Research Topics

Below is a list of research topics supported by the AFRL. Use the filters and keyword search below to find research topics of interest. You can apply for up to 3 topics on your application.




Scholars are encouraged to contact any mentors whose projects they find of interest. To contact the mentor, use the link included at the conclusion of each project description.

Accelerating the Generation of Practical Spatially varying Lattices Through Parallel Code on CPU and GPU Clusters
Mentor: Jimmy E Touma, Munitions
Location: Eglin
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Current methods for analyzing photonic crystals and spatially variant lattices limit the size and speed with which simulations can occur. These limitations can be overcome by taking advantage of parallel computing in high performance computing environments, where the simulation is split among several processors. Splitting the simulation up in this manner allows each processor to work on a part of the problem. AFRL is seeking a graduate level researcher to continue and improve on the parallel implementation of our algorithms and to port them to HPC and GPU clusters. The candidate should have a strong background in C++, MPI, and GPU/Cuda programming on Linux workstations and HPC centers.


Aero-optics research
Mentor: Chung-Jen John Tam, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The propagation of laser beams through turbulent flows has been an important topic with applications ranging from missile defense to target designation and tracking. The turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". The opportunities for the aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation, and water-table visualization. Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


Aero-optics research
Mentor: Chung-Jen John Tam, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The propagation of laser beams through turbulent flows has been an important topic with applications ranging from missile defense to target designation and tracking. The turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". The opportunities for the aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation, and water-table visualization. Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


Applications of Spatially Varying Photonic Crystals
Mentor: Jimmy E Touma, Munitions
Location: Eglin
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Inhouse and collaborative research has identified new phenomena in spatially-varying photonic crystals (SVPCs) that demonstrates light focusing and bending capabilities with minimal power loss and frequency and polarization selectivity. The Integrated Sensing and Processing branch at Eglin AFB (AFRL/RWWI) is seeking a PhD candidate to study and characterize SVPCs of interest. In particular, the candidate will explore possible applications enabled by the multiplexing capabilities of SVPCs. The candidate will use our inhouse developed software to model and simulate the SVPC structures. The candidate must have experience in computational electromagnetic simulation techniques. Python and C/C++ on the Linux platform are required.


Architecture Analytics in the SPACER Lab
Mentor: Jesse Keith Mee, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

AFRL/RVS has established a dedicated architecture analytics testbed under the Space Performance Analytics and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) project. The objective of this project is to provide AFRL with an organic, in-house, capability to assess processing options for next generation mission applications. This addresses the increasing challenge of mapping mission requirements to hardware and software implementations for space computing applications. This topic specifically seeks optimization and evaluation of mission application codes on state of the art, Rad-hard, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA). The selected scholar will be given mission application source code and tasked with synthesizing the code for use on multiple FPGA resources. This will allow for detailed analysis of the application’s performance on different hardware architecture alternatives, providing critical insight into the computational requirements for next generation mission applications. This effort will provide a valuable capability to the Air Force, guiding future science and technology investments decisions


Augmented Reality (AR) Enabled Concepts for Spacecraft Assembly
Mentor: Derek Thomas Doyle, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

RV would like to develop AR based concepts that can be utilized in the assembly of spacecraft. This can be achieved at multiple stages from being able to identify a component, verify part matches modelled expectations, track task orders, document progress, and report information. This effort will require the user to be able to develop AR workspaces and be familiar with software associated with AR development and HoloLens systems.


Cold Atom Experimental Control and Data Acquisition
Mentor: Spencer E Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Our laboratory is developing inertial navigation sensors and clocks using cold-atom technology. The relevant experiments and prototypes for cold-atom sensors typically require specialized timing-control hardware, software, and computer integration. We are developing means to utilize micro-controllers, low-power computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), and open-source software for data acquisition and experimental control. The assigned project will depend on the student's interest and experience, but could include micro-controller programming, FPGA programming, low-power computer-experiment integration, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments.


Cold Atom Experimental Control and Data Acquisition
Mentor: Spencer E Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Our laboratory is developing inertial navigation sensors and clocks using cold-atom technology. The relevant experiments and prototypes for cold-atom sensors typically require specialized timing-control hardware, software, and computer integration. We are developing means to utilize micro-controllers, low-power computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), and open-source software for data acquisition and experimental control. The assigned project will depend on the student's interest and experience, but could include micro-controller programming, FPGA programming, low-power computer-experiment integration, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments.


