United States Air Force Academy

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Basic Sciences Division


Understand the laws and equations behind the devices that enable our modern technological society, enhancing the capabilities of the Air Force and Department of Defense.

About Us

Newton, Maxwell, Einstein… some of history’s most influential people focused their studies on physics. Our modern technological society owes its existence to great thinkers.

Tablets, smart phones, Xboxes—the laws and equations behind every one of our favorite devices were first discovered in a physics laboratory. And although the pace of scientific discovery has been nothing short of amazing over the past two centuries, there remains a plethora of fundamental “unknowns” for future physicists to conquer—dark energy, dark matter, quantum gravity, Grand Unification Theory and many more.

The United States Air Force Academy’s Department of Physics graduates cadets who will go on to serve the Air Force as pilots, space operators, flight test engineers, acquisition managers, engineers, nuclear research officers, weather officers, intelligence officers, and, of course, physicists.

The department is also home to five research centers that support faculty and cadets in developing real-world solutions to enhance the capabilities of the Air Force and Department of Defense.

STEM Outreach

Our department is actively engaged in STEM outreach through judging local science fairs and through the activities of the following cadet-run clubs:

Physics is Phun
Contact Lt Col Brian Smith at (719) 333-0869

Girls in the Middle
Contact Dr. Kim De La Harpe at (719) 333-3411

Physics and Astronomy
Contact Dr. Devin Della-Rose at (719) 333-3266

Interested community members from schools and other non-profit organizations should contact the STEM Outreach Coordinator at (719) 333-8990.

For cadets interested in starting the Meteorology club, contact the Department of Physics.

Majors & Minors


Nuclear Weapons & Strategy

Co-Administered Programs


Department News News From Around The Department

February 24, 2017

Academy physics experiment goes to International Space station

By John Van Winkle, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs.   A cadet and faculty space physics experiment is in the hands of astronauts aboard the International Space station, more than 250 miles above the Earth. The latest Air Force Academy academic product in space is the Space Test Program-Houston 5 Automated Plume Sentry or “APS.” The sentry was delivered by Space-X Corporation’s CRS-10 mission, resupplying cargo and experiments to the station. Dr. Geoff McHarg, director of the Academy’s Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center, said space might be a vacuum but it’s far from empty. “It contains countless micrometeoroids...

Continue Reading Academy physics experiment goes to International Space station

February 24, 2017

Update: Cadets selected to compete in round 2 of NASA space-habitat design competition

By John Van Winkle, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs.   National Institute of Aerospace officials invited cadets to compete in the next round of the RASC-AL Space Habitat Competition's in March. If the team makes it through the next cut, they'll compete in the competition's final round, May 31-June 2 in Florida. The cadets are designing a habitat module to use in low-Earth orbit after the International Space Station is no longer available. To complete in round 1, cadet researchers submitted the required 5-page abstract and two-minute video. Teams making it through the first round submit a mid-project review in...

Continue Reading Update: Cadets selected to compete in round 2 of NASA space-habitat design competition

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The Center for Space Situational Awareness Research (CSSAR) provides cadets and faculty at the Academy with an education and research program in space situational awareness (SSA) using world-class facilities and capabilities.

CSSAR Director: Dr. Francis Chun, 333-260

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The Center for Physics Education Research (CPER) engages in pedagogical innovation and the thoughtful application of technology to the learning experience by developing and evaluating effective teaching strategies using research-based approaches.

CPER Director: Dr. Kimberly De La Harpe, 333-3411

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The Laser and Optics Research Center (LORC) performs research in laser development, laser applications and large optics for space with cadets, faculty and contractors using a well-equipped laboratory. Lasers and large optics are increasingly used by the military for directed energy weapons, precision munitions, communications and surveillance.

LORC Director: Dr. Randy Knize, 333-4165

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The Astronomical Research Group and Observatory (ARGO) houses 61- and 41-cm telescopes, and supports the worldwide Falcon Telescope Network (FTN). ARGO conducts near-Earth research including resolved and non-resolved space object tracking, and deep-space research including asteroid tracking, astronomical spectroscopy and photometry and exoplanet studies. ARGO also supports the other Department of Physics research centers and grant work and hosts STEM outreach activities at the observatory for Scout groups, school groups and teachers.

ARGO Director: Dr. Devin Della-Rose, 333-3266

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Contact Us

Col Rex Kiziah
Permanent Professor and Department Head of Physics
(719) 333-3510

2354 Fairchild Drive
United States Air Force Academy, CO 80840
(719) 333-3510 | DSN 333-3510