HR: Employment Opportunities
 Job posting 20-73
Opening date: December 30, 2020
Closing date: January 13, 2021

TITLE Supervisory Engineer, IS-0801, Grade 15, $142,615 to $172,500 annually
TYPE OF POSITION: Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
DIVISION: - CE Central Engineering Department
LOCATION: Cambridge, MA

AREA OF CONSIDERATION: Open to all qualified current SI/SAO employees only.

Note:First selection may be made 14 days after the position is announced.


This is the position of Manager of Central Engineering (MCE). The incumbent will work under the administrative direction of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) Director, conducting their technical management work autonomously. They will work in collaboration with Observatory scientists to provide engineering and technical support as well as appropriate technical facilities.


PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: The purpose of the position is to provide engineering leadership and to direct the operation of an engineering organization that is maximally responsive to the scientific goals of the Center for Astrophysics (CfA); to anticipate evolving technical and engineering requirements; and to modify Central Engineer's (CE) staff, facilities, and procedures as needed to maintain a leading engineering capability that will enhance Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's ability to obtain funding for scientific hardware development. It is expected that 50% of the incumbent's time will be allocated to management of CE and 50% performing high level engineering work in a specific engineering discipline (structural, mechanical, electrical, etc.),


1) Develops and maintains a highly qualified group of specialized technical personnel having expertise that is relevant to the scientific goals of the CfA, and that is appropriate to the design and development of instrumentation for astrophysical and astronomical data collection that is at or extending the state-of-the-art.

2) Directs the day-to-day operation of CE in accordance with established policies and procedures. Develops new procedures and department capabilities as needed to satisfy the evolving research requirements of CfA scientists and to maintain the department's ability to respond effectively to requests for state of the art engineering support. This includes anticipating requirements for, budgeting for, and specifying procurement of sophisticated laboratory equipment.

3) As a senior engineer in his/her discipline, provides expert technical consultation to the Principal Investigator(s) (PI) of assigned programs, working with CfA scientists as the engineering technical or project lead for scientific instrument development efforts. Provides technical acumen and support to scientific projects as required. Troubleshoots and analyzes complex technical problems encountered on CE projects, identifies and recommends solutions, and oversees their implementation.

4) Develops and implements plans to mature employee skills, enhance cross-training, and create a talent pipeline. Uses award, performance appraisal, and disciplinary systems to manage performance. Applies Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) principles to performance management. Recommends promotion of engineering staff to the Promotion Review Committee for Engineers where applicable, and approves promotion of all other CE staff.

5) Maintains a functional management system that can be continually refined to ensure that engineering services remain cost effective and responsive to the needs of the CfA. Periodically analyzes and appraises the effectiveness of department operations and makes modifications as needed.

6) Works in conjunction with Associate Director's (AD)'s, PI's, and Principle Manager's (PM)'s to develop long and short range plans, labor schedules, allocations of engineering resources, and the development and/or modification of engineering facilities that may be needed to meet the current or anticipated requirements of CfA scientific programs.

7) Maintains cognizance of the technical objectives and schedules of all projects within CE, so as to be able to resolve quickly the unplanned and often conflicting needs for engineering support that often emerge on short notice in a scientific research and development environment.

8) Works with stakeholders across SAO to develop then implement improvement initiatives as endorsed by the CfA Director. Supports the CfA Director in special projects to improve the efficiency and usefulness of SAO's Central Engineering department in advancing SAO's scientific goals.

9) Ensures and promotes staffing plans and an overall CE organizational structure that supports the diversity goals of the SAO.

10)Enhances communication between engineers within Central Engineering and across the CfA to promote skill cross fertilization and the dissemination of technical acumen and ideas.

11) Ensures that a safe working environment is maintained in the engineering laboratories, and that staff are appropriately trained and protected in compliance with SI, SAO, and CE policies and procedures.

12) Performs other assignments as required.


In addition to meeting basic qualification requirements, candidates must possess at least one year of professional experience in a field appropriate to the specialization for which applying, that was comparable in level of responsibility and difficulty to that of the GS-14 level.


All applicants must meet these Basic Requirements:

Basic Requirements for Engineer (You must submit a copy of your transcripts)

[A] a degree in professional engineering. 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; OR

[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. The adequacy of such background must be demonstrated by ONE of the following: professional registration; written test (successfully passed the Engineer-In-Training (EIT) examination or the written test required for professional registration); specified academic courses (successful completion of at least 60 semester hours of courses in the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences and in engineering); OR related curriculum (successful completion of a curriculum leading to a bachelor's degree in engineering technology or in an appropriate professional field).

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: 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.

Visit our SAO website.


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