Cold Atom Sources
Mentor: Matthew Squires, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Cold atoms are used to make precision measurements of rotation, acceleration, time (think atomic clocks), etc.  Atoms are typically cooled using laser cooling techniques to temperatures less than 100 micro Kelvin to reduce thermal noise and increase measurement time.  We are investigating new cold atoms sources that either reduce the size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements of laser cooled sources or that can cool atoms without lasers.  Reducing SWAP is an important considering for making compact devices that can be transitioned from the laboratory into real world applications.  Cooling atoms without laser opens the possibility of using atoms that currently cannot be cooled but have properties that are of scientific and/or technical interest.   The assigned project will depend on the student’s interest and experience.


Cold Atom Sources
Mentor: Matthew Squires, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Cold atoms are used to make precision measurements of rotation, acceleration, time (think atomic clocks), etc.  Atoms are typically cooled using laser cooling techniques to temperatures less than 100 micro Kelvin to reduce thermal noise and increase measurement time.  We are investigating new cold atoms sources that either reduce the size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements of laser cooled sources or that can cool atoms without lasers.  Reducing SWAP is an important considering for making compact devices that can be transitioned from the laboratory into real world applications.  Cooling atoms without laser opens the possibility of using atoms that currently cannot be cooled but have properties that are of scientific and/or technical interest.   The assigned project will depend on the student’s interest and experience.


Data Visualization
Mentor: Jimmy E Touma, Munitions
Location: Eglin
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Integrated Sensing and Processing branch at the Munitions Directorate is seeking an undergraduate level candidate to design and develop an interactive visualization tool for flight data. The tool should be modular and platform independent, run in a browser and AR/VR devices, and make use of the latest web technologies. The candidate will implement that can be used on previously collected flight data, insect trajectory, field-of-view computation and overlay, and multiple component articulation in the same view. Also, the candidate would implement these capabilities: Display orientation as a function of time with respect to some coordinate system: up, downrange, crossrange or North, East, down; Display and animate control surface deflections; Display maneuvering jets (on and off, like an animation sprite). The candidate should have a strong programming background in Python, Unity, JavaScript and web technologies. A working knowledge of D3.js, Cesium, interactive map technologies, and publisher/subscriber model is desired


Emission Physics of Carbon Fiber Field Emitters
Mentor: Wilkin Tang, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of the research is to investigate the physics of electron field emission under a variety of conditions.  Carbon fiber cathodes will be used for the research.  First, emission characteristics with pulse width from 100ns to 500ms and DC will be examined.  A new cathode test bed will be built for this purpose.  Second, different numbers of emitters (1<n<100) will be used to study the turn-on effects of cathodes, and the phenomena will be modeled using  a predator-prey relationship.  ICEPIC will be used to predict the effects of pulse width on electron field emission, in addition,  various numbers of fibers placed on the cathode will be subjected to the same voltage pulse, and ICEPIC will be used to model the cathode geometry, and comparison in terms of the total current obtain and the value of the field enhancement factors will be made with theory and experiment.  Lastly, a predator and prey relationship model will be developed to study the physics of emission when large number (1<n<100) of fibers are present on the cathode.  During the course of the program, Students will be involved in using ICEPIC to design the geometry of the cathodes, as well as to set up ICEPIC model to study the emission of the cathode under different pulse width.  At the end of the internship, students will gain knowledge in the emission physics from a carbon fiber cathode which is highly relevant in future technology.


Enhancements to imaging and tracking model
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Optical tracking systems, such as those used by the military, attempt to track moving/maneuvering targets. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of degradations hamper such efforts, including sensor noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, and a number of emerging factors that require more research. The software package known as PITBUL allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. PITBUL is a physics-based simulation package written in Matlab using object-oriented programing (OOP). It requires frequent physics additions, feature additions, testing, and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Specifically, we expect to add several capabilities to PITBUL during the summer, including adaptive optics systems, multiple illumination lasers, and the latest tracking algorithms. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the enhanced software to conduct tracking research in support of a laser-weapon research program. The scope and depth of the research will be adjusted to match the scholar’s background and interests.


