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Job Title:
Associate Director, Facilities & Telescopes, IL-1330, Grade 00; $135,468 - $201,300 Annually
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 qualified candidates. First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date.

Note:  Smithsonian does not pay relocation expenses. A recruitment bonus may be paid.


The ADFT plays a central leadership role in the development and management of telescopes and facilities for the SAO, in partnership with Harvard University, as one of the world’s premier centers for astronomy and astrophysics.   The ADFT reports to the CfA Director, interacts with the Deputy Director, and serves on the CfA Executive Management team.  The ADFT aids the Director in the development and implementation of an innovative long-range strategic plan for facilities and telescopes, in line with the broader CfA strategic plan.  The ADFT aids the Director in annual SAO facilities budget preparation and management factoring in regular site upkeep and deferred maintenance needs.   The ADFT oversees the prioritization and execution of telescope maintenance programs and upgrades, and site safety and security operations, often in close consultation with the Smithsonian facilities office, and frequently on a multi-year timescale.  The ADFT represents the Director as the liaison to the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University for telescope and building matters, as required.  The ADFT develops and implements telescope and facilities staff management policies and plans, including professional development and mentoring of staff.  The ADFT communicates clearly and effectively with management, telescope, scientific, technical, engineering and administrative staff at the CfA, and engages at the highest levels with external stakeholders including the leadership of CfA telescope partner organizations.


  1. Reports to and works with the Director, Deputy Director, and broader CfA leadership in the management and oversight of the facilities and telescopes for the CfA.  Represents these areas on the CfA Executive Management team.  Serves as the liaison within the broader Harvard and Smithsonian organizations for facilities and telescopes.  Serves as a strong advocate for CfA facility requests with the Smithsonian facilities office and its capital, maintenance, and operations programs.
  2. Works with the Director and broader CfA leadership to advance the CfA mission.  Develops forward-looking strategic plans and operations plans for CfA telescopes and facilities.  Identifies and oversees the implementation of new capabilities and improvements to SAO telescopes and facilities, in line with CfA priorities and telescope strategic plans. 
  3. Oversees the efficient operations of SAO telescopes and facilities.  Works with telescope and observatory directors on the prioritization of programs, maintenance and upgrades to telescopes and facilities within budget constraints.  Identifies challenges in telescope and facility operations and management.  Works with relevant HCO and SAO leadership, telescope and administration staff to identify solutions to overcome challenges. Effectively and efficiently manages facility upgrades, achieving all milestones within the cost constraints. Works with telescope and observatory directors on staff relations and policies.
  4. Oversees health, safety, environmental, and security measures at the telescopes and facilities, ensures that these measures are up to date and consistent with best practice.  Works closely with telescope and facilities safety staff to ensure compliance with all relevant health, safety, environmental and security policies, and any relevant Federal and/or state regulations.  
  5. Represents SAO and CfA telescopes to external agencies and organizations for the benefit of SAO and the CfA, in place of the Director or Deputy Director, as required.  Maintains positive and effective relations with leadership of telescope partnership organizations.  Identifies new partners for telescopes as required.  Initiates and oversees successful telescope partnerships, including regular meetings and telescope reports to leadership at partner organizations.
  6. Communicates with the leads of CfA divisions and departments to ensure strong telescope user support.  Receives input from the CfA telescope user community to effectively manage resources for the benefit of the CfA community. Identifies areas where change is needed and communicates these needs to the CfA leadership team. 
  7. Maintains up to date information on site environmental and cultural awareness.  Actively works towards greater awareness and sensitivity of site environmental and cultural policies and practices for CfA staff, including CfA site visitors.  Improves environmental and cultural practices in conjunction with local communities, local leadership, and local stakeholders.
  8. Aids the telescope directors in managing respectful cultural relations with local communities, local leadership, and local stakeholders.  Identifies cultural relations challenges at or in the vicinity of telescope facilities and works with relevant CfA leadership, management and administration staff and local leadership and stakeholders to identify solutions to overcome challenges. Obtains regular feedback from telescope directors on priorities and needs.
  9. Maintains positive and effective relationships with Harvard and Smithsonian buildings and facilities leadership and staff.  Liaises regularly with Harvard and Smithsonian buildings and facilities staff.  Maintains positive and effective relationships with external companies and agents for leased properties.  Liaises with external companies and agents for existing leases.  Initiates and negotiates new lease agreements, as required.
  10. Manages communication within and outside the CfA on telescopes and facilities, including progress on upgrades progress through the CfA newsletter and other internal channels.  Maintains close and harmonious working relationships with senior supervisory staff, including the CfA Director, the CfA Deputy Director, other Associate Directors, and the leadership of divisions and departments.  Maintains close working relationships with other senior staff members.
  11. Establishes a positive and engaging leadership style that emphasizes open, transparent and clear communication via written and oral messaging.  Coaches and counsels staff and encourages a supportive team-based approach to planning and implementation, introducing and readjusting operations to meet strategic plan initiatives, priorities and/or changing needs.  ​​​​​​Relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences.  Works with telescope directors to improve diversity and inclusion onsite.  Ensures staff professional development and training.  Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding the treatment and acceptance of all individuals and is proactive in workforce diversity and inclusion initiatives.  Acts in ways that protect civil rights.
  12. Formulates and conducts independent and original programs of astrophysical research that align with the strategic interests of SAO. Prepares papers describing research results, techniques, and interpretations for publication in scientific or technical journals, and presentation at scientific or technical meetings and conferences, and within the CfA. Proposes for extramural contract and grant support for research into specific areas of astronomy, astrophysics, or related fields.   Participates in or otherwise assists in the development of major new initiatives for SAO.


