Skip to content

Job announcement

August 5, 2010

Updated August 15

First, the announcement:
The Planetary Science group at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has a civil service position open through August 24. The candidate will fill a project scientist position for the Lunar Mapping and Modeling project, which is expected to transition in the new budget/focus to the Exploration Mapping and Modeling project for other possible destinations such as Mars and asteroids. The candidate is also expected to bring or build a strong independent scientific research program as part of the MSFC Planetary Science group. Applicants must apply through – position number MS10D0108. Questions may be directed to Barbara Cohen (; 256-961-7566). See more about us at Planetary Science at MSFC, and more about the Lunar Mapping & Modeling Project in the 2008 LPSC abstract and 2009 LPSC abstract.

Then, the commentary:
I hate to steal WIPS contributor InterPlanetSarah’s thunder, but she scored a civil service position at NASA Goddard and is leaving the Planetary Group at Marshall, so we have an opening. I bet you could ask Sarah about her time here (and I hope she’d tell you nice things). While this position is totally open, we’ll be looking for someone with postdoc experience and ideally, your own grant funding (remember Rachel’s awesome advice), and we’ve had an awesome record of having awesome women here so I hope some of you will consider applying!

Finally, the advice:
Applying for a federal job is way, WAY different than applying for a position at a university or research institute. The federal government uses a single, automated system called USAJobs for every job it has, from judge to accountant to photographer to engineer. Consider it the scantron form of screening applicants (wow, I guess I just dated myself there). Anyway, the way it works is via an automated text-matching routine. Your response is evaluated on how many times it matches a set of keywords. Only after you match some threshold number of them is your application seen by a human. Didn’t match the keywords? Your application is rejected by a computer and nobody will ever see it.

My (non-legal, non-binding, non-representing my employer) advice is to make sure you use all the words in the announcement and job description, and use them exactly. Scientists like to paraphrase, to find synonyms, to not parrot back the same words. But this is what will sink you. Don’t use “spectroscopy” when the job calls for “remote sensing.” Don’t use “geochemistry” when the ad says “petrology.” Best thing is to cut and paste the questions and then answer them, and find ways to use the same words.

The good news is, you can save your resume and cover letter on USAJobs, and come back again. It’s also quite searchable. Good luck!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Interplanetsarah permalink
    August 6, 2010 9:29 am

    If anybody has questions about the position (working for/with Barb is awesome) or the Mapping Project (great team, cool project) or living in Huntsville (better than you’d expect actually), or USAjobs (grrrr, don’t get me started!), I am happy to share my wisdom. Drop me an email at


  1. job announcement is out « Women in Planetary Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: