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CfAI vacancies

Job opportunities will be posted here as they appear.

Assistant/Associate Professor

Salary Range Grade 8/9:  £57,696 - £64,914
Contract Duration: Permanent

The Centre for Advanced Instrumentation at Durham University is devoted to the development of cutting-edge instrumentation to answer the most challenging scientific questions. We have a 40-year history of developing instruments for the largest optical telescopes in the world, and recently taking major roles in eg HARMONI, BlueMUSE. We are particularly eager to hear from applicants with a focus on instrumentation for ground-based or space-based telescopes as part of larger collaborative projects.

Durham University has a permanent Assistant/Associate Professor position open in the Department of Physics in the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation (CfAI). We are looking for someone with:

  • a strong track record of research and/or instrument development with a focus on the design and development of novel instrumentation for astronomy.
  • the ability to develop an independent research program, publish world-class research with a focus on quality in high impact journals, and have the potential to engage with industrial partners.
  • experience and willingness to contribute to the development and delivery of high-quality research-led teaching that produces a supportive learning environment which enables undergraduate and postgraduate students to achieve their full potential. 
  • the willingness to engage with other academics and researchers in the group, department and University to develop and undertake cross-disciplinary research.

As a member of the CfAI you’ll be joining a team of about 70 researchers, engineers and students that develop and using cutting edge instrumentation across a wide range of scientific disciplines including astronomy, optical communications, quantum detectors and fusion diagnostics. Some of the key benefits you’ll get from building your research group in Durham are:

  • Access to our highly experienced optical, mechanical, electronic and software engineering teams to support your instrumentation research.
  • Exposure to several high-profile astronomical instruments for major observatories, which you would be welcome to contribute to in a scientific or technical leadership role.
  • The departmental mechanical and electronic workshops.
  • Access to both the group computing resources and the larger university supercomputing facility to support your research.
  • Space in our optical laboratories.

This is a permanent academic position, and so in addition to your research activities you will be required to contribute to the teaching and post-graduate student supervision in the Department of Physics which will take up to approximately 50% of your time, but this will be phased in over 2-3 years.

We hope to hold interviews in mid-September for the position to start in the 2024 academic year.

For informal enquiries please contact John Girkin ( All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. For full details of the position and how to apply, please visit the University’s jobs portal here (search for position number 24000614).

Closing date for applications is 29th July 2024 @ 11:59 PM (UK time)


Studentship opportunity

Project Title: Developing the Next Generation of Deployable Telescopes
Supervisory Team: Dr Cyril Bourgenot and Dr Steven Knox
Project description:
The successful launch, in-orbit alignment, and operation of the James Webb Space Telescope have demonstrated a bright future for in-orbit deployable telescopes. Considering that launch costs scale with spacecraft mass and volume, an optical payload with deployable optics and a telescope becomes an attractive concept to benefit from lower launch platform costs without compromising on the telescope aperture size. A space telescope equipped with a deployable primary mirror can, in principle, use actuated individual segments to recreate a larger synthetic aperture than the launch vehicle size, enabling higher spatial resolution than a non-deployable telescope would deliver.
Efforts are now being made to adapt this principle to smaller, more cost-effective platforms. One challenge is the phasing of the segments to ensure they work constructively to recreate a synthetic aperture at a level of a fraction of a wavelength. Another challenge lies in the opto-mechanical design, ensuring no stress is applied to the segments, so they provide optimal image quality after deployment.
This PhD project, in collaboration with Durham University and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), aims to explore novel deployable concepts from existing telescope designs developed by SSTL. Applications are anticipated in Earth observation, space situational awareness, free-space optical communications, and space astronomy. The most exciting concepts will be prototyped and tested, potentially leading to a future mission.
We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in optical engineering, physics, or photonics. You will join a cutting-edge research group in optical instrumentation at the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation at Durham University and work in cooperation with a leading industry in small satellite technology. The project will benefit from our state-of-the-art space optics manufacturing capabilities, cleanroom, and space qualification facilities. The role is based at Durham University main campus but also at the NetPark Research Institute located in Sedgefield) and will involve temporary placements at SSTL.


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