Enhancements to imaging and tracking model
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Optical tracking systems, such as those used by the military, attempt to track moving/maneuvering targets. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of degradations hamper such efforts, including sensor noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, and a number of emerging factors that require more research. The software package known as PITBUL allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. PITBUL is a physics-based simulation package written in Matlab using object-oriented programing (OOP). It requires frequent physics additions, feature additions, testing, and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Specifically, we expect to add several capabilities to PITBUL during the summer, including adaptive optics systems, multiple illumination lasers, and the latest tracking algorithms. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the enhanced software to conduct tracking research in support of a laser-weapon research program. The scope and depth of the research will be adjusted to match the scholar’s background and interests.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Bud Alonzo Denny, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Bud Alonzo Denny, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis using Advanced Machine Learning Techniques
Mentor: Ashar Ali, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic PArticle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) to study the sensitivity of high powered microwave (HPM) devices to various design parameters. ICEPIC will be used for modeling and prototyping of the HPM devices. Since modeling in ICEPIC can be slow and can require massive computational effort, we would like to use some advanced machine learning techniques to speed up the initial modeling and prototyping phase. Afterwards, ICEPIC can be used for a more detailed analysis. Since the underlying physics contains many nonlinear processes, the data sets are very noisy and naive machine learning algorithms fail. Therefore, we would like to explore Bayesian statistical methods and active learning methods for rapid HPM prototyping.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis using Advanced Machine Learning Techniques
Mentor: Ashar Ali, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic PArticle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) to study the sensitivity of high powered microwave (HPM) devices to various design parameters. ICEPIC will be used for modeling and prototyping of the HPM devices. Since modeling in ICEPIC can be slow and can require massive computational effort, we would like to use some advanced machine learning techniques to speed up the initial modeling and prototyping phase. Afterwards, ICEPIC can be used for a more detailed analysis. Since the underlying physics contains many nonlinear processes, the data sets are very noisy and naive machine learning algorithms fail. Therefore, we would like to explore Bayesian statistical methods and active learning methods for rapid HPM prototyping.


Hybrid Control Design for Satellite Systems
Mentor: Sean Phillips, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Due to the difficulties in controlling satellite systems inherent to the nature of the environment, in this project, we are interested in developing a robust, multi-modal control algorithm for a stabilizing the attitude of a satellite system. Prospective interns should have a background in systems theory, aerospace dynamics, advanced/nonlinear control theory, Matlab/Simulink, and (bonus points) hybrid systems.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Common Turbulence Measurement Techniques
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Turbulence in the air degrades our ability to image clearly over long distances. It also prevents us from tightly focusing laser energy. Adaptive optics systems can correct the effects of turbulence, but their performance is highly dependent upon the strength of the turbulence. This research will use computer simulations to investigate whether our current turbulence measurement devices can adequately measure the strength of non-standard (i.e., non-Kolmogorov) turbulence. It will benefit applications such as target tracking, remote sensing, laser weapons, and laser communications.

Although we have a good understanding of the strength of atmospheric turbulence both near the surface and at high altitudes, recent measurements for intermediate altitudes have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude typically does not exhibit the expected statistics (i.e., Kolmogorov statistics). This research will propagate a laser beam through such turbulence using numerical simulation. It will use data from high-fidelity experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-fidelity) turbulence measurement devices to characterize the effects of layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence on beam propagation. The results will help to determine whether layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence is a significant factor that requires further research and/or improved measurement devices. This work is an extension of previous research that yielded limited results. The scope and depth of the research will be tailored to fit the scholar’s background and could be directed towards optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Common Turbulence Measurement Techniques
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Turbulence in the air degrades our ability to image clearly over long distances. It also prevents us from tightly focusing laser energy. Adaptive optics systems can correct the effects of turbulence, but their performance is highly dependent upon the strength of the turbulence. This research will use computer simulations to investigate whether our current turbulence measurement devices can adequately measure the strength of non-standard (i.e., non-Kolmogorov) turbulence. It will benefit applications such as target tracking, remote sensing, laser weapons, and laser communications.

Although we have a good understanding of the strength of atmospheric turbulence both near the surface and at high altitudes, recent measurements for intermediate altitudes have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude typically does not exhibit the expected statistics (i.e., Kolmogorov statistics). This research will propagate a laser beam through such turbulence using numerical simulation. It will use data from high-fidelity experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-fidelity) turbulence measurement devices to characterize the effects of layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence on beam propagation. The results will help to determine whether layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence is a significant factor that requires further research and/or improved measurement devices. This work is an extension of previous research that yielded limited results. The scope and depth of the research will be tailored to fit the scholar’s background and could be directed towards optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics.


