with other engineers, scientists, and detector operators, ensure that the LIGO detector functions consistently to accomplish its scientific mission.
  • Devise system identification methods for LIGO's various degrees of freedom, document those methods, and train others in their use.
  • Design and optimize servo control laws for low noise and robust stability, and train others in their operation and monitoring.
  • Maintain and improve various noise and performance models, in close collaboration with LIGO's commissioning team and others.
  • Maintain detector servo configuration documentation, and prepare reports for LIGO's system engineering group and/or for publication.
  • Other related assignments, as needed.
  • Travel may be required at a frequency of up to about 6 weeks per year.
Basic Qualifications
  • B.S. degree in Engineering, Physics, or a related field.
  • Successful completion of at least one semester of coursework in control theory and practice, or equivalent independent study.
  • 3 years work experience in a position that required design and characterization of control systems.
  • Thorough fluency in Matlab.
  • Ability to travel up to about 6 weeks per year.
Preferred Qualifications
  • Experience designing and using control systems that employ real-time digital signal processing.
  • Experience designing and using precision scientific instruments and instrumentation systems.
  • Experience in highly collaborative research and operating environments.
  • Familiarity with precision electronic circuit design, troubleshooting and repair.
  • Strong oral communication skills, skill and experience in expository and technical writing, and competence with common office and scientific software.
  • Experience with training and mentoring students or junior colleagues.
  • M.S. in Mechanical, Aeronautical or Electrical Engineering as part of a degree program that involved extensive study of control systems; or Ph.D. in Physics or related field.
To be considered for this position please visit our web site and apply on line at the following link:

Caltech is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, Minorities, Veterans and Disabled Persons are encouraged to apply.

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