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Job Title:
Astrophysicist, IS-1330, Grades 12 - 14; $93,175 - $170,205 per year
Type of Position:
Permanent - Indefinite Trust Fund Appointment
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

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

Note: Selection will be made at the grade 12, 13 or 14 grade level. If selection is made at the grade 12 or 13 level the selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the next higher level up to the grade 14, upon the recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance, qualifications of the employee and recommendation of the Professional Accomplishments Evaluation Committee ( PAEC).


This is the position of Astrophysicist in the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.  Working under the direction of a senior astrophysicist on space instrument programs for solar and heliospheric research, the employee participates in the operation of active space missions and data centers, and directs the development of new algorithms for the data processing and calibration of instruments for use in space.


  1. Participate in the design, development, and operation of space instruments for detecting and measuring thermal plasma and energetic particles. Take part in analyzing experimental data and interpreting experimental results.
  1. Participate in laboratory experiments, simulations, and studies to evaluate the design, performance, and calibration of heliophysics instruments. Develop and write test procedures, test reports, and memoranda for dissemination throughout the instrument teams in order to ensure adequate documentation of the testing process.
  1. Assist in maintaining data processing pipelines and high-level local archives of in situ data products from ongoing heliophysics missions.
  1. Formulate and conduct independent research on the dynamics of the solar corona, the solar wind and energetic particle processes using both archival and proprietary data from space- and ground-based observations. Develop hypotheses, determine the most fruitful investigations, formulate research plans and observations, and analyze and interpret data.
  1. Prepare papers presenting research results for publication in scientific journals and presentation at conferences. Participate in scientific meetings and conferences to discuss current research with other scientists. 
  1. Perform other related duties as assigned.

In addition to the above duties at the grade 13 may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Conduct a program of advanced studies in solar-stellar physics, capitalizing on SAO-led space- and ground-based experiments.
  2. Formulate an independent research program of considerable scope and complexity in areas which are new and unexplored, by locating and exploring the most fruitful avenues of research to study. Formulate research plans and hypotheses and carry them through to completion by submitting proposals, developing models, reducing and analyzing data, interpreting findings (taking full responsibility for technical accuracy), determining the applicability of findings to activities and interests of the Division and the Observatory, and publishing the conclusions.  Apply findings in the preparation of and for such future programs.
  3. Interact with members of the High Energy Solar-Stellar X-ray Group (SSXG) at SAO and other scientists and support staff for SSXG flight programs, to define and carry out scientific analyses, take part in data reduction and analysis, generate requirements and specifications for scientific programs, develop analysis plans, analyze and review scientific data and observations, and correct or enhance the data analysis system.
  4. Work with scientists at SAO and at various institutions to coordinate activities in areas such as planning observing programs and carrying out observations at various wavelengths and particle energies.
  5. Participate in the development of new instrumentation for use in ground-based and spacecraft observatories.
  6. Participate in the development of analysis software for the relevant scientific studies; develop new analysis procedures for data from SSXG flight programs and other astronomical data sources; provide input and guidance to others on enhancements and features to include in the scientific data processing and data analysis activities.

In addition to the above duties at the grade 14 include but are not limited to:

  1. Conceive of and develop new instrumentation for use in ground-based and spacecraft observatories.
  2. Direct and manage research staff, pre- and post-doctoral researchers, engineers and other research participants as required. Organize, plan, and supervise the activities of said staff.  Assign personnel to projects, set priorities, establish deadlines, monitor progress, review work, recommend and/or take disciplinary action, give advice, counsel, or instruction to team members, determine training needs and arrange for training as appropriate, interview and hire new team members, approve leave.


Basic Requirements: A) Degree in one of a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science or electronics, including course work in differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy or physics; OR

B) A combination of education and experience equivalent to A above including at least 30 semester hours of courses equivalent to a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, mathematics, and electronics with required course work as shown in A above.

In addition to meeting the basic entry qualification requirements, applicants must have specialized experience and/or directly related education in the amounts shown below:

Grade 12

A. Ph.D. degree or equivalent doctoral degree


B. A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 11 in the normal line of progression for this occupation.  This experience includes producing publications and experience conducting independent research programs in an academic or research environment; knowledge of scientific computing for astrophysical data analysis and application of analytic techniques in a research or similar environment.


C. A combination of successfully completed graduate level education and experience equivalent to the above

Grade 13:

A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the grade 12 in the normal line of progression for this occupation.  This experience includes producing publications, obtaining research funding, and conducting independent research programs in an academic or research environment that have answered important questions in the field. It also includes mastery of scientific computing, software development for astrophysical data analysis, and/or application of advanced analytic techniques in a research or similar environment.

Grade 14:

A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 13 in the normal line of progression for this occupation.  This includes experience identifying and leading major new scientific development initiatives. It also includes participating in research planning activities significant to the broader scientific community, including advisory committees, scientific workshops, conferences, etc. Experience supervising scientific, technical, and/or administrative staff is strongly desirable at this level.

Qualification requirements are derived from the Office of Personnel Management's Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at 

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

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccination requirements and its impact on your application, click on Smithsonian Institution’s Frequently Asked Questions.

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

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