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1 Feb 2023

Full-Time Chief Operations Officer

Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory – Posted by - Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Job Description

Search for the Chief Operations Officer

Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory

Cambridge, Massachusetts


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory seeks an experienced and innovative administrative leader to serve as its inaugural Chief Operations Officer. Reporting to the Director, the COO will oversee and enhance the Observatory’s financial, personnel, and administrative operations in support of the scientific mission. A member of the Director’s executive management team, the COO will be a forward-thinking, trusted, and solution-oriented partner to colleagues, scientists, and collaborators both internal and external to the Observatory. The COO will join during a remarkable period of innovation and historic interest for both the Observatory as well as space and earth sciences. With forward-thinking momentum currently underway, the COO will have the opportunity to lead during this exciting era and develop policies, procedures, and a workplace culture with efficacy, collaboration, clarity, and creativity as guiding principles.

One of fourteen Smithsonian education and research centers, the Observatory’s mission is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the universe through research and education in astronomy and astrophysics. In partnership with the Harvard College Observatory, the Observatory is part of the Center for Astrophysics, the largest and most scientifically diverse astrophysical institution in the world. Nearly 600 staff, including 300 scientists, are part of the Observatory and work in partnership with the Harvard College Observatory’s 200 employees to conduct a broad program in space and earth sciences. Key areas of research include exoplanets, the sun and solar weather, asteroids and comets, stellar evolution, galaxy formation and evolution, and the study of black holes. Ground and space-based instrumentation such as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory are all designed, built, and operated by Smithsonian and Harvard scientists, engineers, and partners and represent the most advanced equipment and research leading to breakthroughs in science.

The COO is a strategist, gifted manager, and natural collaborator. They must possess expertise with financial and organizational operations with demonstrated success in implementation management, particularly with daily and large-scale strategic enhancements to policies and procedures with clarity and usability in mind. The COO is responsible for managing the Observatory’s $120 million annual operating budget and oversees three administrative groups: Financial Management, Sponsored Programs and Procurement, and Human Resources. Additionally, the COO supervises the administrative managers supporting the operations of the five scientific divisions. Consistent with the Observatory’s and Smithsonian’s mission, the COO will also be instrumental in managing education and outreach programs. The Observatory is part of a large multi-institutional organization with varied revenue sources including federal appropriations, federal and non-federal contracts and grants, business activities, and philanthropic support. The COO will be an important representative of the Observatory and works closely with colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, federal agencies, and other collaborators of the Observatory.



The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in this search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed to:

Andrew Lee, Managing Partner

Ivan Ceballos, Senior Associate

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The Smithsonian Institution is committed to ensuring that employees, applicants for employment, and affiliated staff are treated equitably in an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, gender stereotyping, pregnancy, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, parental status, marital status and/or participation in protected EEO activity.

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Job Types: Full-Time.

Job expires in 30 days.

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