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Job Title:
Physicist (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow), IS-1310-Grade 11; $81,963 - $106,549 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 eligible candidates.


What are Trust Fund Positions?

Trust Fund positions are unique to the Smithsonian. They are paid for from a variety of sources, including the Smithsonian endowment, revenue from our business activities, donations, grants and contracts. Trust employees are not part of the civil service, nor does trust fund employment lead to Federal status. The salary ranges for trust positions are generally the same as for federal positions and in many cases trust and federal employees work side by side. Trust employees have their own benefit program and may include Health, Dental & Vision Insurance, Life Insurance, Transit/Commuter Benefits, Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance, Annual and Sick Leave, Family Friendly Leave, 403b Retirement Plan, Discounts for Smithsonian Memberships, Museum Stores and Restaurants, Credit Union, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (Childcare), Flexible Spending Account (Health & Dependent Care). 



The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. SAO combines its resources with those of the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA is the best-known astrophysics center in the world. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants. 

This position trains postdoctoral researchers to conceive, plan, and conduct highly specialized research in atmospheric chemistry and remote sensing. The incumbent will perform scholarly research and contribute to the fields of physical science.


  • Define scientific and system requirements to develop and evaluate advanced scientific and numerical algorithms. This will involve implementing machine learning to improve and develop algorithms for the remote sensing of atmospheric constituents and obtaining necessary data to verify final products.
  • Participate in the definition and design of methodologies to obtain the required results.
  • Assist other scientists and/or programmers in developing and applying software for satellite measurements of atmospheric composition.
  • Perform scientific studies involving atmospheric measurements, global/regional atmospheric modeling, and tropospheric chemistry.
  • Prepare refereed publications and present talks at professional meetings.
  • Perform other duties as may be required.



Basic Requirements:
 A. Degree: physics or related degree that included at least 24 semester hours in physics;
B. Combination of education and experience -- courses equivalent to a major in physics totaling at least 24 semester hours, plus appropriate experience or additional education. 

In either A or B above, the courses must have included a fundamental course in general physics and, in addition, courses in any two of the following: electricity and magnetism, heat, light, mechanics, modern physics, and sound.


Additional Requirements:
 In addition to Basic Requirements above, you must have:
A) One year of specialized experience that is equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to grade 9 level in similar positions.  Specialized experience is experience that has provided the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the work of the position successfully.
b) Education for Grade 11: Master's or equivalent graduate degree
c) Combinations of successfully completed graduate-level education and specialized experience may be used to meet total experience requirements.  

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


Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

  •  Experience in applying machine learning to atmospheric composition remote sensing data.
  • Knowledge of high-level language programming (Python, Matlab), experience working in Linux environments, and experience with remote sensing software such as ENVI and ArcGIS.
  • Knowledge and skill in new scientific software development.
  • Knowledge of the principles and practices in the field of atmospheric science or related fields.
  • Knowledge of mathematics and physics of satellite and ground-based remote sensing observations.
  • Skill in oral and written communication as evidenced by refereed journal publications in atmospheric measurements and their applications and the ability to present findings in a publishable format.

Applicants who wish to qualify based on education completed outside the United States must be deemed equivalent to higher education programs of U.S. Institutions by an organization that specializes in the interpretation of foreign educational credentials. This documentation is the responsibility of the applicant and should be included as part of your application package.

 Any false statement in your application may result in your application being rejected and may also result in termination after employment begins.

  The Smithsonian Institution values and seeks a diverse workforce. Join us in "Inspiring Generations through Knowledge and Discovery."

Resume/CV should include a description of your paid and non-paid work experience that is related to this job; starting and ending dates of job (month and year); and average number of hours worked per week. College Transcript should be provided if using education for qualification.  

What To Expect Next: Once the vacancy announcement closes, a review of your resume will be compared against the qualification and experience requirements related to this job. After review of applicant resumes is complete, qualified candidates will be referred to the hiring manager.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.  To learn more, please review the Smithsonian’s Accommodation Procedures.

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds support and enhance our daily work life and contribute to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. See Smithsonian EEO program information:

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace. Please visit the SAO website at

Application ProceduresHow to Apply:  Please use the following link to visit Smithsonian's Career Page:  Smithsonian Institution Job Opportunities Site

Conditions of Employment: 

  • Pass Pre-employment Background Check and Subsequent Background Investigation, as required.
  • Complete a Probationary Period if applicable. 
  • Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer.
  • The position is open to all candidates eligible to work in the United States.  Proof of eligibility to work in U.S. is not required to apply.
  • Applicants must meet all qualification and eligibility requirements within 30 days of the closing date of this announcement. 
Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website