Learning algorithms in closed loop systems
Mentor: Lee A Kann, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Starfire Optical Range has recently implemented simple learning algorithms into closed loop systems. The scholar will investigate other learning algorithms, and recommend options to increase performance, efficiency, or stability within the closed loop system. The scholar will test the selected algorithms in simulation, and see the best candidate algorithm implemented either in a lab based system, or on the Starfire Optical Range 3.5-m telescope.


Machine Learning for Multi-Domain Operations
Mentor: John E Myers, Information
Location: Rome
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D., Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Design and develop machine learning models for the processing and classification of data associated with operator interactions within a Multi-Domain Operations Center (MDOC). Work will include using commercial tools to process voice chat data, the application of ontologies to semantically link the chat information to operators and specific missions, and machine learning models for auto-responses to inquiries.
An example of a Concept of Operations (CONOP) would as follows: the Senior Offensive Duty Officer (SODO) speaks through their head set “What is the ETA of POOH71?” Using speech-to-text libraries, extract which audio line spoke (SODO) and the sentence spoken, and run the text through a trained model. This model will be trained to classify the sentence based upon a variety of categories given. Once the sentence is properly classified as an “ETA_Request,” do a natural language extraction of the noun entity, in this case “POOH71.” Once the classification and noun are deduced, perform a web service call into Codex to return the ETA of that aircraft call sign. Finally, in response to the SODO’s initial question, the computer will verbally respond to the query with the ETA of the aircraft.


Micro-physics of Electrospray Thrusters
Mentor: Benjamin Douglas Prince, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Electrospray thrusters using ionic liquid propellants are next-generation propulsion systems that are well-suited for in-space propulsion for small spacecraft. These systems provide unique high-density, low power propulsion capabilities and are envisioned in such missions as the upcoming gravity wave observatory mission (LISA, NASA). The physics occurring at the emission sites of high performance electrospray systems is still ripe for experimental and theoretical exploration designed to improve our understanding of the operation of the devices.

In this project, the selected student will either undertake experimental or theoretical approaches to further the understanding of the plume of ions emitted from either (or both) a capillary or externally wetted emitter. Theoretical methods, if the student’s primary interest, might include the use of quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics approaches to the prediction of emitted ion clusters, the lifetime of the clusters, prediction of the plume shape and other observables, modelling in support of experimental data or other related work.

Students focused primarily on experimental investigations will utilize mass spectrometry, current-sensing and mass-sensing tools to examine the plume generated from various different propellants or emitter types at relevant volumetric flow rates. Analysis of the experimental measurements will yield insights into trends among the different propellants and improve understanding of the microphysics occurring post-emission in a laboratory thruster.


Modeling and code development for high intensity laser matter interactions.
Mentor: Ryan Edward Phillips, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) modeling group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Using the pulse propagation code gUPPE, students will model laser induced plasma filamentation in direct support of experimental efforts. New physics models need to be developed to answer long standing questions about the group's experimental filamentation results. Students will learn to use the Air Force's world leading High Powered Computing (HPC) resources, assist with the development of new physics models, rapid prototype new simulations based on experimental feedback, and perform post-processing and data analysis


Modeling and simulation long duration photometry
Mentor: Shadi Naderi, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing (AMOS) site has access to several ground-based optical telescopes with a wide range of utilities. The student will use the data collected with these telescopes and analyze long-duration photometry (and/or polarimetry and/or velocimetry) collected on both astronomical and man-made space objects by modeling and simulation. The goal is to develop models to analyze the short- and long-duration seismic activities.


Precision magnetic traps for atomic physics.
Mentor: Brian Kasch, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Controlled magnetic fields are critical to the operation of confined atom interferometers, and associated inertial sensors. This project involves further developing in-house capabilities for laser etching so-called 'atom chips'. We use inexpensive DBC substrates: aluminum nitride with a layer of copper bonded to each face. By laser cutting specific wire shapes into the copper, we can create well-controlled magnetic fields simply by varying the applied currents. These chips already enable a variety of experiments involving ultracold atoms, and were used to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. Our goal is to progress to more advanced structures and processes, carefully characterize the laser mill cuts, and reduce the need for post-processing due to trace defects.


