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Job Title:
Electronics Engineer, IS-0855, Grade 11; $77,738 to $101,055 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. The selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the next grade level (grade 12), upon the recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance, qualifications of the employee and recommendation of the Promotion Review Committee for Engineers (PRCE).


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory asks the big science questions, including:
What happened in the early universe?
What do black holes look like?
How do stars and planets form and evolve?
Does life exist outside the solar system?


At the SAO, engineers work collaboratively with scientists to develop instrumentation that will get us closer to answering these questions. From world-wide telescope arrays that can image black holes to space missions studying solar emissions, this is truly a fantastic place to work – full of opportunities and challenges for engineers. The position is located in Cambridge Mass.

PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: The purpose of this job is to provide electronics engineering system support to the Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope (ngEHT) instrument development team. The ngEHT project seeks to take the next steps in trying to elucidate mysteries of fundamental physics. To that end, the instrumentation that is designed to be deployed is cutting edge and extremely challenging both in the area of high frequency analog signal processing and very high speed digital signal processing.


1. Functions as a mid-level FPGA firmware engineer to implement firmware solutions for the ngEHT including testing and debugging of new and existing firmware.

2. Performs basic checking of electrical circuits and systems designs. Assists engineers in the design and construction of lab bench test setups for the evaluation of both purchased and in-house-designed instrument system components.

3. Prepares formal schematics, schematic capture, parts/materials lists, and component assembly drawings from preliminary sketches or verbal instructions and translates electrical designs to PCB layouts and Interfaces with fabrication companies for ordering and inventory management.

4. Provides technical direction to, and reviews the work of, printed circuit layout vendors.

5. Translates and develops 3D models of assemblies for hosting electrical hardware and performs thermal analysis to meet the stringent requirements at telescope sites using Solidworks or similar software.

6. Develops embedded software for control and monitoring of instrumentation.

7. Supports engineering design reviews, Configuration Control Board, and technical meetings.

8. Collaborates with scientists and multi-disciplinary engineering staff as needed to ensure success of system development.

9. Participates in regular planning and status reporting activities.

10. Performs other duties as assigned.


Basic qualification requirements can be found at and


(A) Degree: professional engineering. To be acceptable, the 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.
(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.

In addition to the Basic Requirements, applicants must have specialized experience:

Candidates must possess one year of specialized experience at least equivalent to the grade 9 level. Specialized experience typically will require PCB board layout done from start to finish independently on Altium and/or similar software, and independent firmware development which was successfully deployed on hardware.

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 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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Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website