Mechanical Engineer - LIGO Laboratory

California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Salary starting at $100,000 + benefits
Closing date
4 Dec 2022

Job Details

LIGO Laboratory (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) seeks a highly motivated and skilled Mechanical Engineer to join its team. This position may be located in Caltech in Pasadena, California or at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

As a mechanical engineer with the LIGO project, this individual will play a major role in the design and construction of new high-precision instrumentation that will be used for R&D and improvements to the current and future gravitational-wave detectors. The potential scope of work includes: seismic isolation and suspensions for optical components, thermal compensation systems for interferometer optics, scattered light control and ultra-high vacuum systems. In all those cases the work is highly multidisciplinary and collaborative. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to integrate mechanical, optical, electronic and thermal analysis and design. In addition, the successful candidate will play a role in the design and integration of the feedback control systems used to operate the mechanical and optical components of the LIGO detector. They will oversee and define complex computer models and simulations to evaluate engineering concepts from inception to realization.

This Engineer will interface with a team distributed across the four locations of the LIGO Laboratory (Caltech, MIT, Hanford WA and Livingston LA). This position may be located in Caltech in Pasadena, California or at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

Essential Job Duties

  • Design and engineering of highly sophisticated scientific instruments while showing originality and initiative as well as an awareness of current and new engineering practices.
  • Perform design trade studies, and document the resultant design requirements, intent, and concepts.
  • Create 3D CAD models, applying the appropriate design rules for clearance, tolerances, stiffness, ultra-high vacuum compatibility, etc.
  • Produce engineering documents such as assembly drawings, installation drawings, service documents, and engineering test specifications. This will require coordination with other team members and working with the LIGO Laboratory configuration control and documentation systems, in particular PDMWorks.
  • Oversee and define complex computer models and simulations to evaluate engineering concepts, verify the design meets performance and interface requirements. Propose approaches and alternatives to meet research objectives.
  • Provide input to research reports and articles in international journals, present results at national and international conferences.
  • Conduct and manage testing on prototype hardware. This includes data collection and post-processing, analysis, and documentation.
  • Lead and take part in design reviews as defined in LIGO procedures from conceptual design phase through fabrication.
  • Prepare bid packages (drawings, bill of materials, specifications) for procurement, and purchase parts and materials. This will include liaising with workshops and vendors about design, requirements, and supplies and to answer questions, evaluate alternative approaches, and assist in assuring quality.
  • Coordinate QA inspections, audits, testing and defect investigations alongside other members of the team.
  • Travel to other LIGO sites.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Basic Qualifications

  • B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, or related field.
  • 5+ years of relevant work experience (Advanced technical / scientific expertise and/or Extensive research engineering experience). Experience can be from industry, research environment, Ph.D. degree, M.S. degree, or a combination of these.
  • Finite Element Analysis using ANSYS, COMSOL, or equivalent software.
  • Hands-on work in a laboratory setting, and proficiency in the use of common hand tools and inspection equipment.
  • Excellent organization and time management skills.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, or related field.
  • Quality control and assurance of machined parts. This includes on-site inspections, audits, and material discrepancy review.
  • MATLAB (or equivalent) for data analysis and simulation.
  • Knowledge of: industry practices and standards used in drafting, modeling and design development/revision; geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, including drawing standard ANSI Y14.5M – 1994; SolidWorks (at least 1 year).
  • Experience and engineering expertise in precision opto-mechanics design and construction, ultra-high vacuum systems and low-noise, seismic and vibration isolation systems.
  • Class 100/ISO 5 cleanroom protocols, including working in and maintaining a cleanroom environment.
  • Work effectively with cross-disciplinary teams, both in support and leadership positions. This includes the ability to take direction, work independently, and work in a team environment.

Required Documents

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter explaining your interest in LIGO's work and highlighting your relevant experience.


Caltech is more than a world-renowned science and engineering research and education institution, it is a community—a community of curious and passionate individuals who collaborate to understand and solve complex scientific and societal challenges. We seek the best and brightest talent to join our workforce and become members of our community. We look for talented individuals who possess a diverse set of skills and experience to match the vast career opportunities available on campus, including researchers, finance specialists, fundraisers, food service workers, administrative associates, and information technology professionals, just to name a few.

Beyond the campus in Pasadena, California, Caltech manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading U.S. center for the robotic exploration of the solar system, and together we are Pasadena's largest employer. Caltech's reach extends globally with locations outside Pasadena in Louisiana, Washington, Hawaii, and Switzerland. We offer a collaborative and dynamic work environment, exceptional career development opportunities, competitive pay programs, great benefits, and an inclusive culture where you will have the opportunity to participate in many campus programs and activities.

If you're ready to put your unique skills and knowledge to use in an environment that fosters and values professional and personal growth, we invite you to discover the many exciting careers and benefits available here at Caltech.

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