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Far Horizons Data Science Fellow

Adler Planetarium, Science Engagement Division
Chicago, Illinois
$60,000-$70,000 per year plus benefits
Closing date
Jun 7, 2024

Job Details

The Science Engagement Division at the Adler Planetarium (Adler) is seeking candidates for a Postdoctoral Fellowship position in the field of Data Science, with an emphasis on Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis. The Postdoctoral Fellow will carry out independent research with a focus on the analysis of light pollution image data collected by the Adler’s Far Horizons research program.

The Far Horizons program is currently doing field work using two main instrument sets designed and built at the Adler: the GONet camera system, which collects all-sky nighttime environment data in the field, and the NITELite system, which is a high altitude balloon-borne camera system that collects regional scale night-time images from the stratosphere.

These instruments are being used to help characterize and quantify the effect of nighttime light on the environment. Recent results have included a large-scale distributed transect experiment with 19 GONet cameras across 140 km to map the extended skyglow of Chicago. Data collected from NITELite missions over Indianapolis, Indiana are being used to characterize light emission by land use as well as exploring the effects of light at night on urban ecological systems. Recent examples of research partnerships include the National Park Service, UCLA, Butler University and the European Space Agency funded NEOMI project.

In collaboration with Far Horizons staff and volunteers, the Postdoctoral Fellow will be responsible for:

  • Pursuing an independent light pollution focused research program. 
  • Developing and maintaining data pipelines to process raw images from the NITELite and GONet systems into a calibrated, georeferenced, indexed dataset.
  • Creating tools to generate data products of interest from the NITELite and GONet datasets, such as calibrated image mosaics for geospatial analysis time-dependent features of light emission from image data
  • Applying advanced data analysis techniques (e.g., machine learning, image processing,, etc.) where relevant to research goals
  • Collaborating with and learning from Far Horizons DevOps volunteers to ensure the toolset meets tech-industry standards (inc. containerization, AWS deployments, etc.)
  • Mentoring undergraduate interns and high-school students in research
  • Assisting Teen Program experts in the development of Far Horizons student-facing programs

Although preferred, prior experience in the field of light pollution research is not required. 

The Postdoctoral Fellow responsibilities will be divided approximately 70% to research and 30% to outreach. The 30% outreach portion of this position will involve mentoring students in research and assisting our Teen Program experts in the development of student-facing programs built on Far Horizons content. Through the Adler’s Far Horizons program, we engage teens, undergraduate students, and adults in high-altitude balloon experiments, engineering, design, research, and complex image processing and data analysis. Far Horizons research is the foundation of our student STEM programming. As an example of the outcomes of these efforts, our teens recently helped establish the world’s largest Urban Night Sky Place through a partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. 

The Postdoctoral Fellow will work closely with the Director of Astronomy and the Far Horizons team, including volunteers and interns. The ideal candidate will be able to communicate effectively, problem-solve creatively, and work collaboratively as part of a small team. 

Required Qualifications:

  • Ph.D. degree in a technical field (data science, engineering, physics, programming, etc.) 
  • 3+ years experience carrying out a research project
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills 
  • Proficiency in writing up results for publication and presenting at conferences  
  • Affinity to mentoring students (7th - 12th grade and undergraduates) 
  • Experience with image processing and/or advanced visualization
  • Experience with data processing and data analysis 
  • Strong programming skills in Python.  
  • Demonstrated ability to adapt to and progress technical work beyond the applicant’s existing background 
  • Familiarity with software-development best practices (version control, code testing, modular development)

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Degree in field of GIS, Remote Sensing or other field dealing with image analysis
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate key technical concepts to a wide variety of audiences
  • Experience mentoring students (7th - 12th grade and undergraduates)
  • Experience in project management
  • Experience with GIS
  • Experience with Remote sensing
  • Programming skills in C/C++, R, or other languages
  • Experience contributing to open-source software


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