Education Requirements:

Minimum Education Requirements:
A) Degree in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science or electronics, including course work in differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy or physics;   OR

B) A combination of education and experience equivalent to A above including 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.  


Specialized Experience: One year of directly related experience (Federal or other) equivalent to GS-15. Specialized experience would include activities such formulating and conducting independent and original astrophysical research.  In addition, experience should include overseeing and managing the facilities and scientific instrumentation of a large multi-location scientific research observatory.

In addition to meeting the specialized experience, candidates will be rating based on their knowledge, skills and abilities in the following:

Technical: Extensive experience in observational astronomy and/or telescope management.  Deep knowledge and understanding of optical and radio telescopes and instrumentation.  Exceptional organizational skills and ability to manage multiple urgent and complex problems.  Ability to initiate, manage and enhance partnerships and collaborations across multiple institutions.   Awareness of telescope site health, safety, security and environmental measures.  Experience bringing new ideas to fruition through widespread engagement of staff.   

Scientific: Advanced knowledge of the concepts, principles and practices of astrophysics as would be evidenced by a Ph.D. in astrophysics, astronomy, or physics, or comparable professional experience.  Exceptional initiative and scholarly expertise necessary to formulate, conduct, lead and present results of programs of advanced scientific research.  Proven ability to work independently or as a member of a research group or scientific team.  Proven skills in preparing scientific results for publication in scientific or technical journals and for presentation at professional conferences. 

Project/Program Management:  Advanced knowledge and experience of project and program management methodology and techniques, as demonstrated by the ability to maintain balance between funds and achieving all milestones within cost constraints.  Proven ability to oversee complex tasks involving multiple stakeholders and on a multi-year time horizon.  Experience in the use of  project management software to plan, execute and control projects.  Familiarity with and use of a variety of tools including schedule, workflow, cost, and SI financial tools, including Gant charts and calendars to create project schedules and assign work with real-time resource availability.

Personnel Management:  Significant experience in management of and delegation within teams with effective collaboration methods to achieve milestones.  Knowledge of performance management systems, recruitment policies and practices, and personnel policies and procedures.  Proven ability to manage personnel effectively, while creating a positive and inclusive work environment.  Proven ability to influence and engage others in effective management techniques and in building an inclusive and positive work environment.  Exceptional ability to delegate tasks and engage staff in contributing towards organization goals.  Ability and desire to apply best practices in environmental and culturally-sensitive site management.  Exceptional ability to maintain respectful cultural relations with and receive feedback from local communities, local leadership, and local stakeholders.

Financial Management: Mastery of or ability to master the principles and practices of budget formulation and prioritization of goals and priorities.   Ability to manage budgets within a constantly changing and constraining budget environment.  Ability to consider all program needs and to prioritize funding in a fair and balanced manner, without regard to own science field or telescope background.  Advanced knowledge of or ability to learn techniques for monitoring and managing expenditures to ensure cost effectiveness including the use of cost benefit analysis to set priorities.  Knowledge of or ability to learn Smithsonian financial processes and procedures.

Communication skills:  Outstanding ability to express information effectively in all formats, including on-line and during video conferencing, taking into account the audience and nature of the information.  Exceptional ability to listen to others, attend to nonverbal cues, and respond appropriately and respectfully. 

Qualification requirements are derived from the Office of Personnel Management's Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days after the closing date of announcement.

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccination requirements and its impact on your application, click on Smithsonian Institution’s Frequently Asked Questions.  


Application Procedures:  We are only accepting online application packages for this position. To apply please visit

Required Documents:

Your application package must include the following documents:

1. CV and Bibliography.

2. Vision Statement of the role of the AD, Facilities and Telescopes: statement should include your plan for innovative long-range strategic plan for facilities and telescopes, in line with the broader CfA strategic plan for the next five years (maximum 3 pages).

3. Statement specifically addressing the duties and responsibilities of and selection criteria for the position (maximum 2 pages).

4. A Diversity and Inclusion Statement:  statement should address your experience related to increasing/improving diversity and inclusion, as well as a description of activities and/or practices you would introduce in the role of AD, Facilities and Telescopes (maximum 2 pages).  

5. Unofficial school transcripts, if the position has an education requirement or if you are using education to qualify. If selected for the position, you must provide an official transcript before appointment.

6. Proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study, if applicable

7. Names and email addresses for three (3) professional references.

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

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