Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
This Position Is No Longer Available

Job Title:  Astrophysicist (Technical Assistant)
Agency:  Smithsonian Institution
Job Announcement Number:  14-08

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

The contents of the announcement can still be viewed.
$42,830.00 to $68,103.00 / Per Year
Thursday, February 06, 2014 to Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Full Time. Trust Indefinite. First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date. - More than one position may be filled.
2 vacancies in the following location:
Cambridge, MA View Map
U.S. Citizens or U.S. Permanent Resident status.  Selection may be made at either the grade 7 or 9 grade level. This is a career ladder opportunity with promotion potential to grade 11. A candidate selected at grade 7 or 9, may be non-competitively promoted to the next higher grade level, up to grade 11, upon the recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance and qualifications of the employee.
Q - Nonsensitive


About the Agency

This is the position of Astrophysicist (Technical Assistant) in the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The purpose of the position is twofold: (1) providing technical support for science planning and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), including planning Chandra science observations and participating in the daily operations of the Observatory; (2) providing computer-related support of X-ray astronomy operations and research with the Observatory, including coding, modifying, testing and maintaining software for mission planning; developing and maintaining documentation; and drafting and maintaining materials for websites.


  • Pre and Post appointment background investigation.
  • May be required to serve a one year probationary period.
  • U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Resident status
  • Electronic funds transfer/direct deposit is required for salary payment.


Back to top

The employee in this position provides technical scientific support of x-ray astronomy research and space observatory operations using the Chandra X-ray Observatory. In concert with scientific staff, Technical Assistants plan and schedule observations. The Technical Assistants also are involved in coding, modifying, debugging, and documenting software for mission planning; developing and maintaining databases; drafting and maintaining materials for websites; and participating in the daily operations of the Chandra Observatory. Grade 7: The individual is at the developmental trainee level, where assignments combine performance of work with orientation and supervised on-the-job-training. Assignments are designed to develop the employee for work at a higher level. Grade 9: Duties may include analyzing data and drawing conclusions regarding scientific contents for the data; designing, developing, testing, and modifying new and existing computer code; developing and analyzing algorithms; running software and analyzing data output; mission planning, simulations, and modeling; responding to on-call procedures; developing, maintaining and improving documentation on mission planning procedures; participating actively in teleconferences, meetings, and other communication activities; performing other duties as assigned.  


Back to top

In addition to meeting the basic entry qualification requirements, applicants must have specialized experience and/or directly related education in the the amounts shown below: Grade 7: One year of specialized experience equivalent to the grade 5 level in the normal line of progression for the occupation. Experience at this level normally would have included modifying and maintaining software for astronomy projects, providing technical support for an astronomical observatory, or carrying out research projects in physics or astronomy. OR Completion of one-year of graduate level education OR Superior Academic Achievement (SAA) when it provided the applicant with the criteria necessary to do the work of the position. For SAA requirements, please go to OPM website: Grade 9: One year of specialized experience equivalent to the grade 7 level in the normal line of progression for the occupation. Experience at this level normally would have included developing and documenting software for astronomical research or operations, completing research projects in physics or astronomy, or providing operational support for an astronomical observatory. OR 2 years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a master's degree or equivalent graduate degree

Education: All applicants must meet these Basic Requirements: A. Degree in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics,or space science. The course work must have included differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy and/or physics. OR B. Combination of education and experience - at least 30 semester hours of courses equivalent to a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, and mathematics with required course work as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

For information on qualification requirements, see Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at


Your application will be evaluated first for the basic qualification. Applications that meet the basic qualifications will be further evaluated against the following criteria:
Knowledge of physics and astronomy to be able to understand the basic scientific concepts pertaining to the Chandra mission.
Knowledge of mathematics to be able to develop and analyze algorithms and perform the necessary calculations to develop code.
Knowledge of programming techniques and computer equipment and systems software.
Knowledge of Unix or Linux.
Knowledge of a higher-level programming language such as FORTRAN or C.
Knowledge of HTML.
Knowledge of a scripting language such as Perl, Python, or Unix shell scripting.
To preview questions please click here.


