Job: GPGPU Real-Time Big Data Scientist

ASTRON, the Netherlands eScience Center, and the University of Amsterdam have started ALERT, the Apertif Lofar Exploration of the Radio Transient Sky. ALERT aims to identify the highly compact astrophysical explosions powering Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). To accomplish this challenging goal, we recently built a dedicated GPU supercomputer of world Top 100 class. It reduces, in real-time, the staggering data rate of 4 Tbps. That is more than the entire internet in The Netherlands. Are you interested in the challenge to wrangle more data than an entire country?

Do you want to work at an international scientific institute that combines world-leading research in radio astronomy, with state-of-the art observational and supercomputing facilities, all in a single stimulating work enviroment? Would you like to be part of a dynamic team mixing astronomers, software developers, computer scientists and hardware engineers? If this description sounds interesting, we have an immediate opening for a Real-Time Big Data Scientist

Job description

You will become part of the ALERT team, based at ASTRON and The University of Amsterdam. We consist of 4 PhD students, 4 post-docs, 3 firmware engineers, 2 eScience research engineers, and a dozen instrumentation and astronomy staff members, led by Dr Joeri van Leeuwen. We work in close collaboration with the Netherlands eScience Center.

In this team, you will help set up the acceleration and/or access to the ALERT survey. For the Acceleration side, you could lead the effort to implement and further develop GPU-accelerated pulsar periodicity searches. On the Access side, you would establish the system that interfaces the real-time results from our survey to the outside world, through active alerts, and through public access to all survey data.

Specific tasks will include deployment and optimization of existing open-source code for GPU astronomy to the ALERT supercomputer; developing new software for the ALERT telescope data rate, which is almost unparalleled in the world; and/or setting up the high-level survey scheduling software required to run this multi-year program. This work will be done in close collaboration with a dedicated team of IT specialists, developers, computer scientists and astronomers.

Job requirements:


  • A PhD in astronomy or astrophysics, or an MSc degree in computer science (or related technical discipline)
  • Solid Python, C and/or C++ skills; experience with CUDA or OpenCL is a plus
  • Familiarity with parallel and distributed computing (clusters, Grid, cloud, etc.) or
  • Experience with radio astronomy and/or instrumentation, and publishing results.
  • Good planning and organizational skills
  • Good communications skills in English, and a team player

The offer

  • An initial contract for two years, plus a one-year extension given good performance
  • A position with instrumentation leadership potential, in a cutting-edge astronomy survey
  • Time and support for the pursuit of own, independent research in astronomy or computer science
  • The opportunity to co-supervise PhD students
  • A pleasant and challenging work environment, plus a generous package of benefits including collective health insurance, pension accrual, and several weeks of annual paid vacation.
  • Flexible conditions of employment, tailored to your personal situation
  • Generous relocation expenses and support with finding accommodation


The organization

ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, is located just outside Dwingeloo in Drenthe. Its mission is to make discoveries in radio astronomy happen via the development of novel and innovative technologies, the operation of world-class radio astronomy facilities, and the pursuit of fundamental astronomical research. ASTRON hosts a vibrant research environment with strong technical expertise and influence in the new generation of emerging radio facilities. ASTRON currently develops and operates LOFAR, a new generation low-frequency multi- field aperture array telescope. ASTRON also operates the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) and is developing Apertif (APERture Tile in Focus), a phased array feed upgrade currently being commissioned at the WSRT that will significantly expand its field of view and enable ALERT, the new, deep pulsar/FRB survey of the northern hemisphere. As the NL national radio astronomy institute, ASTRON also plays a leading role in several of the consortia contributing to the scientific and technical design of the SKA. ASTRON also currently hosts JIVE, the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC.

ALERT is funded by grants from the ERC, NWO, the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and the Netherlands eScience Center (NLeSC). Both ASTRON and the University of Amsterdam are world-class institutes with many top-rated groups in related fields of astrophysics, such as radio and x-ray pulsar timing, gravitational-wave detection, and high-energy astrophysics. NLeSC is the Dutch national hub for the development and application of domain overarching software and methods for the scientific community. Its core expertise covers the fields of optimized data handling, efficient computing and big-data analytics.


For more information about ASTRON look on our website and More information about this vacancy please contact Erika Timmerman, phone: +31 521 595 100 or e-mail:<>. For more information on the content of this vacancy, please contact Dr. Joeri van Leeuwen, ALERT PI, e-mail:


You can apply directly for this job (reference number 2017-07-044, title “Radio Astronomy Postdoc / Software Engineer”) via our website Applications should include a curriculum vitae and, for astronomers, a description of research interests. Please also arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to The deadline for submission is 5 January 2018. Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Internal and external recruiting will be executed in parallel.

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