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Job Title:
Physical Science Technician, IS-1311, Grade 8; $61,333 to $79,731 annually
Type of Position:
Physical Science Technician, IS-1311, Grade 8; $61,333 to $79,731 annually
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  This position is open to all eligible applicants.  

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). 

 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. 

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. 

The Physical Science Tech is responsible for supporting the operations of the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) project. This includes supporting observational command development in Linux, testing and validating observing commands and writing and maintaining documents in support of the TEMPO project. The employee reports to the Data Manager and works closely with the TEMPO Operations team and other members of the team of scientists and programmers participating in the TEMPO project.

Major Duties:

  • Develop, generate testing, and validate observing commands to support the TEMPO observations.
  • Perform observation planning with the Science Data Processing Center (SDPC) and participate in observation planning meetings.
  • Prepare, develop, verify, and validate instrument command loads.
  • Monitor instrument health and safety, including long-term trending and performance monitoring. Monitor data for quality, recognizing problems, making recommendations, and taking immediate corrective action.
  • Work with the science team for special instrument activities and calibration operations. 
  • Play a lead role with the scientists in verification of the processed data, generating reports, analyze problems and communicate solutions to the team.
  • Play a lead role in composing IOC and SDPC operational documentation.

Qualification Requirements

Basic Requirements: 

Candidates must possess at least one year of specialized experience at or above the grade ( 07) level in similar positions. Specialized experience is experience that has provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the position's work successfully.

Experience as a laboratory mechanic or in a trade or craft may be credited as general or specialized experience when the work was performed in close association with physical scientists or other technical personnel and provided intensive knowledge of appropriate scientific principles, methods, techniques, and precedents. 


Applicants may substitute successful completion of 1 year of appropriate graduate-level education (18 semester hours, 27 quarter hours or the equivalent) in physical science or other fields of study directly related to the work of this position for the required 1 year of specialized experience, provided it demonstrates the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the work of this position. 


Applicants may substitute a combination of appropriate specialized experience (as described above) and appropriate graduate-level education (as described above) beyond the first 1/2 year of progressive graduate study to meet the qualification requirements.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

  • Skill in applying the Unix command system.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of astronomical observing techniques and equipment.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with internal and external scientists, operations teams, individuals, or groups across all levels.
  • Ability to carry out duties with minimal or no supervision, seeking input and advice as appropriate.
  • Strong reading and writing ability and working knowledge of preparing technical documentation.
  • Ability to identify problems; determine accuracy and relevance of information; use sound judgment to generate and evaluate alternatives and make recommendations.

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;,sthe tarting and ending dates of jthe ob (month and year);, andaan verage 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

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


Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website