Back to top


The Smithsonian does not pay relocation expenses but may pay a recruitment bonus. The Smithsonian embraces diversity and equal employment opportunity (


Back to top
You must apply for this position online. Do not submit paper applications/resumes by mail, e-mail, or fax. You will be required to create an account and build a resume on unless you previously established an account. You will also be asked to respond to assessment questions online. To see a preview of the questionnaire before applying, go to the "Qualifications & Evaluations" tab and click on the link at the bottom of the page. Instructions for Applying Online: Important: You must complete the entire application process which includes responding to a set of questions. Your application will not transfer to Smithsonian until you click on the FINISH button. This is not the same as the DONE button which is used to complete the fax cover sheet print step. 1. Click on the Apply Online button at the bottom of this announcement. 2. When you click Apply Online, you will have to register a USAJobs account or log into your existing account. Once you are logged in, choose which resume you wish to submit, select it and click 'Apply for this Position Now!' Your resume will become part of your application and will automatically be transferred to the Smithsonian Tracking & Applicant Referral System (STARS). 3a. If this is your first time applying to a Smithsonian position online you will be prompted by a 'core' questionnaire. Complete all questions on the questionnaire. You will then be prompted to print fax cover sheets. Print the applicable fax cover sheet(s) generated at the end of the on-line application process. Once you have printed fax cover sheets click on 'Done' at the bottom of the page. 3b. If you have applied for a position with us before you will have the option to review your previous responses to the core questions, or proceed to the vacancy specific questions described in the next step. 4. You will be prompted by a vacancy specific questionnaire. These questions must be completed for your application to be submitted. Once you have completed all questions in this questionnaire, click 'Finish'. 5. You will then be prompted to print fax coversheets specific to the vacancy. Print the applicable fax coversheet(s) generated at the end of the on-line application process. Once you have printed fax cover sheets click on 'Done' at the bottom of the page. 6. Once you have finished answering questions for all grades that you are applying for, you must review your questionnaire responses and select 'Finish' at the bottom of the review page. If you do not click 'Finish' at the bottom of the review page your application will not be submitted. NOTE: When faxing supporting documentation, use the phone number listed on the fax cover sheet. The fax cover sheet(s) contains an important ID number, so keep a copy for your files. Use a separate fax cover sheet for each type of document. Documentation must be received by the closing date of the announcement. Documents to be faxed can be found under "Required Documents" listed below. To view the status of your faxed supporting documentation, please follow the steps below: Logon to your USAJOBS account. Click on the "Applications" tab and locate the vacancy. Under the "Application Status" column click on the "More information" hyperlink. You will then be transferred to the "Gateway to State" Welcome screen. Click on the View/Generate Fax Cover Sheet radio button. On the next screen, under the Status column it will show you the status of your fax supporting documentation. NOTE: It may take several hours before your fax documentation is reflected in the system. Check for confirmation emails for documents that you have faxed. Depending on the level of activity in the online application system, your confirmation email may be delayed. Please be aware that the confirmation email could be in your "Junk" or "Bulk Mail" folder. After the vacancy closes, the HR office uses the application package (resume and questionnaire responses) to rate, rank and certify candidates. Exceptions may be granted to accept paper applications in extenuating circumstances; however paper applications submitted without prior approval from the agency point of contact will be handled as incomplete and will not be considered.


Detailed resume. School transcripts or degree certificate. Proof of U. S. accreditation for foreign study, if applicable.


Mary Hebert
Phone: 617-496-7816
Fax: 617-495-7263
Agency Information:
Human Resources
60 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138
Mail Stop 17
Cambridge, MA
Fax: 617-495-7263


You will receive an e-mail to acknowledge that your application has been received. Please be aware that the confirmation e-mail could reside in your "junk" or "bulk" mail folder depending on your filters. 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.

Back to top
EEO Policy Statement | Reasonable Accommodation Policy Statement | Veterans Information | Legal and Regulatory Guidance