HR: Employment Opportunities
 Job posting 20-77
Opening date: February 17, 2021
Closing date: March 3, 2021

TITLE Astrophysicist, IS-1330, Grades 12 - 13; $86,283 to $133,382 Annually
TYPE OF POSITION: Trust Fund (non-Federal)Indefinite
DIVISION: - HEA High Energy Astrophysics Division
LOCATION: Cambridge, MA

AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all qualified candidates. First selection may be made 14 days after the opening date

Selection for this position will be made at either the grade 12 or 13. If selection is made at the grade 12 level the selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the next higher level up to the grade 13 upon recommendation of the Professional Accomplishments Evaluation Committee ( PAEC)


This is the position of Astrophysicist in the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). The purpose of this position is to develop algorithms to characterize and reduce the charged-particle background in the Athena Wide-Field Imager (WFI) instrument and future NASA X-ray missions using advanced pixelated Si sensors. These algorithms ultimately will be implemented in post-processing on Athena WFI science data. The employee will use a combination of theoretical modeling and analysis of particle background data from existing X-ray observatories (primarily XMM-Newton) to formulate algorithms for the reduction of the WFI background, and will work closely with collaborators at SAO, MIT, Stanford, and PSU. The employee is also expected to conduct independent scientific research in the area of observational extragalactic astronomy, particularly in the X-ray band. Research activities will include planning and implementing observing programs analyzing and interpreting data obtained with ground-based and space-based observatories, and publishing significant original scientific results in refereed journals. The scientist will have access to data from the Chandra HRC Guaranteed Time Observer program.

Duties may include:

Develop algorithms for the reduction and characterization of the charge-particle background in the Athena WFI instrument. Tasks include analyzing existing ground calibration data and in-flight background data from missions using pixilated Si sensors including XMM-Newton, Chandra, and Swift, modeling of charge-particle interactions with pixilated Si sensors for comparison with flight data, and extending the analysis to the WFI instrument by predicting the performance of background reduction algorithms in the flight instrument.

Conduct independent research in astronomy and astrophysics, with emphasis on extragalactic astronomy using ground and space-based observatories. Formulate research plans and hypotheses and carry them through to completion by determining the most fruitful investigations and approaches, defining observations, analyzing and interpreting data.

Prepare papers containing research results for publication in scientific journals and presentation at conferences. Participate in scientific meetings and conferences to discuss current research with other scientists.

Give advice on scientific and technical approaches to others working on the same or related projects, as appropriate.

Perform other duties as assigned.


Basic Requirements:

A. Degree: in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science, or electronics. The course work must have included differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy and/or physics.


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, mathematics, and electronics, with required course work as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

In addition to meeting the basic entry qualification requirements, applicants must have specialized experience and/or directly related education in the amounts shown below:

Grade 12:

A. Ph.D. degree or equivalent doctoral degree


B. A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 11 in the normal line of progression for this occupation, which should demonstrate: proficiency in analysis and interpretation of science data from ground-based and space-based observatories, and programming skill to independently develop analysis software.


C. A combination of successfully completed graduate level education and experience equivalent to the above

Grade 13:

A minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 12 in the normal line of progression for this occupation, which should demonstrate: expertise in the analysis of X-ray data, particularly from the current generation of X-ray observatories.

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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