United States Air Force Academy

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Major Jacob Harley

Senior Military Faculty, Assistant Professor of Physics

Department of Physics

Official Photo of Major Jacob Harley
Contact Information

(719) 333-4345



Major Jacob Harley enlisted into the Air Force in 1994. He was trained as a vehicle auto-body repairman and reached the rank of Technical Sergeant before being selected for the Airmen Education and Commissioning Program in 2003. He was then sent to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to earn his undergraduate degree in Physics. He commissioned from UW-Madison in 2006 as a Physicist.

Major Harley’s first assignment as an officer was at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. There he served as an Air Defense Modeling Engineer where he developed various analysis tools for the understanding of enemy integrated air defense systems. Eventually he was selected to earn his Master’s degree at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). He remained at AFIT to also earn a Doctor of Philosophy. Since then he has served with the Department of Physics at the US Air Force Academy and is now Senior Military Faculty.


2011-2014, Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB OH

Doctor of Philosophy, Physics

Dissertation:  Development of Imaging Fourier-Transform Spectroscopy for the Characterization of Turbulent Jet Flames

2009-2011, Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB OH

Master of Science, Physics

Thesis:  Remote Quantification of Smokestack Total Effluent Mass Flow Rates Using Imaging Fourier-Transform Spectroscopy

2003-2006, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison WI

Bachelor of Science, Physics

Professional Experience


2014-2020, Department of Physics, United States Air Force Academy, USAFA CO

2009-2014, Department of Engineering Physics, Air Force Institute of Technology, WPAFB OH

2006-2009, IADS Modeling and Simulation Branch, National Air & Space Intelligence Center, WPAFB OH

2003-2006, AFROTC Detachment 925, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison WI


2000-2003, 2nd Mission Support Group, Airman Leadership School, Barksdale AFB LA

1998-2000, 608th Air Communication Squadron, Vehicle Maintenance Flight, Barksdale AFB LA

1996-1998, 36th Transportation Squadron, Vehicle Maintenance Flight, Andersen AFB GU

1994-1996, 89th Transportation Squadron, Allied Trades Division, Andrews AFB MD

Honors & Awards

2018 Department of Physics Outstanding Academy Educator

2016 Department of Physics McGrath Award

Research and Scholarly Interests

Transient Luminous Events

High-speed and Spectral Imagery Analysis

Statistical analysis of atmospheric sprite splitting

High-speed spectral analysis of lightning


Carlos Alex Maldonado, Zach Eyler, Brandon Pierce, Liza Matson, P Neal, H Richards, RL Balthazor, J Harley, MG McHarg (2020). A Laminated Energetic Electrostatic Analyzer for 0-5 keV Charged Particles. Review of Scientific Instruments, 91(1), 013303.

Harley, J. L., Rankin, B. A., Blunck, D. L., Gore, J. P., and Gross, K. C. (2014). Imaging Fourier-transform Spectrometer Measurements of a Turbulent Nonpremixed Jet Flame. Optics letters, 39(8), 2350-2353.

Rhoby, M. R., Harley, J. L., Gross, K. C., Tremblay, P., and Chamberland, M. (2013). Imaging Fourier-transform Spectrometry for Plume Diagnostics and Code Validation. International Journal of Energetic Materials and Chemical Propulsion, 12(1).

Rhoby, M. R., Harley, J. L., and Gross, K. C. (2011, September). IFTS Measurements of a Laboratory Scale Laminar Flame. In SPIE Optical Engineering+ Applications (pp. 81580P-81580P). International Society for Optics and Photonics.