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Job Title:
Program Manager, IS-340-15; $154,007 - $183,500 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.

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

INTRODUCTION:  The Center for Astrophysics/Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) is a joint institution connecting the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). The CfA is a diverse astrophysical institution at which more than 800 scientists are engaged in a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and earth and space sciences. 

The Program Manager (PM) position supports projects within the Giant Magellan Telescope Program Office (GMT-PO), which is responsible for a large portfolio of ground- and space-based instrumentation projects. The PM will provide a broad mix of advanced project, business, and technical management expertise to the development of astronomical instrumentation through all phases of an instrument project lifecycle, from concept definition through commissioning.  The work of the position requires close coordination with multiple internal and external stakeholders, including senior management, scientists, engineers, technical and administrative staff, as well as staff at all levels of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO), and national and international collaborating organizations and industrial contractors.

PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: The purpose of the position is to provide overall program direction and technical leadership to the development of novel ground-based scientific instruments for astronomical and astrophysical data collection, in particular to SAO’s instrumentation projects for the next generation Giant Magellan Telescope, but also to the development of new or upgraded instruments for existing telescopes.  The PM is expected to contribute to SAO broadly by supporting the PMO to establish and build new program management strategies.


1. Facilitates the day to day running of assigned GMT projects as follows: Works with Project Scientists and Project Engineers to provide direction to project staff to ensure tasks, procurements, and actions arc progressing as planned. Maintains and tracks action and risk registers. Works with project staff and subcontractors to update and status the project schedule. Organizes and runs project meetings and manages preparations for milestone reviews. Acts as the point of contact and manager of contracts with industry subcontractors. Schedules and runs progress meetings with industry subcontractors of major assemblies as needed. Coordinates with SAO administrative and management staff to ensure GMT projects are effectively supported.

2. Prepares project plans, budgets, schedules, work statements, and work breakdown structures for developing instruments for the GMT and other ground-based telescopes’ instrumentation projects. Communicates plan details and detailed expectations to SAO personnel at all levels and to subcontractors and partners. Prepares and oversees submission of periodic progress status reports required by sponsors.

3. As Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR), serves as the SAO/project representative in the management of subcontracts. Works with subcontractors and SAO contracts’ management staff to ensure subcontracts are being executed on schedule, invoices are being submitted in a timely manner, and subcontractors are paid expeditiously.

4. Brings business management acumen to the GMT projects. Works with project staff and SAO administrative personnel collecting relevant information to evaluate project progress and cost status. Analyzes schedule and cost information to generate project performance metrics. Updates project cost tools to reflect latest financial details. Documents results and reports findings to stakeholders. Develops cost justification and backup details for SAO invoices.

5. Provides management expertise in the development of SAO proposals for ground and space-based instruments for submission to the GMTO, government agencies, and private foundations. This will include, but is not limited to, working with Principal Investigators (PTs) to identify potential funding opportunities; identifying required resources and obtaining internal support for proposal preparation; developing program management plans, cost estimates, and schedules; writing programmatic sections of proposals; coordinating the contributions of other team members; and overseeing proposal preparation and submission. Leads the development of project replans, including adjustments to scope of work, budgets, and schedules as required to adapt to reductions or delays in project funding.

6. Develops and presents technical and programmatic briefings in support of proposals, functional working group meetings, status reviews, and formal program reviews. Participates in appropriate mission panels and working groups.

7. Supports the Program Management Office as requested in developing SAO-wide program improvement and management initiatives and contributes to the improvement of processes and procedures across the Observatory. Participates in reviews and meetings as needed, including design reviews of other Observatory projects. Works with project teams to identify areas where processes, both management and technical, might be improved. Develops recommendations and solutions providing guidance to the team on how improvements might be implemented effectively.

8. Performs other related duties as required.


1 year of specialized experience equivalent to the grade 14 level that should demonstrate the experience and the ability to do the work of this position.  Such experience and ability would include: professional experience in a scientific or technical discipline sufficient to provide direction to the development of scientific instrumentation that extends the state-of-the-art; mastery of the principles and practices of technical program management; professional knowledge and experience in implementing formal cost control methodologies including Earned Value Management (EVM); ability to assess risks and develop mitigation strategies on complex one-of-a-kind development projects according to known methodologies used by government sponsors such as NASA, NSF, DoD, DoE, or similar; demonstrated exceptional communication skills in order to convey complex project concepts both orally and in writing to internal and external stakeholders from scientists and engineering teams as well as sponsor review panels.

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

  • Resume/CV
  • Cover letter
  • Statement of experience and vision for the role    

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.         
  • 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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