Recruiting for UKRI and UK SBS
Early Careers
210000V9 Requisition #


Science and Technology Facilities Council


Part of the STFC, the UKATC is the UK's national laboratory for the design and development of astronomical instrumentation. The UKATC has a rich heritage of instrumentation development for ground-based observatories as well as space facilities. It employs a broad spectrum of engineers and scientists across the full range of disciplines required for contemporary astronomy (optical design, mechanical engineering, electronics, software, systems engineering, project management). It also has an extensive track record of successfully applying techniques and technologies developed for astronomy to other sectors (e.g. earth observation/remote sensing, environmental monitoring). The UKATC develops instruments for world leading organisations, such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Space Agency (ESA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

The Applied Optics Group contributes to all stages of projects at the UKATC, from working with astronomers to define requirements, generating conceptual designs for new instrumentation, through to aligning and testing optical systems in the laboratory or even commissioning instruments at a telescope site. The Applied Optics Group is actively involved in many high-profile projects including MIRI (for the James Webb Space Telescope, JWST), MOONS (for ESO’s Very Large Telescope, VLT), HARMONI and METIS (for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, ELT) and LISA (space interferometer for gravitational wave detection for ESA). We also have an ongoing programme to develop technology for CubeSats to maximise the imaging capability of these small satellites. 

Summary of Key Duties and Responsibilities 
Within the Applied Optics Group at UKATC you will work on a number of different projects, mostly related to ground based astronomical instrumentation or space technology. These will range from small scale design studies through to large scale multinational instrumentation projects. 

  • Design and analysis of optical systems using ray tracing software, working with engineers from other fields (e.g. mechanical engineering, systems engineering) to contribute to a complete system design.
  • Laboratory testing and alignment of optical components and systems
  • Analysis of experimental and modelled data
  • Contributing to written reports and presentations.

As part of the graduate programme, it is expected that you will be enrolled with the Institute of Physics (or equivalent professional organisation) with the view of becoming a Chartered Physicist, which is a peer reviewed recognition of your competency as a physicist. 

You will work in close interaction with the other groups within UKATC including scientists, other engineering disciplines and project management. More broadly you will be part of international teams and therefore some national and international travel is expected.

You will be responsible for managing your own time across a number of projects. 

In order to apply for the role you must have: 


  • Obtained first degree bachelors or Integrated Masters, (not doctorate) in a relevant subject in either 2020, 2021 or be due to receive it in 2022
  • Expected or have achieved a 2:1 or above 
  • The right to live and work in the UK 
  • Understanding of basic optical principles 
  • Good laboratory skills 
  • Technical computing skills 
  • An interest in state-of-the-art astronomical instrumentation and methods 
  • Good communication and presentation skills (written and spoken) 
  • Ability to work collaboratively within a team both on-site, nationally and internationally 


  • Knowledge of a numerical coding language (e.g. Python, MatLab, etc.) 
  • Experience of optical design software (e.g. Zemax, Code V) 
  • Experience of designing and/or building optical instrumentation 
  • An interest in astronomy, space science and/or space technology 

About The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) 

The STFC is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation where curiosity, blue-skies thinking meets practical, application-led science and engineering. Our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world. 

As one of Europe’s largest research organisations, we’re trusted to support, enable and undertake ground-breaking projects in an outstanding diversity of fields. Through world-class facilities and people, we’re driving progressive advances in science, engineering, computing and technology. Our research seeks to understand the Universe from the largest astronomical scales to the tiniest constituents of matter, yet creates impact on a very tangible, human scale. 

For more information about STFC please visit 

You can also visit our careers site 

About UK Research Innovation (UKRI) 

UKRI is an organisation that brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Together, we build an independent organisation with a strong voice and vision ensuring the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. 

Supporting some of the world’s most exciting and challenging research projects, we develop and operate some of the most remarkable scientific facilities in the world. We are pushing the frontiers of human knowledge through fundamental research and delivering benefits for UK society and the economy through world-class research, skills and business-led innovation. 

More information can be found at  

How we support EDI in the workforce 

At UKRI, we believe that everyone has a right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be provided with equal opportunities to thrive and succeed in an environment that enables them to do so. We also value diversity of thought and experience within inclusive groups, organisations and the wider community. For further information, please visit ‘How we support EDI in the workforce’

Disability Confident Employer

As users of the disability confident scheme, we guarantee to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy/ies. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and to receive other benefits and privileges of employment. Please contact us to request accommodation. 

How to apply 

Online applications only preferred for this role. Please submit a CV and covering letter which clearly outlines how you fulfil the criteria specified along with your motivation for UKRI and the role. Ensure that the job reference number is included in the filename description of each document uploaded. Note that failure to address the above criteria or submit an application without a covering letter may result in the application not being considered. Assessment will only be based upon the content of your submitted covering letter and CV and not the ‘experience’ section of the application. 

UKRI seeks to ensure it creates and maintains a system of openness, fairness and inclusion – a collaborative, trusted environment, which is attractive to and accessible to everyone who is interested in developing their career with us. 

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