United States Air Force Academy

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Evolution of United States Air Force Academy Research

Research Centers

An Air Force research pioneer and former high school chemistry teacher, Col Frank J. Seiler was a strong advocate of in-house research and the effective use of young scientific officers and officer-candidates. Civilian university students had always participated in research, and Seiler envisioned that if Air Force Academy cadets could be involved in real-world research efforts, they would be better prepared for their future assignments.

Seiler died in 1962, but the ongoing Cold War demanded a multifaceted scientific research effort with new methods and tools needed to overcome a wide variety of emerging threats. To address this need, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded the creation of the Academy’s first research center in 1963. The Chemistry Research Center became part of the Frank J. Seiler Research Laboratory, which had been renamed to honor Seiler after his death. The Seiler Lab also included the Aeronautics Research Center and the Laser and Optics Research Center. Over the next several decades, the Academy’s research efforts continued to grow with the view that technically curious cadets would become better officers and leaders in the Air Force.

The Seiler Lab closed in 1995, but the original three research centers in chemistry, aeronautics and lasers have been reinforced by the addition of new centers and institutes. Now home to 19 centers and two institutes and representing focus in areas from warfighter effectiveness to high-performance computing, research at the Academy reflects the evolving needs of the Air Force and a more technology-driven world.