Post-Doctoral Position in exoplanets direct imaging instrumentation

Applications are invited for one research assistant position (Postdoctoral fellow) at the University of Bern (Dept. of Space and Planetary Sciences) to work under the supervision of Prof. Jonas Kühn on novel instrumentation techniques for direct imaging of exoplanets. The successful applicant is expected to lead the implementation of new exoplanet imaging techniques using pixelated “Spatial Light Modulators” (SLMs) display panels. The latter can be used as “programmable focal-plane phase mask coronagraphs”, to mask the unwanted light from the host star, in order to reveal faint off-axis astrophysical sources of interest (exoplanets, circumstellar disks).

This position is part of the ERC Consolidator “RACE-GO” project (Rapid Adaptive Coronagraphy of Exoplanets from a Ground-based Observatory), which aims at investigating how SLMs could be used as “active coronagraphs” to adapt to various observing conditions, target types (binary stars, giant stars) or to implement coherent differential imaging (CDI) techniques at high-speed. The RACE-GO project team will be allocated 60 Guaranteed Time Observing (GTO) nights spread over 2 years on the new Turkish 4-m DAG Telescope, to implement, validate and scientifically exploit the approach on-sky, and the applicant is expected to technically prepare and lead the initial phase of the observing campaign.

In particular, the postdoctoral fellow will work both on instrumental aspects of adaptive coronagraphy and CDI in the optical laboratory (high-contrast imaging testbed), and will participate in the installation and on-sky commissioning of the new Programmable Liquid-crystal Active Coronagraphic exoplanet Imager for the 4-m Turkish DAG telescope (PLACID) instrument. In consequence, the applicant is expected to travel to Turkey (Erzurum province) a few times per year, and spend at least a dozen nights observing at the summit (3,100m ASL). The candidate will be able to set up his own observation program towards the end of the position, if conditions allow. Overall, she/he will also play a key role in a small team of four people, notably helping to supervise and mentor two PhD candidates in their 2nd thesis year, but also running a practical lab experiment for Physics MSc students; hence team player and teaching qualities are crucial to this position.
Requirements
A PhD degree in Physics, Astrophysics or Engineering (with specialization in astronomical instrumentation or adaptive optics), obtained within the last 2 years. Prior experience in astronomical instrumentation, observational astronomy, Python programming and/or benchtop optics is a plus.
We offer
This is initially a 1-year position, with a 2nd year extension available upon mutual agreement.

The salary starts at 90'000.- CHF/year gross salary, commensurate with experience and with 5-week paid holidays per year, according to rules of the University and Canton of Bern. Childcare allowance is available.

The University of Bern is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in its workplace, and applications from under-represented minorities are strongly encouraged.

The University of Bern is a vibrant center of space and (exo)planetary research. It leads the National Center for Competence in Research PlanetS (www.nccr-planets.ch), a Swiss research network focused on planetary science, which includes more than 130 scientists from the Universities of Bern, Geneva , Zurich and ETH Zurich. The University of Bern also hosts the Center of Space and Habitability (www.csh.unibe.ch), and is the leading house of the ESA exoplanet transit satellite CHEOPS. The city of Bern offers an excellent living environment, with its 12th-century UNESCO world heritage old town within close vicinity of the Swiss Alps, and is consistently ranked as one of the world's best city for quality of living (e.g. Top 15 in Mercer survey).
Applications
The following application materials should be sent as a single pdf file to jonas.kuehn@unibe.ch:

• A motivation letter including contact details, information on skills and previous experience, and the names of 2-3 references/referees (max. 3 pages).
• Curriculum vitae (max. 2 pages), plus a list of publications (not included in page count).
• Academic transcripts of PhD and MSc grades.

Two to three letters of recommendation should be sent directly to Prof. Kuhn by the referees themselves, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the letters are sent on due date.

Deadline to apply: August 15, 2024, for full consideration, then until the position is filled.


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