Being a structure painter at Green Bank Observatory gives individuals an opportunity to see the Green Bank Telescope from a unique angle. Photo courtesy of Jill Malusky
Each summer, the Green Bank Observatory hires a special group of individuals who conquer new heights as painters of the Green Bank Telescope.
The GBO is once again putting out a call for those interested in the one-of-a-kind summer job that parallels no other.
“We’re hiring for twenty of those roles, and we’ve only filled a handful of them,” GBO public relations officer Jill Malusky said. “That’s the primary summer job we’re offering. You get a lot of special training that you wouldn’t get in a normal job, so you learn how to operate a forklift – which is pretty handy for other types of careers. You get special safety training – ropes training – because you are operating at pretty great heights.”
The painters operate underneath the dish of the telescope, inside individual bucket-like pods which are suspended under the dish. The painter has controls in the bucket to rise into the air to the portion of the telescope they are painting at the time.
“When you’re a structural painter, it’s crazy,” Malusky said. “You get to be suspended underneath one of the largest man-made structures in the world, and you’re actually painting it.”
The painting project is ongoing, as only 10 percent of the telescope is painted each year.
“That’s why it’s always ongoing because the telescope always needs to get painted, and it essentially takes ten years to paint it because you can only paint about ten percent at a time,” Malusky said.
Another benefit of the job is that it opens individuals up to the potential of future careers. As a college student, Laura Leyzorek – a county native – took a summer job as a painter and was exposed to the possibilities of careers in engineering.
“She had such a great time painting, it actually inspired her to go to WVU and study structural engineering,” Malusky said. “The next year she was an intern and maybe one day, she’ll end up being one of our engineers at the observatory. It’s kind of cool because it can be an entry level job that can introduce you to other careers at the observatory.”
Those interested in a summer painting job are directed to the careers section of the Green Bank Observatory website at greenbankobservatory.org