National Gallery of Art - RESOURCES

Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship Position in Science and Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in conjunction with George Washington University, is offering the opportunity to join an interdisciplinary team consisting of image scientists, spectroscopists, conservation scientists, and conservators to develop novel remote sensing/imaging spectroscopy cameras and spectral imaging algorithms for identification and mapping of artists’ materials in support of the fields of art conservation and art history.

A new program at the National Science Foundation in Cultural Heritage Science funds this two-year position.  The goal is to build, optimize, and validate a portable, high-sensitivity imaging system operating in the reflective near-infrared (1000 to 2500 nm) range. Its primary application will be to map and identify pigments and paint binders.

The successful candidate will have prior experience with either or both (1) spectral imaging systems and the associated image-processing techniques and (2) a basic understanding of electronic and vibrational spectroscopy of organic and inorganic pigments.

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the experience gained from this position will also be applicable in the biomedical, industrial, and earth science fields.  The appointment will be made jointly between the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at George Washington University and the Scientific Research Department at the National Gallery of Art.,  The incumbent will gain experience at both locations.

Research Program in Imaging Science at the National Gallery of Art

The Gallery is developing and optimizing imaging based in-situ (non-invasive) tools to help address questions of material identification and construction methods in works of art.  The spectral range and technologies being investigated are large and include:

  • High spatial resolution hyperspectral and multispectral infrared imaging to improve visualizing preparatory sketches and compositional paint changes in paintings.  See “Visible and Infrared Reflectance Imaging Spectroscopy of Paintings: Pigment Mapping and Improved Infrared Reflectography,” Optics for Arts, Architecture, and Archaeology II, Proceedings of the SPIE 7391 (2009),  739103-739103-8.

  • Reflectance and luminescence imaging spectroscopy in the visible to infrared to help in identifying and mapping artist pigments and materials such as binders. See “Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectroscopy of Picasso's Harlequin Musician: Mapping and Identification of Artist Materials in Situ,”,Applied Spectroscopy 64 (2010) 6, 584.

  • Spectral and spatial image processing algorithms. See “Towards Automatic Registration,” Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art II, Proceedings of the SPIE 7869 (2011).

The results of these techniques are being evaluated by comparison to results obtained from more traditional analytical methods carried out by scientists in the Gallery’s well-equipped Scientific Research Department. The Gallery has several high performance visible and infrared monochrome and scanning hyperspectral cameras, a 2-D mechanical scanner, a diffuse reflectance optical fiber visible-to-infrared spectrometer, as well as transmission and luminescence spectrometers.  There is also an active collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science  at George Washington University in the area of advanced image processing. 


The fellow will receive training in image science, spectroscopy, and optical systems engineering as well as in the use of imaging spectroscopy in conservation science.

Responsibilites of the Fellow

The fellow will help in the designing, constructing, and testing of hyperspectral instrumentation and will develop analytical procedures and image processing tools as previously noted.  The fellow will produce written reports, present research results at scientific and conservation meetings, and publish at least one paper in a scholarly scientific journal.


Candidates should have a PhD in one of the physical sciences or electrical engineering. The degree must have been obtained within the last three years. Candidates must be familiar with relevant scientific methods and instrumentation.

Experience is required in some or all of the following:

  • Scientific programming (MATLAB, C, LabVIEW)

  • Design, construction, evaluation of novel instrumentation and analysis of data

  • Signal/image processing

A strong interest in art conservation is required. English-language skills and a proven record of research and writing ability are required. Fellowships are awarded without regard to age, sex, nationality, or race. Finalists who are not United States citizens must provide proof of their own health insurance coverage before starting the position.


Prospective applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, a CV, and a graduate-school transcript.  Candidates should also submit a letter expressing why they are interested in the position and how their unique background makes them suitable for the fellowship. Candidates should indicate clearly in the cover letter that they are applying for the NSF Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship.  All applications must be submitted by February 1, 2012. Selection of a candidate is expected to be made by March 1, 2012.

Applications should be addressed to:

Michael Skalka, Conservation Administrator
Conservation Division, DCL
National Gallery of Art
2000B South Club Drive
Landover, Maryland 20785