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Job Title:
Computer Engineer, IS-0854, Grade 9; $61,290 - $79,676 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:   Open to all qualified candidates eligible to work in the United States.


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory asks the big science questions:

What do black holes look like?

How do stars and planets form and evolve?

Does life exist outside the solar system?

Engineers at SAO collaborate with scientists, developing instrumentation from world-wide telescope arrays to orbiting satellites to help answer these questions. We’re seeking a FPGA/computer engineer to join our electrical engineering team. The position is located in Cambridge Mass.


Duties may include but are not limited to:

1. Assists in developing and translating project requirements into functional codes and develops FPGA VHDL (VHSIC Hardware Description Language) or Verilog code with DFT (design-for-test) considerations for Xilinx, Altera or other brands of FPGA’s.

2. Debugs logic simulations on new or existing code at both the unit and system level.

3. Implements vendor-specific and third-party intellectual property modules into designs.

4 Collaborates with scientists and mechanical, optical, and software engineers to design devices that meet electrical and optical requirements

5 Assists in writing digital design specifications / ICD’s (Interface Control Documents).

6 Assists in defining and developing hardware / software interfaces.

7 Performs Post-design support and troubleshooting using oscilloscopes, logic/spectrum analyzers and other test equipment.

8 Performs other duties as assigned.


(A) Degree: professional engineering. To be acceptable, the curriculum must: (1) be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or

(2) include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics, or electronics.
(B) Combination of education and experience--college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying professional engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering.

In addition to the Basic Requirements, applicants must have specialized experience:

One year of professional experience  equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to grade 7 level work in the Federal service within or closely related to the position being filled.  Specialized experience for this position would typically be FPGA programming or board design.

This position has a mandatory education requirement; you must furnish a copy of your transcript of college work completed (unofficial copy is acceptable) or a copy of your degree certificate. Non-submission may result in you being rated ineligible for the position.
Applicants must meet all qualification requirements by the closing date of this announcement.


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

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

Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website