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Post-Doctoral Research Associate: JWST Observations of Ices During Star Formation

Unit :  Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Salary :  £36,333 or up to £38,474 (dependent on previous experience)
Location :  Milton Keynes
Please quote reference :  20928
Full-time, Permanent
Closing Date :  30 June, 2023 - 12:00

The role 

The School of Physical Sciences at the Open University, UK, invites applications for a 3-year fixed-term postdoctoral researcher in Observational Astronomy. The postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) will be involved in the preparation, reduction, analysis, exploitation, and dissemination of JWST observational data from a variety of cycle 1 / 2 GT GO and ERS programmes, all of which focus on observing interstellar ices in pre-stellar phases of star-formation. The post is part of the STFC-funded project “The JWST IceAge: Chemical Evolution of Ices During Star Formation” in the OU Astrochemistry Group with Dr Helen Jane Fraser and Dr Hugh Dickinson. The overarching aim of this work is to unveil the link between solid-state ice chemistry, and the gas and dust tracers of star-formation, by connecting ice formation, ice evolution and ice destruction to the astrophysical environment in pre- and proto-stellar cores.

You will be involved in the reduction, analysis, exploitation, and dissemination of JWST observational data focusing on observing interstellar ices in pre-stellar phases of star-formation. You will be expected to lead the day-to-day data reduction, data analysis and resulting scientific publications. By exploiting existing cycle 1 GT GO and ERS JWST data, you will couple NIRCam-WFSS, NIRSpec-MSA and MIRI-MRS spectroscopic ice observations with laboratory ice spectra, and you will determine ice abundances and map the distribution of H2O, CO, CO2, and CH3OH ices at unprecedented spatial and spectral resolution. You will combine these ice-maps with sub-mm gas-phase and dust observations of the same pre-stellar cores, to gain an astrochemical understanding of the formation, evolution and destruction of ice in these regions.

You will have opportunities to disseminate your work at major national and international conferences, as well as working with international collaborators, particularly in JPL, Leiden Observatory, University of Hawaii, and University of Marseille. You will be expected to develop your JWST observing skills, and submit your own PI-led observing proposals to major facilities (i.e. JWST, VLT, ALMA, IRAM, JCMT) to develop your research independence, alongside delivering the primary goals of this project.

Skills and Experience

  • You will hold a PhD in Astronomy, Astrochemistry or a closely related field (e.g. Physics or Chemistry) .
  • You will have prior experience working with (at least) one of the following observational techniques: IR astronomy (imaging or spectroscopy); sub-mm astronomy; slit-less spectroscopy; photometry.
  • You will be able to evidence extensive skills in python programming for scientific data processing and analysis, using local and HPC machines, as well as experience designing and executing astronomical observations on major telescopes.
  • You will also have excellent communication skills and be able to evidence strong teamwork in scientific or engineering projects, as well as demonstrating an emerging track record of peer-reviewed publications in international scientific journals.

The full summary of duties and skills required for the role can be found within the Job Description.

If you would like to discuss the application, or recruitment process, before making an application please contact the Resourcing Hub on 01908 655544, or email:, quoting the reference VRF 20928.

What you get in return

We have a strong commitment to providing training and development in and beyond your current role. This includes thorough induction into the organisation and regular reviews of your training and development needs.

Benefits include a supportive and friendly working environment, 33 days holiday per annum pro rata plus Bank Holidays and Christmas closure days and an attractive pension proposition.

Colleagues wellbeing and development is at the forefront of our culture. We embrace diversity and recognise and reward our employees for the fantastic work they do.  For more information about our people and wellbeing focus, please contact the Resourcing Hub.

How to apply

Unless otherwise stated in the advert, all applications are completed online following the instructions below and clicking the “Apply Now” link.

To apply for this role please submit the following:

  • CV
  • Personal statement, up to 1,000 words, you should set out in your statement why you’re interested in this role and provide examples of where your skills and experience meet the required competencies for this role as detailed in the job and person specification.

The above documents will need to be submitted as one attachment during the application process, please include the personal statement followed by the CV in this document.

The above documents will need to be submitted as one attachment during the application process, please include the personal statement followed by the CV in this document.

To ensure your file is uploaded to our system correctly, please make sure your document is saved with the following file name as appropriate to the vacancy you are applying for: 20928, surname, first initial.

You will need to have your documents ready ahead of submitting the electronic application.


Remember to attach your CV and Cover Letter as ONE DOCUMENT.  

You will receive updates regarding your application from Please ensure this email address is added to your list of trusted senders. Please also keep an eye on your junk folder to ensure you do not miss any important updates regarding this role. 

You can view your application communications on the Candidate portal.

Please note: If you have not heard from us within 2 weeks of the application closing date, please assume that on this occasion you have not been selected for interview, however we thank you for your interest in The Open University and encourage you to apply for future positions.  

Find out more about us and our mission by watching this short video (you will be taken to YouTube by clicking this link). 

Closing date:  30 June 2023 by 12 noon

Interview Dates: Interviews will be held in person at our Milton Keynes Campus w/c 17 July 2023. Applicants shortlisted for interview will be expected to deliver a 30 minute presentation of their research as part of the interview process.

The Open University is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion which is reflected in our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We aim to foster a diverse and inclusive environment so that all in our OU community can reach their potential.  We recognise that different people bring different perspectives, ideas, knowledge, and culture, and that this difference brings great strength.  We strive to recruit, retain and develop the careers of a diverse pool of students and staff, and particularly encourage applications from all underrepresented groups. We also aspire to make The Open University a supportive workplace for all through our policies, services and staff networks.

Job related information : 

File 20928 Job Description.docx66.78 KB

Posting Date :  25 May, 2023 - 10:45

Contact us

If you have any queries or questions about the recruitment process, or regarding your application, please contact:

If you have any feedback regarding the recruitment process, please contact the Senior Resourcing Account Manager who will look into the matter.

Senior Resourcing Account Manager,
Resourcing Hub,
The Open University,
Walton Hall,
Milton Keynes,