Program Manager

Job Summary

Science Engineering
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Central Engineering
Number of Positions Available
Work Arrangement

Job Description

Posting 23-141

Job Title: Program Manager, IS -0340- 15; $154,007 - $183,500 per year

Type of Position: Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite

Division/Department: Central Engineering Facility: Job Location: Cambridge, MA

Posting Opening Date: 11/14/2023

Posting Closing Date: 03/01/2024

AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all qualified candidates. This is NOT a federal position.

SAO is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support. Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants.

Note:  First consideration may be made 14 days after the opening of this vacancy.

INTRODUCTION: This is the position of Program Manager (PM) supporting projects and grants for the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the next-generation Event Horizon Telescope (ngEHT) at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is an international program that reported the first image of a black hole in 2019, and to which the SAO is a primary contributor. The EHT uses the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), wherein millimeter wavelength radiation from supermassive black holes is recorded at widely separated geographic locations, and data from each site is transported to a central facility for processing and analysis. The result is a distributed instrument that achieves the highest angular resolution, or magnifying power, that is possible from the surface of the Earth. The next- generation Event Horizon Telescope (ngEHT) is an SAO-led project in the design phase, which aims to add new radio dishes around the world to create a much more capable Earth-sized virtual telescope with a goal of making the first real-time movies of a black hole by 2030.

PURPOSE OF THE POSITION: The purpose of the position is to coordinate programmatic elements of all EHT and ngEHT-related grants at SAO, enabling an international group of scientists and engineers to realize the visionary ngEHT project and to continue EHT activities. The PM will reside within the SAO Project Management Office (PMO), which is responsible for a large portfolio of ground and space-based instrumentation projects. This role will be a key player in building the strong international collaboration required to make this project successful. The PM will provide a broad mix of advanced project, business, and technical management expertise to develop astronomical instrumentation through all phases of the project lifecycle, from concept definition to commissioning. Assignments will require close coordination with multiple SAO stakeholders, including senior management, scientists, engineers, and technical and administrative staff.


  1. Creates a detailed work plan for all aspects of the ngEHT project. Works with the PI (Principal Investigator), PE (Project Engineer) and PS (Project Scientist) to establish work breakdown structures, task dependencies, risk assessments, resource requirements, budgets and allocation, communication and reporting protocols, internal and external reviews, schedules, and priorities. Specific work plan elements include multiple technical design and construction efforts, monitoring and controlling systems for the distributed array, logistics for array operations, data processing/analysis software pipeline development, organization and coordination of science output and EPO (education and public outreach).
  2. Coordinates project implementation and management. The PM has responsibility for managing day-to- day operational aspects of the ngEHT and EHT projects, including:
    1. Tracking project progress using tools and techniques such as MS Project and Earned Value Management.
    2. Managing project budgets.
    3. Organizing reviews for project milestones.
    4. Tracking Science Requirements and Technical Specifications.
    5. Supporting coordination of EHT observation campaigns.
    6. Managing personnel and hiring within the project.
    7. Coordinating procurement and property management.
    8. Identifying problems and risks and working with the PI to resolve them.
    9. Working with project teams to ensure activities are executed efficiently, and project deliverables are on track, on budget, and properly resourced.
  3. Supports PI with coordination amongst partners. Assists the PI in developing and negotiating Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), Letters of Intent (LoI), and similar contractual agreements. Assists the PI in coordinating ngEHT activities with Export Control and Compliance for EAR and ITAR matters, Financial Management, Sponsored Projects, Procurement and Human Resources. The PM will take an active role in coordinating international collaborative aspects of the EHT and ngEHT.
  4. Interacts with funding agencies and coordinates program administration. Prepares and presents progress reports for funding agencies and internal project needs. The PM is responsible for all administrative aspects of grant management, ensuring that project milestones and budgets are met and status communicated; and satisfying contractual reporting requirements.
  5. Participates in the development of future EHT-related initiatives. Identifies new opportunities and strategizes with PI, PE, PS, and other EHT scientists on potential projects. Generates project management content including budgets, schedules, and descriptions of the planned approach. Assists with proposal writing and editing and oversees proposal submission. Develops and presents technical and programmatic briefings and status reviews in support of new proposals. Coordinates the contribution of other team members. Manages proposal development schedules and processes.
  6. Engages in general SAO Project and Program Management activities. Supports the Program Management Office as requested in developing SAO-wide program improvement and management initiatives and contributes to the improvement of processes and procedures across the Observatory.
  7. Participates in reviews and meetings as needed, including design reviews of other Observatory projects. Works with project teams to identify areas where processes, both management and technical, might be improved. Develops recommendations and solutions providing guidance to the team on how improvements might be implemented effectively.
  8. Performs other related duties as required.


Candidates must possess a minimum of one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least grade 14 in the normal line of progression for the occupation. Such experience includes but is not limited to managing projects for a government or research organization and participating in proposal preparation. Such experience would have included managing a project team, monitoring and controlling project performance and budgets, and interfacing with funding agencies and other external organizations.

Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days of the job opportunity announcement closing date. For information on qualification requirements, see Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at

How You Will be Evaluated: Your application will be evaluated first for the above basic qualifications. The applications that meet the basic qualifications will be evaluated further against the following criteria:

Comprehensive knowledge of the concepts, principles and practices of managing scientific or large technical programs, particularly as applied to projects with instrumentation, software and facility operation components.

Knowledge of the concepts, principles, theories and professional scientific methods of astronomy, astrophysics or a related scientific discipline so as to be able to understand, interpret, and apply the scientific goals of the EHT in setting priorities; developing long and short range plans for maintenance, staffing, equipment, and funding; and serving as the representative of EHT and ngEHT programs to other scientific, industrial, and government organizations and the general public.

Ability to independently establish effective relationships and negotiate with staff and project partners from US and international scientific institutions, government agencies, and contractors, with a goal of fostering scientific and technical collaborations that maintain and enhance the Smithsonian’s leadership position in the EHT and ngEHT projects.

Mastery of budget management practices, including the ability to define accurately the scope of projects, and to generate and maintain realistic project budgets and complex project technical schedules using established methods and tools such as Earned Value Management and MS Project.

Ability to interpret and respond to contractual requirements, sponsor and donor policies, government regulations, and SI/SAO policies and procedures in order to resolve issues that may be unique to the EHT and ngEHT efforts.

Excellent verbal and written interpersonal skills, including the ability to give well-organized presentations to varied audiences on technical, program planning, financial, and contractual elements of the project.

Required Documents: To receive consideration, applicants must submit all of the following: CV

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

Conditions of Employment:

Successful completion of a pre-employment background investigation.

A one-year probationary period is required.

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

Visit the SAO website at

Learn more about SAO Human Resources Visit the SAO website

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation Range
$154,007USD to $183,500USD

Application Details

Publication Start Date
2023 Dec 29
Application Deadline
2024 Mar 01
Reference Code
Posting 23-141