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Basic Sciences Division

PHYSICS

The students, faculty, and researchers in the Department of Physics apply the principles of physics to better enable our modern technological society and enhance the capabilities of the Air Force and the Department of Defense.

About Us

The Air Force has a long history of technological innovation. Some of the Department of Defense’s most brilliant minds helped pioneer inventions such as nuclear energy, GPS, the internet, and virtual reality. Our modern society owes much to these great government scientists.

The laws and equations behind every device which empowers our modern society were first discovered in a physics laboratory. And although the pace of scientific discovery over the past two centuries has been nothing short of amazing, there remains a plethora of fundamental “unknowns” for future physicists to discover—dark energy, dark matter, quantum gravity, Grand Unification Theory and more.

The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Department of Physics offers the opportunity for cadets to graduate with an accredited Bachelor of Science in either Physics or Meteorology, as well as a minor in Nuclear Weapons & Strategy. Graduates from these programs will go on to serve the Air Force as weather officers, physicists, pilots, nuclear research officers, space operators, flight test engineers, acquisition managers, engineers, intelligence officers, and in other AF career fields.

The department is home to four research centers and a research observatory that enable cadets and faculty to work alongside Department of Defense and national-level organizations. This research develops real-world solutions to enhance the capabilities of the Air Force and DoD. The knowledge and experience our graduates gain from the research they perform greatly prepares them for their future roles as Air Force officers. Information on the six research centers can be found at the Research Centers homepage.

Physics Faculty & Staff

Department News News From Around The Department


July 28, 2020

Cadet Research Spotlight: Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center Photometer

by Nicole Cox, USAFA Graduate Liaison Cadet Zachary Eyler, Class of 2021, and his research advisor Dr. Matthew McHarg are working on a photometer, a device that measures the amount of incoming light, designed to take measurements of the Aurora. The goal of the project is to learn more about the mechanisms responsible for high frequency flickering in the Aurora’s intensity. Cadet Eyler’s efforts to program the photometer have led to an ability to get real-time read outs of auroral conditions. His program quickly analyzes the incoming data, writes it to a file and sends instruction back to the photometer....

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June 26, 2020

Cadet Research Spotlight: The New and Improved Digital Holography Demonstration System

Cadet Research Spotlight: The New and Improved Digital Holography Demonstration System The Digital Holography Demonstration (DHD) project began in 2019 as a partnership between Air Force Research Labs (AFRL), the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the USAFA Physics Department to build, test and improve a hands-on demonstration tool intended to show basic-to-advanced principals in optics, lasers, atmospheric physics and signal processing. The tool is designed to convey these complex topics in an interactive manner for both STEM outreach and for discussing these technologies with high-level leadership.  AFRL funded the project to help encourage more participation in STEM and optics and...

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October 16, 2019

New telescope at Academy to be largest available for public viewing in Colorado

(Courtesy photo/Devin Della-Rose) By Janine Dreger, Oct. 16, 2019 U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Scientists at the Air Force Academy said a $1.25 million project to install a telescope in the school’s observatory should be complete by springtime. Contractors from the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron, and technicians from the Austrian telescope manufacturer completed the first stage of the project this month when they installed the housing for the 5,000-pound Ritchey-Chretien reflecting telescope. Associate physics professor and Observatory Director Devin Della-Rose said when complete, the telescope system will support cadet and faculty research projects and connect to the Falcon Telescope Network...

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