Precision measurements with levitated nanoparticles
Mentor: Maxwell David Gregoire, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We are researching ways to use laser-levitated nanoparticles to measure acceleration. Our ultimate goal is to create a small, portable accelerometer rivaling the precision of state-of-the-art systems to be used on satellites, aircraft, and other military vehicles. By levitating nanoparticles with a focused laser beam forming what is known as “optical tweezers,” we can explore physics at the boundary between classical and quantum mechanics and make extremely precise measurements of forces. A scholar on this project may help develop methods of launching and catching nanoparticles in ultra-high vacuum, engineer ways to isolate acoustic noise from measurements, write computer programs to manage or model data acquisition, create and modify laser and optical systems, or explore the theory of interactions between light and matter in optical cavities.


Precision measurements with levitated nanoparticles
Mentor: Maxwell David Gregoire, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

We are researching ways to use laser-levitated nanoparticles to measure acceleration. Our ultimate goal is to create a small, portable accelerometer rivaling the precision of state-of-the-art systems to be used on satellites, aircraft, and other military vehicles. By levitating nanoparticles with a focused laser beam forming what is known as “optical tweezers,” we can explore physics at the boundary between classical and quantum mechanics and make extremely precise measurements of forces. A scholar on this project may help develop methods of launching and catching nanoparticles in ultra-high vacuum, engineer ways to isolate acoustic noise from measurements, write computer programs to manage or model data acquisition, create and modify laser and optical systems, or explore the theory of interactions between light and matter in optical cavities.


Research Practice Partnership to Investigate Innovation Culture
Mentor: Matthew Paul Fetrow, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Research Practice Partnerships (RPP) are one of the hallmark methodologies of the learning sciences field. In this approach, a learning scientist collaborates with an organization to understand and iteratively address a persistent problem of practice through collaborative, theory-driven and research-based design work. ARFL’s starting problem of practice is supporting teams to be more innovative in their work, (re)framing problems when needed and avoiding groupthink; this includes fostering a culture that values various forms of diversity and interdisciplinarity. Knowledge generated in this study would provide insight into using RPP to manage change process in an under-studied setting. While researchers have published studies on operational changes and changes related to human resource development, no recent studies have reported on significant cultural or mindset changes needed to enhance innovative practices in settings like AFRL. As a case study, this would provide insight for others seeking to lead change in similar settings.


Ultrashort Pulse Laser Research
Mentor: Jennifer Elle, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Topics under investigation include laser wakefield acceleration, filamentation, and laser-solid or laser-gas interactions. Students will assist with the design and implementation of experimental hardware, build diagnostics, and perform data acquisition and analysis.


Unconventional imaging, wavefront sensing, and adaptive optics
Mentor: Mark F. Spencer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Current imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics solutions are inadequate when in the presence of distributed-volume atmospheric aberrations and extended objects (aka the "deep-turbulence problem"). This shortcoming requires that we innovate towards a new solution. In leveraging a recent journal-article publication [https://doi.org/10.1364/JOSAA.36.000A20], this research opportunity will develop imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics approaches that sense and correct for the disturbances found all along the laser-propagation path. Overall, this volumetric solution will enable advanced remote-sensing and directed-energy functions at extended standoffs.


Volumetric wave-front sensing for deep turbulence phase compensation
Mentor: Mark F. Spencer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Current wave-front sensing solutions are inadequate when in the presence of distributed-volume atmospheric aberrations and extended non-cooperative objects (aka the "deep-turbulence problem"). This shortcoming requires that we innovate towards a new solution. In leveraging a recent journal-article publication [JOSA A 34(9), 1659-1669 (2017)], this internship will develop aspects of a volumetric solution -- a wave-front sensing approach that senses and corrects for disturbances found all along the laser-propagation path (e.g., the atmospheric aberrations in addition to the aero-optic aberrations but separate from the speckle aberrations). Overall, this volumetric solution will enable us to achieve good compensation when in the presence of distributed-volume atmospheric aberrations and extended non-cooperative objects.


Wargame AI Development (WAID)
Mentor: Ainoghena Igetei, Information
Location: Rome
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D., Upper-level Undergraduate

Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) has enabled breakthroughs in developing intelligent agents capable of beating human experts in complex strategy games. The space and action complexity of some of these games (i.e. StarCraft) closely model scenarios relevant to Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2), where we operate in large decision spaces, variable timelines, and most importantly we are constantly working in states of imperfect information. This project looks to leverage the advances in machine learning and AI to develop intelligent agents capable of producing high level strategies. We envision that these agents will serve as an aid to develop new battle plans and also serve as intelligent adversaries to evaluate the success rate of existing plans.