United States Air Force Academy

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Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kittle

Professor of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry

Lt Col Kittle
Contact Information

(719) 333-6039




As a full professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I teach both general and advanced chemistry courses to over 100 cadets a year, while also serving as a mentor for future Air Force leaders. I also direct several cadet research projects funded by joint agencies regarding the development of improved sensors for chemical warfare agents.

I commissioned into the Air Force in 2003 as a ROTC graduate of Virginia Tech. I have a doctorate in physical chemistry, also from Virginia Tech, and extensive experience formulating and transitioning new explosives and weapons into the Air Force inventory. Further, I supported combat operations as the branch chief of the Air Force Fuels Laboratory in Southwest Asia during Operation Enduring Freedom and, during Operation Spartan Shield, acted as the Chief of Staff for the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. I also served as the Deputy Chief Scientist for the United States Space Force, providing guidance on emerging space technologies.


PhD, Virginia Tech (2012). Dissertation: Characterization of Cellulose and Chitin Thin Films and Their Interactions with Bio-based Polymers.

Professional Experience

Professor and Senior Military Faculty, Department of Chemistry, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado (2020-Present)

Deputy Chief Scientist, United States Space Force, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado (2019-2020)

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado (2016-2019)

IDE Student, Army Command and Staff College, Ft Leavenworth, Kansas (2014-2015)

Test Scientist, Test Division, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico (2012-2014)

Doctoral Student, Air Force Institute of Technology, Blacksburg, Virginia (2009-2012)

Instructor, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado (2006-2009)

Graduate Student, Air Force Institute of Technology, Blacksburg, Virginia (2005-2006)

Advanced Explosives Project Officer, Munitions Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (2003-2005)

Honors & Awards

Air Force Office of Scientific Research Grant (totaling $159K) (2016-2021)

Defense Threat Reduction Agency Research Grant (totaling $20K) (2016-2021)

Graduate Research Award, Virginia Tech Department of Chemistry (2012)

Superior Performer (top 20%), Army Command and Staff College (2015)

Distinguished Graduate, Squadron Officer School (2008)

Outstanding Academic Performer, Aerospace Basic Course (2003)

Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2014)

Meritorious Service Medal (2013, 2018, 2020, 2022)

Air Force Commendation Medal (2005, 2009)

Research and Scholarly Interests

My research interests lay primarily along two paths – developing novel sensors for chemical warfare agents (CWA) and understanding the uptake of these agents into protective coatings.

Recent work has shown that visible light reflected from natural photonic crystals (PhCs) of the morpho didius butterfly can be used to selectively identify CWA simulant vapors at the parts per million level. However, the lethality of CWAs dictates vapor sensitivity in parts per billion range. Sensitivity of synthetic PhCs should be possible in this range, though optimization of the sensor towards the analytes of interest will be required. Our group seeks to develop a synthetic PhC optimized for detection of CWA simulants with sensitivity greater than that of natural systems, such as the morpho didius. A synthetic PhC optimized to detect CWA simulants should facilitate development of rapid, low cost, and robust CWA sensors. Other research in our group examines the kinetic uptake of CWA simulants onto model surfaces present in aircraft, to include aluminum, as well as thin films of polyurethane and the Air Force’s advanced performance coating, in order to contribute to decontamination strategies.

Principal techniques of our group include reflectance spectroscopy, quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring, ellipsometry, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and machine learning.


Kittle, J.D.; Grasdal, E.N.; Kim, S.M.; Levin, N.R.; Davis, P.A.; Kittle, A.L.; Kittle, I.J.; Mulcahy, J.A.; Keith, B.R. Vapor Sorption-Desorption Phenomena of HD and GB Simulants from Polyurethane Thin Films on Aluminum Oxide via a Quartz Crystal Microbalance. ACS Omega 2022, 7, 22735-22742.

Meier, M; Kittle, J.D.; Levin, J.; Yee, X. C. Supervised Dimension Reduction for Optical Vapor Sensing. RSC Adv. 2022, 12, 9579-9586.

Kittle, J.; Levin, J.; Levin, N. Water Content of Polyelectrolyte Multilayer Films Measured by Quartz Crystal Microbalance and Deuterium Oxide Exchange. Sensors 2021, 21, 771.

Kittle, J.D.; Duff, M.W.; Engesser, J.M. Lunar Resource Harvesting and Manufacturing: Rich Content for the Chemistry Classroom. Journal of Chemical Education 2021, 98, 782-789.

