Director of the University of California Observatories

June 30, 2021

Director of the University of California Observatories 

The University of California Observatories (UCO) is a Multicampus Research Unit of the University of California System. The UCO coordinates and supports researchers’ access to the suite of world-class observing and research facilities, which currently include the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, managed exclusively by UCO and owned by the UC Board of Regents, and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, managed by UC and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). On the horizon is the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Observatory, which is being developed by a consortium that includes UC, Caltech, and several international partners. UC Observatories is headquartered at UC Santa Cruz, a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. Core instrumentation laboratories are located at UC Santa Cruz and at UCLA. Nine UC campuses participate in the UCO, as do the three UC-affiliated DOE National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The next UCO Director will play a major role in shaping the future of the University’s investment in ground-based optical-infrared observatories and maintaining its global leadership in optical-infrared astronomy. Leading UCO, the Director will facilitate and advance groundbreaking work in astronomy and astrophysics. To this end, the University of California seeks a Director for UCO with a compelling vision and commitment to lead the organization in this transformative period.

The advocacy and governance responsibilities of the Director are complex.  The Director will engage with stakeholders at each of the participating UC campuses and UC national laboratories to ensure that UC Observatories’ facilities, services, and programs best reflect the community’s evolving needs and priorities. The Director may create and engage systemwide committees such as the UC Observatories Advisory Committee in order to provide advice on the strategic direction of UCO and on the strategic focus of UC’s support for optical-infrared astronomy. In addition, the Director will grow and nurture domestic and international partnerships and will serve as the UC point-person in strategic discussions on the future of astronomy research internationally. 

The UCO Director is appointed by the UC President or by designee in consultation with the President. The Director reports to the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI) in the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), who has overall responsibility for research across the UC System. The UCO Director is a Faculty Administrator position at the University of California. As such, the UCO Director shall hold a concurrent tenured faculty appointment at one of the UC campuses.

Given that the instrumentation labs remain a distinctive facet of UCO’s activities, the ideal candidate will bring a balance of experience, accomplishment, and interest among observation, theory, and application. The ideal candidate will also add sensitivity, judgment, and finesse to the ongoing efforts to fully launch the Thirty-Meter Telescope in a culturally and financially sustainable way. International distinction as a researcher and scholar in a relevant field with a scholarly record and contributions that are suitable for a tenured faculty member at a campus of the University of California. Candidates will have demonstrated substantial administrative experience leading large science projects or programs or complex organizations, including responsibility for budget management and general management of administrative, research, and technical functions. In addition, demonstrated interest in playing a leadership role in science policy at national and international levels as well as experience in developing long-term, ambitious goals for complex organizations, to include strategic visioning, planning, and implementation are essential. Success in securing external support from federal, state, corporate, or international and also (preferably) from private sources is needed. Preferred: Knowledge of astronomical instrumentation whether as a core area of expertise or secondary area of engagement.

The University of California has retained Opus Partners ( to support this recruitment. Confidential inquiries, applications, and nominations should be sent to Craig Smith, Partner, at In order to interview with the UCO search committee, candidates must formally apply via Opus Partners and must provide a resume, a cover letter, and a statement of contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Apply here.

Additional information about UCO and the Director is available at and at

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, protected veteran or disabled status, or genetic information.