Technical Manager (Astronomy IT research support)

County of Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £40,322
Jun 17, 2020
Jul 17, 2020
Contract Type
Full Time
Job Type
The Department and role purpose

The Department of Physics at Durham University is one of the top UK Physics departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Ranked in the top 10 in REF2014 in terms of grade point average, 96% of Durham Physics research was considered either to be of "internationally excellent quality" or "world leading".

Durham University is one of the UK's leading centres for astronomical research, hosting world-class activities in extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, encompassing the formation and evolution of black holes, galaxies, clusters, and large-scale structure. The core mission of the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy (CEA) and the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) is to extend society's knowledge and understanding of the Universe we inhabit. Research within the CEA makes extensive use of the world's forefront observational facilities while the ICC develops advanced supercomputer models of galaxy and structure formation. The new Ogden Centre West (OCW) building provides a rich research environment to enhance productivity by fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration between the observational, theoretical and instrumentation aspects of astronomy.

The post holder will be an experienced systems manager with expertise across a wide range of computing software and hardware platforms. They will take responsibility for ensuring that the wide variety of computing and audio-visual systems from the group-wide facilities to the computer systems exploited by individual users is fully aligned with the needs of the astronomy and cosmology researchers, and ensuring that the CEA and ICC are, wherever possible, at the forefront in the use of relevant technological innovations that further their research objectives.

Core responsibilities:

• Recognised professional systems manager and computing service specialist.

• Implement changes to the design and development of service processes, techniques and deliverables for one or more service strands or project streams.

• Provide specialist expertise and support with complexity of data and information from multiple sources, providing interpretation and analysis.

• Contribute to development of operational service activities to ensure excellence in the stakeholder experience.

• Collect and analyse stakeholder feedback to help define needs and requirements and the design and planning of services.

• Provide input to the design and development of IT infrastructure and computing service processes, techniques and deliverables, ensuring that the research group is, wherever possible, at the forefront in the use of relevant technological innovations that further the research group's objectives.

• Contribute to establishing technical specification and procurement of hardware and software, assisting with tendering processes as necessary.

• Train and support users and stakeholders undertaking research projects, workshops, and exhibitions.

• Internal and external relationship development and partnership working, networking and participation to engage and influence future services and the University reputation.

• Identify and design activities to meet learning objectives and outcomes.

• Deliver training, teaching and/or development delivery for stakeholders.

• Maintain an awareness of current policy for University business goals such as widening participation and access, and provision of advice using specialist knowledge.

• Contribute to and lead business meetings, working groups and sub-committees at departmental and operational service levels.

• Responsible for managing small budgets for consumables and some capital items, keeping records and processing invoices.

Role responsibilities:

• Provide day-to-day management for the delivery of a high-quality technical audio-visual and computing service to ensure research goals are met.

• Collaborate with internal and external academics, industry and technical specialists to support the delivery of research projects.

• Take responsibility for the design, set-up, maintenance and integrity of the IT infrastructure and facilities within OCW liaising with other groups in Physics and CIS as appropriate.

• Provide specialist technical problem-solving advice to inform activity and project planning, continuous improvement and service development.

• Provide guidance and advice on University health and safety and compliance issues in specialist area.

• Apply maintenance schedules to ensure the smooth, safe and efficient use of technology, facilities and services for research activities based around computing.

• Supervise service users during practical and test teaching, learning and research work activities, projects, and self-directed sessions.

• Provide support to ensure the delivery of undergraduate and post graduate teaching and learning activities, and income generation where appropriate.

• Develop, modify and optimise protocols and methodologies.

• Contribute to the planning, design and delivery of research outputs and prepare innovative research proposals.

• Contribute to promotional events and conferences.

• Liaise closely with CIS responding to requests for information and convey user's needs to internal suppliers.

• Design, build and maintain complex, specialist research software and hardware computing systems as required by users.

• Take responsibility for monitoring and updating risk assessments and safety procedures, providing guidance to others where necessary.

• Record, monitor and collate information, analyse patterns and trends as part of research activities.

• Provide advice on digital tools and infrastructure to ensure an appropriate pedagogical approach to developing world class research environment.

• Any other reasonable duties.

Specific role requirements:

• Work evenings and weekends, as business demands.

• Participate in the call-out rota, assessing and managing emergency call requests, outside of normal working hours.

• Attend all training and development, as required.Person specification - skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience required


1. Excellent oral and written communication skills and the ability to develop excellent working relationships both internally and externally

2. Proven IT skills, including use of Microsoft Office.

3. Educated to degree level (or equivalent experience).

4. Experience of being able to network effectively and develop strong and productive working relationships.

5. Ability to solve problems and resolve issues, plan solutions and make pragmatic decisions.

6. Expert knowledge and expertise in one or more areas of technical specialism, and the application of skills to create, build, construct and realise new and innovative resources, equipment and research outputs.

7. Demonstrable ability to teach or train others with specific technical skills.


8. Relevant industry and professional recognition and certification of achievement of skills and knowledge.

9. Experience of providing specialist advice and guidance to a range of customers and colleagues, including more senior colleagues.

10. Knowledge and experience of ensuring compliance with regulatory and organisational policy and guidelines, including health and safety.