Kittle, J.D.; Gofus III, J.S.; Abel, A.N.; Evans, B.D. Additive Combination of Spectra Reflected from Porous Silicon and Carbon/Porous Silicon Rugate Filters to Improve Vapor Selectivity. ACS Omega 2020, 5, 19820-19826.

Kittle, J.; Fisher, B.; Kunselman, C.; Morey, A.; Abel, A. Vapor Selectivity of a Natural Photonic Crystal to Binary and Tertiary Mixtures Containing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants. Sensors 2019, 20, 157.

Mozer, J. B.; Hardy, D.; Sanchez, M.; Rizzo, G.; Gaudreault, M.; Kittle, J. D.; Garretson, P.; Penn, D. The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy: Report on the Space Futures Workshop; Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, CO, 2019; DTIC Report AD1095527.

Butow, S.J.; Cooley, T.; Felt, E.; Mozer, J.B.; Sadat, M.; Singh, P.; Wegner, P.; Schneider, V.; Roesler, G.; Pittman, B.; Tumlinson, R.; Gaudreault, M; Kittle, J.D.; Spangenberg-Jones, J; Sander, A.; Song, A.; Mommer, R.; Walker, Z. State of the Space Industrial Base 2020: A Time for Action to Sustain US Economic and Military Leadership in Space. DTIC Report AD1106608; Peterson AFB, CO. July 2020.

Kittle, J.D.; Qian, C.; Edgar, E.; Roman, M.; Esker, A.R. Adsorption of Xyloglucan onto Thin Films of Cellulose Nanocrystals and Amorphous Cellulose: Film Thickness Effects. ACS Omega 2018, 3, 14004-14012.

Kittle, J. D.; Fisher, B. P.; Esparza, A. J.; Morey, A. M.; Iacono, S. T. Sensing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants via Photonic Crystals of the Morpho Didius Butterfly. ACS Omega 2017, 2, 8301-8307.

Kittle, J. D.; Gettings, M.; Rinehart, E. Lofted Debris Effects on Air Blast and Impulse for Cased Charge Detonations. In 87th Shock and Vibration Symposium: Explosive Detonations – Tunnel and Crater Applications; Schumaker, A. Ed.; Shock and Vibration Exchange, Arvonia, VA, Oct 2016.

Park, S.-W.; Lib, W.; Viehhauser, A.; Hed, B.; Kime, S.; Nilsson, A. K.; Andersson, M. X.; Kittle, J. D.; Ambavaram, M. M. R.; Luan, S.; Esker, A. R.; Tholl, D.; Cimini, D.; Ellerström, M.; Coaker, G.; Mitchell, T. K.; Pereira, A.; Dietz, K.-J.; Lawrence, C. B. Cyclophilin 20-3 Relays a 12-oxo-phytodienoic Acid Signal During Stress Responsive Regulation of Cellular Redox Homeostasis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013, 110, 9559-9564.

Jiang, F.; Kittle, J. D.; Tan, X.; Esker, A. R.; Roman, M. Effects of Sulfate Groups on the Adsorption and Activity of Cellulases on Cellulose Substrates. Langmuir 2013, 29, 3280-3291.

Wang, C.; Kittle, J. D.; Qian, C.; Roman, M.; Esker, A. R. Chitinase Activity on Amorphous Chitin Thin Films: A Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring and Atomic Force Microscopy Study. Biomacromolecules 2013, 14, 2622-2628.

Kittle, J. D.; Wondraczek, H.; Wang, C.; Jiang, F.; Roman, M.; Esker, A. R. Enhanced Dewatering of Polyelectrolyte Nanocomposites by Hydrophobic Polyelectrolytes. Langmuir, 2012, 28, 11086-11094.

Kittle, J. D.; Wang, C.; Qian, C.; Zhang, Y.; Zhang, M.; Roman, M.; Morris, J. R.; Moore, R. B.; Esker, A. R. Ultrathin Chitin Films for Nanocomposites and Biosensors. Biomacromolecules 2012, 13, 714-718.

Kittle, J. D.; Du, X.; Jiang, F.; Qian, C.; Heinze, T.; Roman, M.; Esker, A. R. Equilibrium Water Contents of Cellulose Films Determined via Solvent Exchange and Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring. Biomacromolecules 2011, 12, 2881-2887.