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Job Title:
Computer Engineer, IS-0854, Grade 12; $88,850 - $115,510 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   Open to all qualified candidates eligible to work in the United States.

Note: First consideration may be made after 14 days of the opening date of this vacancy.


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory asks the big science questions:

What do black holes look like?

How do stars and planets form and evolve?

Does life exist outside the solar system? 

Engineers work collaboratively with scientists to develop instrumentation that will get us closer to answering these questions. From world-wide telescope arrays that can image black holes to space missions studying solar emissions, this is truly a fantastic place to work. The position is in Cambridge Mass.


PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: The Computer Engineer (Software) will contribute to the software capabilities of Central Engineering, bring those best practices to all projects, and onboard and mentor junior engineers. The incumbent will need to be a computer/software architect as well as a developer, and will be involved in multiple projects simultaneously spanning a range of computer engineering needs from instrumentation to data pipeline.


1. Develops and translates project requirements into software requirements and architecture/design specifications
2. Conceives, designs, codes, and debugs software for cataloging and analysis of observations of celestial bodies submitted from the global astronomy community. This includes the development of deployment, operating, and maintenance procedures and the design of performance tests.
3. Develops and debugs software for web-based monitoring of real-time systems and other software for visualizing operational and astronomical data from radio telescopes
4. Tests and debugs new and existing software at both the unit and system level
5. Collaborates with scientists and multi-disciplinary engineering staff as needed to ensure success of system development
6. Participates in regular software planning and status reporting activities
7. Contributes to continuous improvement and upkeep of Central Engineering software development best practices, including assisting with training and mentoring junior engineers
8. Performs other duties as assigned


(A) Degree: professional engineering. To be acceptable, the curriculum must: (1) be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or

(2) include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics, or electronics.
(B) Combination of education and experience--college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying professional engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering.

In addition to the Basic Requirements, applicants must have specialized experience:

One year of professional experience  equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to grade 11 level work in the Federal service within or closely related to the position being filled.  Specialized experience for this position would typically include experience delivering projects, tools, or products as part of an engineering team, developing or architecting applications using approaches such as test-driven development, continuous integration & deployment, and distributed version control such as Git. Candidates should demonstrate experience following a robust development process that includes design and code reviews, familiarity with agile development methodologies, and leadership at the subsystem level or above.

This position has a mandatory education requirement; you must furnish a copy of your transcript of college work completed (unofficial copy is acceptable) or a copy of your degree certificate. Non-submission may result in you being rated ineligible for the position.
Applicants must meet all qualification requirements by the closing date of this announcement.

Basic qualification requirements can be found at and


This position has a mandatory education requirement.

Application Procedures:  We are only accepting online applications for this position. To apply please visit USAJOBS

Conditions of Employm

You must be fully vaccinated for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine.


Have an approved Reasonable Accommodation granting an exemption from vaccine requirements. Please see additional information regarding reasonable accommodations below.  

Additional Vacancy Language Regarding COVID-19

The Smithsonian Institution has a mandate requiring all employees (federal and trust), affiliated staff (including volunteers, interns, and fellows), and the contractors who work with us to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of the employee’s duty location or work arrangement (e.g., onsite, telework, remote work, etc.), subject to such exceptions as required by law. If selected, you will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and submit documentation of proof of vaccination by November 22, 2021 or before appointment or onboarding with the Smithsonian Institution, if after November 22. The Smithsonian Institution will provide additional information regarding what information or documentation will be needed and how you can request a legally required exemption from this requirement. This requirement applies to employees, affiliated staff, contractors who are working on-site, and those teleworking in whole or in part. Limited exemptions to the Smithsonian Institution’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate will be considered on a case-by-case basis for selected candidates who inform the Smithsonian that they cannot be vaccinated because of a disability, including certain medical conditions the Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers contraindications to the vaccine, or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Additional information and instructions regarding Smithsonian’s COVID-19 mandate will be provided at the time of selection.   


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.



Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website