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Research Scientist

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
Generous salary and benefits from Caltech
Closing date
28 May 2023

Job Details

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) seeks a highly motivated and skilled Research Scientist to join its team working at the design, construction and operation of world-leading gravitational-wave interferometric detectors.

We seek a Research Scientist with a focus on high reflection coating research for Gravitational Wave Observatories As a Research Scientist in the LIGO Laboratory, you will have the opportunity to apply your skills to the design and implementation of technologies that increase the LIGO detector sensitivity and astrophysical reach, and to the development of the future interferometric detectors of the next decades. This is a highly multidisciplinary activity and your interests and passions will play a role in defining which research aspect you will focus primarily on. You will have the opportunity to apply your knowledge to many different parts and aspects of the current and future LIGO detectors, and there will be many opportunities to develop new skills and expertise.

This position is located in Pasadena, California.

LIGO Laboratory is a National Science Foundation major facility dedicated to observing the newly discovered gravitational-wave universe. Jointly operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the LIGO Laboratory operates world-leading observatories near Richland, WA and Baton Rouge, LA as well as R&D centers on the Caltech and MIT campuses. The LIGO Laboratory’s mission spans a broad and vibrant array of activities related to gravitational-wave physics and astronomy, including detector operations, R&D toward detector improvements, gravitational-wave astrophysics, observatory operations, and education and public outreach.

For more information, please visit the Laboratory website:

Essential Job Duties

  • Support the cutting-edge R&D program at the LIGO laboratory aimed at improving the coating thermal-noise-limited sensitivity of the current and future detectors, by developing and testing new materials and processes, in collaboration with scientists and engineers in the LIGO Laboratory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
  • Design, construct and operate experiments and measurement systems to test new coatings and ideas for current and future gravitational-wave instruments.
  • Initiate or collaborate in writing research papers and technical presentations at national and international conferences.
  • This position requires occasional travel to other LIGO installations and collaborating institutions in Livingston, Louisiana, Hanford, Washington, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and possibly internationally. 
  • Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications

  • A PhD in Physics, Engineering, Optics, or related experimental field.
  • A minimum of 3 years of experience as an experimental physicist or equivalent laboratory setting, working on coatings-related experimental research topics.
  • Experience in analyzing measurements of coating mechanical losses, in modeling thermal noise and mechanical losses in multilayer optical coatings, and in finite element analysis.
  • Experience with scientific computations and modeling using MATLAB, python or similar tools.
  • Possess good verbal and written communication skills, a team attitude, and a high degree of professional discipline.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience with the design and characterization of optical coatings, in particular for gravitational-wave interferometric detectors.
  • Proficiency with scientific computation, simulation and data analysis in python or equivalent language.

Required Documents

  • Cover Letter and Resume.
  • Please also provide up to 5 recent publications that highlight your contribution to research topics that are relevant for this position.


Caltech is more than a world-renowned science and engineering research and education institution, it is a community—a community of curious and passionate individuals who collaborate to understand and solve complex scientific and societal challenges. We seek the best and brightest talent to join our workforce and become members of our community. We look for talented individuals who possess a diverse set of skills and experience to match the vast career opportunities available on campus, including researchers, finance specialists, fundraisers, food service workers, administrative associates, and information technology professionals, just to name a few.

Beyond the campus in Pasadena, California, Caltech manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading U.S. center for the robotic exploration of the solar system, and together we are Pasadena's largest employer. Caltech's reach extends globally with locations outside Pasadena in Louisiana, Washington, Hawaii, and Switzerland. We offer a collaborative and dynamic work environment, exceptional career development opportunities, competitive pay programs, great benefits, and an inclusive culture where you will have the opportunity to participate in many campus programs and activities.

If you're ready to put your unique skills and knowledge to use in an environment that fosters and values professional and personal growth, we invite you to discover the many exciting careers and benefits available here at Caltech.

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