Smithsonian Institution Astronomer (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow) in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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This advert is for the position of Astronomer (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow) in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division (SSP) of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Holman and Dr. Matthew Payne. The purpose of this position is to undertake theoretical and observational research related to (a) the detection of Solar System minor planets, and (b) the orbital dynamics of Solar System objects.

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  1. Undertake scientific research drawn from the list of potential research topics below:

a. Contribute to the ongoing IMACS occultation survey for sub-km KBOs by undertaking observations using the IMACS instrument on the Magellan Baade telescope. b. Contribute to the ongoing IMACS occultation survey for sub-km KBOs by refining the data analysis pipeline used to reduce the observational data and detect occultation events. c. Conduct an unbiased survey of Centaurs and other outer Solar System objects using extant Pan-STARRS data. It is anticipated that this data search will utilize novel heliocentric linking algorithms.

d. Use the novel heliocentric linking algorithms developed by Holman & Payne to conduct an analysis of the combined Pan-STARRS and DES data sets, with the aim of discovering new Trans-Neptunian Objects and Centaurs. e. Assist in the augmentation of the novel heliocentric linking algorithms with the aim of making said algorithms able to robustly link observations of fast-moving objects (such as NEOs) across long time-spans. f. Undertake dynamical investigations to elucidate the dynamics of the outer Solar System, with the aim of understanding whether the observed properties of the trans-Neptunian objects can be used to constrain the existence and/or orbit of the putative Planet-9.

  1. Prepare scientific manuscripts for journal publication, and present results at relevant scientific meetings and conferences.
  2. Perform other scientific duties identified by the Supervisor.

Additional duties at Grade 12:

Formulate and conduct original programs of independent astronomical research, with an emphasis on understanding the Solar System’s minor planets.

Travel Required

Occasional travel - To attend meetings and conferences

Supervisory status


Promotion Potential


  • #### Job family (Series)

1330 Astronomy And Space Science

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Conditions of Employment
  • May be required to complete Pre and Post appointment background check
  • Direct Deposit/Electronic Funds Transfer required for salary payment
  • First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening date.

Applicants must meet the basic qualification requirements as described in the Office of Personnel Management's Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions. These standards may be viewed at the following address on the web at


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. OR

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) 1 year of specialized experience equivalent to the grade 09 that should demonstrate the knowledge, skill and ability to conduct either (i) research into the dynamics of Solar System objects; (ii) the writing of data analysis pipelines for the processing of observational data; or (iii) the analysis of data from large astronomical surveys.**


c) A 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) 1 year of specialized experience equivalent to the grade 11 that should demonstrate the knowledge, skill and ability to conduct either (i) advanced research into the dynamics of Solar System objects; (ii) advanced writing of data analysis pipelines for the processing of observational data; or (iii) advanced data analysis from large astronomical surveys.


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

Additional information

The Smithsonian does not pay relocation expenses. The Smithsonian embraces diversity and equal employment opportunity (

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How You Will Be Evaluated

You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

You will be evaluated to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications required; and on the extent to which your application shows that you possess the criteria associated with this position as defined below

Knowledge of astrophysics, as may be evidenced by a Ph. D. degree involving research in fields related to astronomy.

Ability to develop and utilize appropriate computer codes and data analysis procedures for application to the designated research areas.

Ability to efficiently analyze large observational data sets.

Knowledge of the published literature on Solar System minor-planet surveys.

Ability to work effectively as part of a research group.

Ability to formulate and undertake scientific investigations under guidance from supervisor

Ability to prepare scientific papers for publication and to present findings at scientific meetings and conferences

To preview questions please click here.

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Background checks and security clearance
Security clearance

Public Trust - Background Investigation

Drug test required


  • Required Documents


Required Documents

Detailed resume or CV and bibliography

Names, addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers of three professional references

School transcripts or degree certificate

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

If you are relying on your education to meet qualification requirements:

Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for it to be credited towards qualifications. Therefore, provide only the attendance and/or degrees from schools accredited by accrediting institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Failure to provide all of the required information as stated in this vacancy announcement may result in an ineligible rating or may affect the overall rating.

  • Benefits



A career with the U.S. Government provides employees with a comprehensive benefits package. As a federal employee, you and your family will have access to a range of benefits that are designed to make your federal career very rewarding. Learn more about federal benefits.

Eligibility for benefits depends on the type of position you hold and whether your position is full-time, part-time, or intermittent. Contact the hiring agency for more information on the specific benefits offered.

  • How to Apply


How to Apply

Click on the "Apply Online" button on the upper right side of the page. If you are applying for the position and do not have a social security number please contact Mary Hebert at 617-496-7816. Please Note:

  • You must apply for this position online through the 'Apply Online' button.
  • Faxes are received by an automated system, not a physical fax machine. Documents that are faxed as part of the application process must be sent with the system generated cover sheet by the closing date. Documents faxed without the system generated coversheet are not retrievable and cannot be considered as part of the application package.
  • Clicking the "DONE" tab does not submit your application. The "DONE" tab allows you to exit the system and save your information for completion at a later time. To submit your application, click the "FINISH" tab.
  • The complete application package, including any required documents, is due in the Smithsonian Office of Human Resources on the closing date of the announcement by 11:59 PM Eastern Time.

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Agency contact information
Mary Hebert






SMITHSONIAN Human Resources 60 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138 Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 United States

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Next steps

You will receive an e-mail to acknowledge that your application has been received. If you do not receive an email acknowledgement, you should assume that your application is not complete or has not been received. Please be aware that the confirmation e-mail could reside in your "junk" or "bulk" mail folder depending on your filters.

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Fair & Transparent

The Federal hiring process is setup to be fair and transparent. Please read the following guidance.

Equal Employment Opportunity Policy

The United States Government does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor.

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Federal agencies must provide reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation for any part of the application process should follow the instructions in the job opportunity announcement. For any part of the remaining hiring process, applicants should contact the hiring agency directly. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

A reasonable accommodation is any change to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform job duties or receive equal access to job benefits.

Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal agencies must provide reasonable accommodations when:

  • An applicant with a disability needs an accommodation to have an equal opportunity to apply for a job.
  • An employee with a disability needs an accommodation to perform the essential job duties or to gain access to the workplace.
  • An employee with a disability needs an accommodation to receive equal access to benefits, such as details, training, and office-sponsored events.

You can request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the application or hiring process or while on the job. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Learn more about disability employment and reasonable accommodations or how to contact an agency.

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  • Financial suitability
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  • Selective Service
  • New employee probationary period

This job originated on For the full announcement and to apply, visit Only resumes submitted according to the instructions on the job announcement listed at will be considered.

Open & closing dates: 03/30/2018 to 01/28/2019

Service: Competitive

Pay scale & grade: IS 11 - 12

Salary: $67,643 to $105,400 per year

Appointment type: Temporary - Not To Exceed Two Years

Work schedule: Full-Time - Trust Fund. This is not a federal position.