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This Position Is No Longer Available

Job Title:  Astrophysicist
Agency:  Smithsonian Institution
Job Announcement Number:  14-04

This position is closed and no longer accepting online applications through USAJOBS.

The contents of the announcement can still be viewed.
$51,871.00 to $67,427.00 / Per Year
Thursday, December 05, 2013 to Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Full Time - Career/Career-Conditional.
1 vacancy in the following location:
Cambridge, MA View Map
This position is open to all qualified U.S. citizens. The Smithsonian seeks a workforce reflecting the diversity that is America.


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is part of what is arguably the largest and most diverse astrophysical institution in the world, where the staff carries out a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics and earth and space sciences. If you would like to join this exciting organization, apply today!

This is the position of Astrophysicist (Senior Observing Assistant) at the Submillimeter Array(SMA) project in the Radio and Geoastronomy Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The purpose of the position is to provide operational and technical support during routine science observations and system testing. The SMA is a radio interferometric array of antennas operating on the 13,200 ft. Mauna Kea in Hawaii.


  • Pre- and post-appointment background investigation
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Successful completion of a High Altitude Physical is required
  • Maintain an account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer
  • Males born after 12/31/59 must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Must possess a valid driver's license.


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The incumbent takes a lead role in training and overseeing the students and postdoctoral fellows who will also occasionally perform the tasks of observing assistants.

The incumbent acquires test and astronomical data and operates the array for allocated science observations.  The incumbent will be involved in analyzing data, drawing conclusions regarding the quality, reliability, and scientific content of data, and organizes and summarizes results in reports.  Data analysis tasks will also include deriving new pointing models for the antennas, deriving the antenna positions after periodic array reconfigurations, and antenna surface holography.


Assists resident astronomers in scheduling approved second-shift science projects and overseeing the execution of these projects to make optimal use of the weather conditions and array capabilities. 


Oversees the writing of observatory documentation and manuals and may prepare material for scientific publications and participating in meetings as required.  The incumbent will also participate in community outreach/educational projects.


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Basic Requirements: Degree: in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics. The course work must have included differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy and/or physics.
Combination of education and experience--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 above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

In addition to Basic Requirements above, you must have one year of specialized experience (Federal or other) that is equivalent to at least the GS-7 grade level in the Federal government performing the following duties: providing operational and technical support using science observations including engineering checkout, testing and calibration of scientific instruments.

PART-TIME OR UNPAID EXPERIENCE: Credit will be given for appropriate unpaid work on the same basis as for paid experience. Part-time experience will be credited on the basis of time actually spent in appropriate activities. To receive credit for such experience you must indicate clearly the nature of the duties and responsibilities in each position held and the average number of hours per week spent in such employment.

SUBSTITUTION OF EDUCATION FOR SPECIALIZED EXPERIENCE For Grade 9: Two full years of graduate level education in astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics.

COMBINATION OF GRADUATE EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE If you have less than the full amount of graduate education and less than the amount of experience described, but have a combination of the type of graduate education and the type of experience described, you may meet the minimum requirements for the position. The total percentage of education and experience must equal at least 100 percent to qualify under this provision.

ARE YOU USING YOUR EDUCATION TO QUALIFY? You MUST provide transcripts or other documentation to support your educational claims. Unless otherwise stated: (1) unofficial transcripts are acceptable, or (2)you may submit a list with all of your courses, grades, semester, year, and credit for the course. All materials must be submitted by the closing date of the announcement. Failure to provide your college transcripts or a list of completed college courses may result in you not receiving consideration for this position, and you will receive an ineligible rating.

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR FOREIGN EDUCATION: Education completed in foreign colleges or universities may be used to meet the above requirements. You must show proof that the education credentials have been submitted to a private organization that specializes in interpretation of foreign educational credentials and that such education has been deemed to be at least equivalent to that gained in conventional U.S. education programs; or an accredited U.S. state university reports the other institution as one whose transcript is given full value, or full value is given in subject areas applicable to the curricula at the state university. It is your responsibility to provide such evidence when applying. If you are qualifying by education and/or you have education completed in a foreign college/university described above, it is your responsibility to provide transcripts and/or proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study. For instructions on where to fax these documents, see the Required Documents section of this announcement.

NOTE: The Smithsonian does not recognize academic degrees from schools that are not accredited by an accredited institution recognized by the Department of Education. Any applicant falsely claiming an academic degree from an accredited school will be subject to actions ranging from disqualification from Federal employment to removal from Federal service.

