Senior Research Data Scientist - Machine Learning

Job Details

Job ID: 12779

New ideas are all around us, but only a few will change the world. That’s our focus at JPL. We ask the biggest questions, then search the universe for answers—literally. We build upon ideas that have guided generations, then share our discoveries to inspire generations to come. Your mission—your opportunity—is to seek out the answers that bring us one step closer. If you’re driven to discover, create, and inspire something that lasts a lifetime and beyond, you’re ready for JPL.

Located in Pasadena, California, JPL has a campus-like environment situated on 177 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a work environment unlike any other: we inspire passion, foster innovation, build collaboration, and reward excellence.


New opportunity for Research Data Scientist with the Machine Learning & Instrument Autonomy (MLIA) Group and will report to the Group Supervisor. We employ rigorous, explainable Machine Learning (ML) methods to support scientific data investigation on the ground, inform spacecraft operations teams in a time-critical setting, infuse new capabilities into JPL’s space missions, and extend the reach of scientists beyond Earth by creating autonomous “smart” instruments that can recognize and prioritize discoveries.


We eschew “black box” ML, and often our trained models are created and examined explicitly to shed light on complex data and increase human insight rather than to automate a process. We collaborate with scientists, spacecraft operators, and engineers to identify novel ways that ML and data-driven science can help achieve their goals.  Finally, we infuse ML solutions throughout JPL and NASA to bring about a richer, deeper, and more complete understanding of our universe from the Earth to the stars. We measure the success of our applied ML systems in terms of human hours saved, additional discoveries made, or new questions that may be addressed. We also frequently act as ambassadors to science and engineering areas not yet familiar with data-driven approaches by teaching, explaining, and offering assistance to those ready to receive it in the complex and often risk/change-averse arena of space exploration.


Your responsibilities will include: 

  • Conduct R&D of ML and related technologies for application to science and engineering challenges
  • Win strategic proposals at the ROSES level (ACCESS, MDAP, PDAP, ARROW, etc.)
  • Lead delivery-minded mid-sized (3-6 members) research teams on self-won and received tasks
  • Develop and lead algorithm and data processing methods for airborne and satellite remote sensing platforms, planetary surface missions, and novel instrument designs
  • Collaborate with domain experts from a variety of natural science and space-related engineering fields
  • Publicize work through peer-reviewed conference, workshop, and journal papers
  • Facilitate the infusion of high quality, data-driven technologies throughout JPL and NASA
  • Advance the state-of-practice in all aspects of data science at JPL: ML project management, institutional policies and resources, key partnerships, best practices, quality assurance, and hype reduction.


  • Bachelor'ss degree in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Natural Science, or related technical discipline with 6 years of experience, or Master's with 4 years of related experience, or PhD with 2 years of related experience
  • Demonstrated Principle Investigator leadership and independent, novel research capabilities
  • Demonstrated success competitive proposal calls in space-related areas
  • Broad knowledge of traditional and deep ML
  • ML publication record in respected, peer reviewed venues
  • Demonstrated examples of software that are written to be maintainable and reusable
  • Experience with software engineering best practices including unit and regression testing
  • Demonstrated experience with rigorous validation and explainability
  • Strong written and oral communication skills including data visualization, presentation, and explanation of results
  • Team-building mentality, can-do attitude, and relentless commitment to project success
  • Experience with Python including NumPy / scikit-learn

Preferred Skills:

  • Optimizing and delivering algorithms to onboard, large-scale computing, or real-time critical systems
  • Working knowledge of Earth Science / Atmospheric Science / Planetary Science / Physics / Astronomy / Geology


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JPL is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to sex, race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, pregnancy or perceived pregnancy, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, protected military or veteran status or any other characteristic or condition protected by Federal, state or local law.

In addition, JPL is a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

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