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Job Title:
Division Administrator, IS-301, Grade 14; $130,929 to $170,205 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:


AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   This position is open to all qualified candidates. This vacancy position is open until filled.

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

INTRODUCTION:  The Floating Division Administrator (DA) will be permanently located in the Director’s Office of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). SAO, with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO), comprises the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) | Harvard & Smithsonian.

PURPOSE OF THE POSITION The purpose of the position is to serve as manager, on a temporary as-needed basis, for all the non-scientific aspects of any of the SAO’s Divisions, Centers, or Technical Groups [hereafter referred to as Stakeholder(s)] and specifically to administer sponsored projects, human resources, and financial functions; supervise administrative staff; provide effective administrative liaison within SAO and to HCO; and support the Division Chairs (DC) or lead PIs and other Observatory senior management in long-range planning and special projects as assigned. The incumbent is responsible for developing, coordinating, and maintaining a comprehensive system of administrative and financial staff services, including contract administration, accounting/budgeting/forecasting, management and program analysis, evaluation of programs, proposal preparation, procurement, and personnel administration. The Division Administrator is expected to create an atmosphere in which scientific research can thrive by understanding the needs of the scientific staff and working cooperatively, efficiently, and effectively with staff across SAO.     

MAJOR DUTIES:                                                                      

1. Serve as a senior-level administrator in all aspects of non-scientific administration, including:

  • Support proposals and projects for near- and long-term division planning, including staffing, funding, space, and other resource requirements.
  • When assigned to a given Stakeholder, the individual will manage all aspects of the Stakeholder's administration for weeks to months.
  • In some cases, the incumbent will be asked to establish the administrative structure for emerging initiatives and manage the transition to a permanent staff.
  • Coordinates with SAO, HCO management, and administrative staff to optimize and streamline Division operations.

2. Manages all aspects of the stakeholders’ internally and externally funded sponsored project activities.

  • Plans and develops the process for proposals to external funding agencies.
  • Maintains cognizance of the proposal and award administration requirements of relevant funding agencies such as NSF and NASA to serve as an expert resource to Division scientists.
  • Advises PIs in developing project budgets and schedules and ensures adherence to schedules.
  • Serves as liaison with internal stakeholders and collaborates with external organizations to coordinate proposal preparation and award administration and with funding agencies’ program staff as necessary.
  • Coordinates proposal preparation. Prepares budgets and related justifications and ensures that all internal review documentation requirements and deadlines for submission are satisfied.
  • Administers awards. Manages budgets, approves the expenditure of funds in all categories, develops monthly forecasts, and prepares and submits financial portions of required reports.
  • Uses SAO’s enterprise Earned Value Management (EVM) software tools to develop and/or maintain project schedules, develop cost estimates, and generate project status reports for instrument development projects as required.
  • Responsible for managing complex under-recovery and cost-sharing. 

3. Full responsibility for the Stakeholder's budget's practical and technical aspects. 

  • Restructures budget allocations or work plans in response to changing situations, including changes in Divisional scientific priorities or the availability or timing of funding, varying costs for equipment, supplies, or services, etc.
  • Develop processes, procedures, and associated data management organization to implement sound administrative practices. The individual will draft financial plans, projections, and analyses for review by key stakeholders.
  • Establishes and maintains controls to monitor expenses, authorizes all expenditures, and conducts regular and thorough reconciliation of planned to actuals for salary, services, travel, procurements, and subcontracts.
  • Collects and responds to advancement staff requests supporting donor relations, foundation proposals, and other similar requests.
  • As requested, develops the plan and prepares the annual research and Division operations proposals for Smithsonian Federal and Trust Funds, formulating, justifying, and executing both long- and short-range budgets independently.

4. Oversees the Stakeholder’s human resources administration.

  • Participates with the Division Chair and Principal Investigators in developing short and long-range human resource needs for the Division and individual projects. Maintains extensive knowledge of personnel policies and procedures to advise Division staff, supervisors, and the Division Chair on personnel and employee relations issues.
  • Interview, hire, train, supervise, and manage administrative and support staff.
  • Provide counsel and advise senior leadership and staff on human resources matters, including personnel policy interpretation and administration, performance management, compensation, employee relations, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion).
  • Coordinates all personnel-related activities, including recruitment, visas, relocation, performance management, promotions, salary increases and awards, training, and office and lab space allocation.
  • Composes position descriptions for new positions and/or promotions. Coordinates submission of promotion recommendations.
  • Provides guidance to staff and supervisors in writing or updating performance plans. Ensures that all Institutional requirements and deadlines for performance management are met.
  • Tracks and processes paperwork associated with early career professionals, from interns through their postdoctoral research appointments.

5. Ensures the smooth administrative functioning of the Stakeholder's activities.

  • Serves as an information source to scientific staff on administrative issues.
  • Evaluate, recommend, and implement improvements to administrative procedures.
  • Supervises, reviews tasks, sets priorities, and establishes and distributes workload to administrative support staff. 
  • Supports the scientific staff in administrative management roles, including administrative councils or committees.

6. Serves as a project manager for ongoing initiatives with responsibility for implementing major projects to change or enhance business practices, processes, and systems at the SAO.

7. Performs other related tasks and participates in special projects as requested by the Division Chair or SAO senior management, including providing support in departments as time allows and the needs arise.

QUALIFICATIONS: You must have one year of specialized experience that is equivalent to at least the GS-13 level in the Federal government performing the following duties: developing, coordinating and maintaining an extensive system of administrative and financial staff services, including budget administration, financial management and program analysis, evaluation of programs, proposal preparation, contracting and procurement, and personnel administration.

Required Documents:  In order to receive consideration applicants must submit all of the following:

  • Resume/CV
  • Cover letter

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

Conditions of Employment: 

  • Successful completion of a pre-employment background investigation.                                
  • A one-year probationary period is required.   
  • Must participate in Direct Deposit/Electronic Funds for salary payment 
  • Incumbent will be required to file a financial disclosure statement

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

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