HR: Employment Opportunities
 Job posting 20-78
Opening date: February 17, 2021
Closing date: March 24, 2021

TITLE: Astrophysicist, IS-1330, Grades 11/12; $65,340 - $101,816 annually
TYPE OF POSITION: Trust Fund (Non federal) Indefinite
DIVISION: - Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division, Fred L. Whipple Observatory
AREA OF CONSIDERATION: All qualified candidates eligible to work in the United States.

Note: First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date. Selection may be made at either of the above grade levels. If selection is made at the grade 11, the selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the grade 12 upon recommendation of the Professional Accomplishments Evaluation Committee (PAEC).


As an Astrophysicist with the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO), Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), he/she will assist in leading the experimental research program using VERITAS and CTA ground-based atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes for studies in very high energy gamma-ray astronomy. The incumbent serves as the on-site-deputy and IT manager for the VERITAS and CTA Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope facilities.


Grade 11 duties may include, but are not limited to:

1. As Deputy VERITAS Observatory Manager, oversees VERITAS upgrades and day-to-day science operations as assigned, and assists with VERITAS operations as needed. This includes the following:

Participating in the scientific operation and maintenance of the telescopes, in leading a scientific observing program of various targets, and in helping others in making such observations.

Providing technical direction to optical, electrical, and mechanical technicians.

Advising the Observatory Director and Observatory Managers of technical, scientific and safety ramifications of changes in the technical aspects of the facility, and of changes in schedule.

Participating in organizing the work related to the annual summer shutdown and corresponding fall start-up of the facility, and supporting senior staff in implementing major maintenance / upgrade tasks performed during this shutdown.Participating in the testing, maintenance, repair and upgrades of the VERITAS and CTA-SCT telescopes, cameras and auxiliary systems.

Providing technical assistance to all VERITAS sub-projects and CTA subsystems; including those involving the telescope structure, drive systems, optics, camera, electronics and software including data acquisition, reduction and archiving.

Participating in the testing, maintenance, repair and upgrades of the VERITAS and CTA-SCT telescopes, cameras and auxiliary systems.

2. As IT Systems Manager for the VERITAS and CTA-SCT facilities, maintains, monitors, services, and upgrades all on-site (dominantly Linux-based) project computers including the scientific computing cluster, data storage, and networking systems. These include computers integral to the telescopes, cameras, camera electronics, calibration systems, and the facility (e.g., array control, local archive, next-day analyses); as well as those of VERITAS Project Office staff. This includes the following:

Identifying and specifying IT hardware / infrastructure needed for continued VERITAS operation, and assisting in the preparation of related statements-of-work and vendor lists.

Ensuring the compatibility, and adherence to established hardware and software specifications, of all on- site computing systems.

Maintaining familiarity with all software developed for use with VERITAS, including those for scientific analysis.

Maintaining a comprehensive set of system, software and networking documents.

3. Serves as an active member of the VERITAS Project Office, which manages the operation of both the VERITAS-array and the CTA-SCT and develops their associated hardware, programs, and facilities. Attends VERITAS Project Office meetings, and participates in long- and short-range planning including development of the professional, technical, fiscal, and schedule direction of the VERITAS and CTA-SCT projects. Assists with Project Office reporting and coordination of the schedule and activities of visiting VERITAS and CTA personnel. Maintains, monitors, services, and upgrades Project Office content management systems, electronic calendars, and logbooks. Assists with public information and outreach programs.

4. Conducts research in the field of very high energy gamma-ray astrophysics using VERITAS and CTA. Maintains knowledge of current results and techniques in particle astrophysics, particularly gamma-ray astronomy, and designs and develops software programs as needed to execute required calculations. Serves as an active member of the VERITAS and CTA scientific collaborations, and makes scientific and technical presentations at Collaboration meetings, supports science-program planning, and develops scientific and technical software for use by Collaboration researchers. Prepares papers documenting research results for publication in scientific journals / proceedings. Participates in technical meetings and conferences to present research results and discuss current work with other scientists and project personnel.

Grade 12: Duties will include those at the grade 11 and:

1. Participating in the preparation of VERITAS Project Office reports and proposals, and Project Office planning for the professional, technical, fiscal and schedule direction of the VERITAS project.

2. Supporting the organization of work related to the annual summer shutdown and corresponding fall start- up of the facility, and participating in major maintenance / upgrade tasks performed during this shutdown.

3. Providing input to senior staff for the preparation of VERITAS Project Office reports and proposals, and to the Project Office for planning for the professional, technical, fiscal and schedule direction of the VERITAS project.


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 11:

a) Master's or equivalent graduate degree; or

b) Minimum of one year specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 9 in the normal line of progression for this occupation. Specialized experience is experience that has equipped the applicant with the particular competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position such as professional research experience in very high-energy gamma-ray astronomy or the operation of a gamma ray telescope system and its associated computer infrastructure, or knowledge of computing techniques for the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of observational data.

c) Combination of successfully completed graduate level education and experience equivalent to the above.

Grade 12:

a) Ph.D. degree or equivalent graduate degree; or

b) One year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-11 that is close or similar to the work of the position.

Specific relevant experience would include: Prior membership in the VERITAS collaboration including lead hardware and / or IT responsibilities, managerial-level operations responsibilities for another particle- astrophysics experiment (e.g. HESS or MAGIC), or significant field-work deploying particle-astrophysics detectors.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: We will only accept applications on line for this position. For complete information about this position and the online application procedures, please visit: USAJOBS

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

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