China has built a staggeringly large instrument in the remote southern, mountainous region of the country called the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST. The telescope measures nearly twice as large as the closest comparable facility in the world, the US-operated Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Radio telescopes use a large, parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources, such as pulsars and black holes—or even alien civilizations. The Problem is they have no one to run it.
The facility is searching for foreign talent to run the observatory as there are reportedly no qualified Chinese astronomers to run it. Advertisements have been running for the position since May but there have been no viable candidates so far. The successful candidate would earn roughly $1.2 million annually. The requirements of the job are very strict and the pool of qualified talent worldwide is very small. In fact, there is estimated to be around 40 people on the entire planet who are qualified for the role.
The applicant must have at least 20 years of previous experience in the field as well as have proven experience leading a large-scale radio telescope project. Extensive managerial experience and a high ranking position in a university are also essential qualifications.
An astronomer at Texas A&M University, Nick Suntzeff suggests that there are hardly 40 people on the planet who would qualify for the job but “But most astronomers in the United States do not like to work abroad. It was hard to get people to apply to work in La Serena, something I could never understand, considering how beautiful it is and how nice the Chilean people are,” adding, “I am sure they will find someone.”
Radio astronomy is a very small field with lesser graduates than any other astronomy disciplines and much lesser than other science fields. Suntzeff was also the lead researcher in the discovery of dark energy and is involved in the construction of optical Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile. According to him, a high salary is not enough for the scientists who wish to join exciting graduate programs and remain at the latest of technology research.