AFOSR Program Officers Complete Their 56th Annual Spring Review

The Program Officers of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) completed their 56th annual Spring Review, which ran from 4 March through 8 March in Arlington, VA. This annual assessments of AFOSR’s research portfolio highlighted not only the overall research portfolio, but emphasized the numerous basic research transitions of benefit to the United States Air Force.

In attendance were senior members of the organization as well as an online audience of over 1,200 attendees from other Air Force laboratories, universities and industry, many of whom would have been unable to travel to the event in person. This is the third year that AFOSR has opened this annual event to the broad public by opting to stream it online, a decision that has helped improve the communication flow and transparency of a small organization with a big mission for the United States Air Force.

In this AFOSR Spring Review 2013 video, Dr. Charles Matson, Chief Scientist, AFOSR presents the AFOSR Basic Research Strategy and explains why the Air Force invests in Basic Research:


For those who missed the 2013 Spring Review, presentations and videos are still available: Presentations Videos

Since its establishment in 1951, AFOSR has been responsible for investing in extramural basic research programs at leading universities and in-house (intramural) Air Force laboratories. During the first five years of AFOSR’s existence, the annual budget was relatively lean (as was the staff–between 20 to 27 personnel).

It was then that history intervened when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first earth satellite, in October 1957. Almost overnight, AFOSR’s budget almost doubled, and with it, a gradual boost in personnel. Sputnik was a major wake-up call regarding the overwhelming importance of science and technology to the future security, as well as economic vitality, of the United States.

For several decades thereafter, AFOSR held not only a Spring Review, but a Fall Review as well. By 1975, AFOSR was responsible for all Air Force basic research funding, and the bi-annual reviews continued to provide a formal review of the status and areas of emphasis in the overall basic research portfolio.

Although AFOSR reverted to an annual review in the 1990’s, this management tool continues to provide an excellent opportunity for both an introspective self-examination of a wide-ranging research portfolio as well as welcoming the views of customers and stakeholders in the continuous pursuit of cutting edge research that forges the foundation of our future Air Force.

As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and champion basic science that profoundly impacts the future Air Force. To stay up-to-date on the latest AFOSR happenings, please join us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+

AFOSR Spring Review Provides an Inside Look at the Research Being Funded by AFOSR

We hosted our 55th annual Spring Review from 5 through 9 March, 2012. AFOSR Program Managers discussed what they have funded over the last year as well as insight into trends and plans for the future basic research programs of interest to the Air Force.

The AFOSR Spring Review provides an excellent opportunity for both an introspective self-examination of a wide-ranging research portfolio as well as welcoming the views of customers and stakeholders in the continuous pursuit of cutting edge research that forges the foundation of our future Air Force.

This year we streamed the presentation of AFOSR’s annual Spring Review (SR12) so anyone could watch online and ask questions. You can watch videos from the spring review on our and also download PDFs from our Spring Review Website. We have also embedded the videos below.

Feel free to ask questions of the program managers here and we will try to get them answered.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5


Computer Scientist Dr. Dina Katabi of MIT Speaks at AFOSR 60th Anniversary Event – Watch the Video

On Jan. 30, we hosted a presentation by computer scientist Dr. Dina Katabi from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Dr. Katabi’s presentation was part of a continuing series of events planned throughout the coming year as part of AFOSR’s 60th anniversary celebration.

Her presentation focused on the challenge of improving the throughput and reliability of wireless systems–a topic which touches all institutions and every individual in this age of ever-increasing digital speed, mobile devices, and consumer demand for increased performance.

Dr. Katabi’s approach in improving wireless networks is centered on cutting through the layers of the “network stack” that comprises the wireless system. The existing architecture of both the hard-wired and wireless network stack is based on layer separation where the physical–read hardware–layers ideally deliver the correct packets of digital information. But errors in the physical layer are orders of magnitude higher in wireless networks. To address this shortfall, Professor Katabi offers a “Cross-Layer Design” that exploits the interaction at the physical layer, basically decoding packet collisions (the transmission errors) to reassemble correct packets, improving the performance of the network and subsequent higher (wireless) layers.

Dr. Katabi also addressed data loss rate in mobile video applications using the same cross-layered design, where again, data packet collisions can be decoded followed by the exploitation of those collisions to increase signal throughput using analog network coding which results in a more robust mobile video that does not glitch or stall.

Dr. Katabi is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Science at MIT, a member of the Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and leads the NETMIT networking group at MIT. The primary goal of her research is to build new protocols and architectures that improve the robustness and performance of computer networks. AFOSR has funded this MIT effort since 2008.  

Watch the video.

Sir John Pendry Speaks About His Theory for a Perfect Lens

AFOSR-funded researcher, Sir John Pendry spoke to a crowd of over 200 at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s (AFIT) Kenney Hall Auditorium Monday as part of AFIT’s regular speaker series and in celebration of the 60th anniversary of AFOSR.

Pendry is well known as a condensed matter theorist and as the Chair in Theoretical Solid State Physics at the Imperial College in London where he has worked extensively on electronic and structural properties of surfaces developing the theory of low energy diffraction and electronic surface states.

One of his most notable achievements is a theory for the perfect lens that has no limits to resolution—a microscope that can resolve objects smaller than the wavelength of light.

In addition to this work, in 2006, Pendry collaborated with David Smith at Duke University to develop a theory to hide an arbitrary object from electromagnetic fields. Realizations of this concept have succeeded at radar and at visible wavelengths.

The simplicity of his concepts together with their vast potential impact have exciting implications for the future Air Force and science in general.

Stanford University Dr. Robert L. Byer Speaks about Laser Research

On Oct. 26, we hosted a presentation by noted physicist Dr. Robert L. Byer from Stanford University as part of our 60th Anniversary celebration.

During the talk, Dr. Byer emphasized the importance of basic research to the laser effort, noting that no one realized the numerous applications and everyday utility of the laser when it was first demonstrated in 1960.

In the early days of laser research, and its forerunner, the maser, it was common for critics to dismiss these research efforts as “Means of Acquiring Support for Expensive Research.” But as Dr. Byer pointed out, lasers are a stealth utility–not visible to the general public but critical to everyday life. Without them we would not have electricity generation, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation would cease, and we could not even check out items at the store register.

Lasers are critical not only to the commercial world, but to defense as well, and while we do not as yet have Starship Enterprise photon torpedoes, we do have lasers that safely and efficiently strip the paint from planes, help to repair the coatings on stealth aircraft, clean jet engine turbine blades and employ lasers for scanning aircraft for body integrity, to name just a few applications.

Dr. Byer predicted that laser scientists of future generations will produce applications that will be as dramatic as current laser accomplishments would seem to everyone sixty years ago when the laser was in its infancy.

Dr. Byer has conducted research and taught classes at Stanford University since 1969. He has made numerous contributions to laser science and technology including the demonstration of the first tunable visible parametric oscillator, and the development of the Q-switched unstable resonator Nd YAG laser. At present, he is developing nonlinear optical materials and laser diode pumped solid state laser sources for applications to gravitational wave detection and to laser particle acceleration.