Qualification requirements are derived from the Office of Personnel Management's Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days after the closing date of announcement.


Your application will be evaluated first for the basic qualifications described above.  The applications that meet the basic qualifications will be evaluated further against the following criteria:

Knowledge of the concepts, principles and practices of astronomy or related field to understand, for example, the physics of modeling, and to be able to analyze data, draw conclusions, and organize and summarize information pertaining to the data into reports. 


Knowledge of mathematics to be able to convert between coordinate systems and analyze test data and to develop and analyze algorithms, perform the necessary calculations, and convert them into computer code.


Knowledge of programming techniques, computer equipment and systems software, as well as a scripting language such as PERL.


Knowledge of basic astronomical research techniques and familiarity with astronomical image processing programs such as AIPS, IDL, or MIRIAD, etc.


Skill in oral and written communication.


Ability to work effectively with others, especially on complex technical issues.


Applicants who meet or exceed minimum qualifications will be assigned to one of three category groups based on job-related criteria:

Best Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements and excels in most of the job related competencies above.

Better Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements and satisfies most of the job related competencies above.

Good Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements, but does not satisfy most of the job related competencies above to a substantive degree.  

This category rating process does not add veterans' preference points or apply the "rule of three", but protects the rights of veterans by placing them ahead of non-preference eligibles within each category.  A selecting official may make selections from the highest quality category (Best Category) provided no preference eligible in that category is passed over to select a non-preference eligible in that category unless the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 3317(b) or 3318(b) are satisfied.

Preference eligibles who meet minimum qualification requirements and who have a compensable service-connected disability of at least 10 percent must be listed in the highest quality category, except when the position being filled is scientific or professional at the GS-9 grade level or higher.

Applicants who have not submitted a resume in the USAjobs system and/or have not answered all of the vacancy questions will not be considered for this position.  

Important Note:

The review of your resume will determine your final rating and should provide sufficient information regarding how your education and experience relate to this position, including the major duties and qualifications criteria listed.
To preview questions please click here.


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The Smithsonian offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes, in part, paid vacation, sick leave, holidays, life insurance, health benefits, and participation in the Federal Employees Retirement System. Additional exceptional benefits are flexible spending accounts (health & dependent care); long term care insurance; dental/vision insurance; commuter benefits; and,employee assistance program. For additional information on Federal benefits, see:



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Click on the "Apply Online" button on the upper right side of the page. Please Note:
  • You must apply for this position online through the 'Apply Online' button and submit required supplemental documents (if they are relevant to you).
  • You may submit required documents by uploading them online during the application process; OR You may manually fax required documents. Faxes are received by an automated system, not a physical fax machine. Documents that are faxed as part of the application process must be sent with the system generated cover sheet by the closing date. Documents faxed without the system generated coversheet are not retrievable and cannot be considered as part of the application package.
  • The complete application package, including any required documents, is due in the Smithsonian Office of Human Resources on the closing date of the announcement by 11:59 PM Eastern Time.
  • If you are unable to apply online, paper applications may be accepted with prior approval of the Contact Person listed below.


Your application package should include the following documents:
  • Detailed resume created in the USAJOBS Resume Builder.
  • Proof of Veteran's Preference - DD214 (Member 4 Copy), if you are a veteran.  Additionally, applicants claiming 10-point preference must complete Standard Form (SF) 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, as well as additional documentation required by the SF-15, such as a VA letter.
  • Proof of prior federal service such as the latest SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action, if applicable.
  • Unofficial school transcripts, if the position has an education requirement or if you are using education to qualify.  If selected for the position, you must provide an official transcript before appointment.
  • Proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study, if applicable.


Judy Gallagher
Phone: 617-495-7374
Fax: 617-495-7263
Agency Information:
Human Resources
60 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138
Mail Stop 17
Cambridge, MA
Fax: 617-495-7263


At the end of the application process you will be able to create and save a PDF file that contains your responses to the assessment questions.  You may save this file as receipt of your application.      

The Smithsonian receives many applications for each job.  Each application is reviewed carefully which may take a few weeks.  We will send you an e-mail to update you as we go through phases of the application review process.  You may also check your application status by logging into and selecting the tab "My USAJOBS;" e-mailing; or by contacting the Office of Human Resources Representative listed.

Additional Information:
  • The Smithsonian does not pay relocation expenses.

  • The Smithsonian embraces diversity and equal employment opportunity (

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