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Optics Research Assistant for NASA's Ocean Ecology Lab
Reference #:21-3005
Open Date:1/20/2021
Location:Greenbelt, MD
US Citizenship Required:No
Job Description:
Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) is hiring an Optics Research Assistant to support the Ocean Ecology Laboratory (OEL) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the quality assurance and quality control of oceanographic optical measurements including the collection, processing, and evaluation of measurements of apparent and inherent optical properties.

The Ocean Ecology Laboratory (OEL) performs the core functions to ensure the quality of ocean color satellite data products.  Ensuring the quality of NASA’s multi-mission ocean color satellite data products and developing, refining, and evaluating the associated algorithms requires a substantial volume of high-quality field data.  The SeaWiFS Bio-optical Archive and Storage System (SeaBASS; currently provides the community-standard repository for these field measurements.  With the upcoming Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission ( launching in 2023, NASA will embark upon a new era of unprecedented global ocean and atmospheric satellite data products.  PACE will be capable of performing radiometric and polarimetric ocean and atmosphere surveys, returning a range of biogeophysical data from which properties of the ocean and atmosphere can be produced to add to other critical climate and Earth system variables.  With advanced global remote sensing capabilities, PACE’s high-quality observations will enable advanced understanding of delicate ocean ecosystems, understanding of vulnerable coastal regions, quantification of the ocean carbon cycling, unparalleled characterization of ecosystem change and function, improved characterization of clouds, aerosol properties, air and water quality, and cross-disciplinary studies of atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic processes and interactions.

Duties of the Optics Research Assistant:

  • Perform SeaBASS field data quality screening and data re-processing including quality assurance and quality control on apparent optical properties (radiometric profiles and underway measurements) and on inherent optical properties (backscatter, volume scattering function, absorption, attenuation, particle size distribution). 
  • Perform basic laboratory and instrument maintenance and organization.
  • Develop in-house capabilities and expertise in optical instrumentation and field data collections and analysis (including development of new instruments and measurement technologies) to support multi-mission science data product validation.
  • Organize instruments and logistics for, and participate in, shore-based and oceanographic fieldwork throughout the world to collect high-quality measurements of aquatic radiometry and inherent optical properties. Duties require deployment on one to two oceanographic cruises per year (10- to 35-day duration each).
  • Perform data processing from raw optical field measurements to final data products (e.g., spectral remote sensing reflectance and backscatter coefficients) along with quantification of measurement uncertainties.
  • Prepare and organize optical measurements and associated metadata into data files for submission to SeaBASS.
  • Participate in data reduction and provide support for preparation of reports and publication of results in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Contribute to systematic development, revision, testing, and dissemination of field measurement collection protocols in collaboration with experts in academia and other federal agencies.
  • Develop and document software tools required to accomplish duties.
  • Prepare reports and technical documentation on work performed.
  • Participate in scientific meetings and workshops.

The position will involve extensive interaction with OEL scientific staff and managers as well as scientists from a variety of government agencies, research institutions, and other organizations.

Applicants must be able meet requirements in a timely fashion to obtain a badge and IT credentials at NASA GSFC.

Required Qualifications:
  • BA or BS in engineering, physics, oceanography, or closely related science discipline.
  • Strong computer programming skills, including Python, MATLAB, and other programming languages and software.
  • Knowledge of electronics. 
  • Experience with optical instrumentation, especially those used to collect measurements of aquatic radiometry and inherent optical properties.
  • Good problem-solving skills; attention to detail; ability to learn quickly, to work efficiently and independently, with an ability to engage in sea-going research.
  • Previous experience working on oceanographic research cruises.
  • Competence in data extraction, reduction, and processing from specialized research instrumentation.
  • Effective oral and written communication skills.
Desired Qualifications:
  • MS in engineering, physics, oceanography or closely related discipline.
  • Demonstrated proficiency in multiple computer programming languages.
  • Experience working in a scientific environment (e.g. government, private sector, university).
  • Expertise with optical instruments used to collect measurements of aquatic radiometry and inherent optical properties and in processing data collected by those instruments.
  • Experience processing oceanographic data.
  • Proficiency with electronics and machine shop equipment. 
  • Willingness to stay abreast of advances in a range of disciplines related to the PACE mission.