Radio Spectrum Scientist

At the SKAO we are coordinating a global effort to deliver one of the largest science facilities on the planet. The SKAO telescopes will be next-generation instruments that will help to answer key questions in astrophysics, drive technological innovation and support human capital development. 

More than a dozen partner countries and over a thousand scientists and engineers around the world are already on board, making the SKA project an international collaboration like no other, and one of the most ambitious science and engineering endeavours of the 21st century.

Headquartered in the UK, with telescope sites in Australia and South Africa, the SKAO will be one observatory operating two telescopes, an endeavour spanning three continents. Multinational by design, in early 2021 the SKAO became an intergovernmental organisation, one of only a select handful of science infrastructures to do so worldwide.

Our Global HQ is located near the buzzing city of Manchester at the historic Jodrell Bank Observatory, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Cheshire countryside. It is home to a rapidly expanding international team of more than a hundred, working in a highly collaborative and inclusive way, in coordination with SKAO teams in Australia and South Africa as part of a global astronomy and engineering community.

Being part of Team SKA means contributing to something extraordinary: a uniquely exciting project to advance human knowledge that will last for decades. In return, we offer a diverse multicultural working environment, 30 days annual leave plus public holidays, a generous pension scheme, visa and support with relocation (if applicable), regular social events, a family-friendly environment and much more. Come and join us!

Radio Spectrum Scientist

An amazing opportunity for an experienced radio astronomer to join an international, multicultural organisation in the protection of the Dark and Quiet Skies.

Job Location
Cheshire, UK (Head Office)
Area / Department
Business Support
Contract Type
GBP 41,000 - 48,000 depending on experience, with excellent benefits
Closing Date
Ref No

The Role

SKAO is the first intergovernmental organisation dedicated solely to radio astronomy. With radio telescopes under construction in Australia and South Africa observing the radio spectrum from 50 MHz to 25 GHz, the SKAO and its host countries have invested significant resources in the protection of the radio spectrum for scientific purposes.

SKAO telescopes are located in areas defined as Radio Quiet Zones (RQZ), protected by national legislation. In an RQZ the radio spectrum is managed to give priority to radio astronomical observations. The RQZs are the first and foremost important line of defense from radio frequency interference (RFI), with extensions of hundreds of kilometres on both telescope sites.

The SKAO Spectrum Management Group (SMG) works to protect and maximise the telescopes’ access to an uncontaminated radio spectrum. It advocates in policy forums at international and national level in collaboration with similar-minded organisations and our site entities respectively. The office also interacts directly with industry whose applications can have a detrimental impact on the science return of the telescopes, especially satellite systems.

The rapid advance of communication technologies, especially in the space sector with the deployment of large constellations and direct to cell connectivity, is increasing the challenges for radio astronomy. The SKAO is one of the founders of the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (IAU CPS) where it works on simulations, observation campaigns and software development to mitigate the impact on our science.

The Radio Spectrum Scientist will be responsible for the SKAO contributions to the IAU CPS in particular in the areas of: development of mitigation software, observations of satellites with radio telescopes, data reduction and statistical analysis, simulations of impact on radio telescopes and specific science cases.

The role includes the possibility to conduct research and publications in the area of RFI detection and mitigation in radio astronomy and the protection of Dark and Quiet Skies.

This role will be based at the SKAO Global Headquarters at the iconic Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, UK, and occasional international travel will be required to represent the Spectrum Management Group in scientific and technical meetings.

SKAO is committed to providing an inclusive and flexible working environment, meeting the requests of our Colleagues whilst also fulfilling the needs and objectives of the Observatory. This role is available on a full time, part time (minimum 80%) or job share basis, please state your preference in the application form or cover letter.

We encourage applications from under-represented groups such as women and individuals with disabilities, as well as open conversations during the recruitment process in relation to any specific requirements.

There may be occasions where this role requires the post holder to work across different time zones and, in line with SKAO policy, flexible working hours will be supported in agreement with the line manager.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

  • Participate as a core member of the IAU CPS SatHub in the activities mentioned before.
  • Coordinate the work of radio astronomy collaborators to conduct radio observations and mitigation software within the IAU CPS.
  • Work with SKA Software Engineering to effectively integrate software solutions that can be implemented in the SKA telescopes to mitigate the impact of large satellite constellations leveraging the existing design of the SKAO signal chains and processing pipelines. These can be in the form of prediction software, online or post processing.
  • Collaborate with the Spectrum Management Group in compatibility studies between a wide range of radio systems and radio telescopes for spectrum management purposes, providing the scientific radio astronomy perspective to SKAO compatibility studies.
  • Contribute to the preparation of documents to be used in policy and spectrum management forums, such as ITU-R working groups.
  • Represent the SKAO Spectrum Management Group in policy and scientific meetings (virtual and in-person), presenting SKAO’s own documents and reviewing third party documents on issues that can affect radio astronomical access to the radio spectrum.
  • Collaborate with SKAO’s Engineering team in identifying risks and mitigation measures to protect the SKA radio telescopes from external sources of RFI.
  • Collaborate with the SKAO Science team in simulations of RFI impact and mitigation techniques at telescope level.
  • Contribute to the SKAO RFI gitLab repository containing code for compatibility studies and RFI impact assessment of a variety of cases (from satellite systems to terrestrial mobiles).

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Degree in radio astronomy or a closely related and relevant scientific discipline.
  • Experience in conducting radio observations with radio telescopes, in particular with interferometers, processing data from telescopes, RFI cleaning, features detection and classification
  • Vast experience in software development for radio astronomy in Python.
  • Excellent organisational skills with the ability to collect and organise the work of a wide community of researchers and engineers.
  • Excellent presentations skills with the ability to communicate science to wider audiences.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills in English, including formal emails, reports, documentation.
  • Ability to work with multicultural and geographically dispersed teams.
  • Be a flexible team player who is adaptable to change and able to work independently and as part of a team as required.
  • Ability and willingness to travel internationally as required (typically for one week, up to 3 times per year).

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Experience in RFI impact assessment in science cases for radio astronomy.
  • Knowledge of spectrum management and ITU-R methods of working, multilateral policy making.
  • Knowledge of the RAS ITU-R protected radio frequency bands and their importance for radio astronomy.
  • Knowledge of:
      • Ongoing work for the protection of Dark and Quiet Skies;
      • Space policy forums such as UN COPUOS;
      • Electromagnetic propagation as applicable to interference calculation.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion Statement

SKA Observatory recognises that our diversity is a strength. We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong, and diverse perspectives and ideas thrive. As such, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are at the core of SKA Observatory’s agenda.

Our aim is to recruit and retain the most talented individuals, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, nationality or background.

Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and engineering; SKA Observatory welcomes and encourages female applicants. 

Where applicants with a disability need facilities or adjustments to enable them to participate in the recruitment process, these will be provided.

SKA Observatory welcome all candidates, especially those from member countries.

The “How to Apply” information contained within the SKA Observatory recruitment portal provides more detail regarding our application and selection approach.