Episode 72: Trek to AFOSR

Colonel Janelle Jackson, Deputy Director and Detachment 14 Commander of the Air Force Office Scientific Research (AFOSR), joins the podcast to discuss AFOSR’s worldwide operations and the engineers, actors and family members who inspired her education and career.


Colonel Janelle Jackson, director and detachment 14 commander of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), guest stars on episode 72 of the “Lab Life” podcast to discuss the vital mission at AFOSR and how her love for Star Trek has inspired her career.

AFOSR’s mission focuses on investing in basic research at various universities around the globe, including England, Chile, Brazil, Australia and Japan. As deputy director and detachment 14 commander, Jackson focuses on two adjoining duties. Firstly, as deputy director, Jackson helps her program officers and program managers get to various universities worldwide to conduct their science and research. Secondly, as the detachment 14 commander, she focuses on the care and well-being of her staff to ensure they have what they need to accomplish the organization’s overall mission.

Jackson equates AFOSR’s mission to playing the long game, understanding that this concept is the organization’s focus and researchers may work on their projects for years and even decades, perfecting their craft and technologies.

“We have some phenomenal folks that work in our organization. People who have been there for years, and I know the organization is designed that way. Hearing their stories and seeing the people AFOSR has funded who went on to be Nobel Prize winners and knowing I was a part of that is huge,” said Jackson.

Both of Jackson’s parents served in the military, as did many of her other relatives, so she never felt as if it were a question as to if she would join herself but rather how long she planned to stay in. With a career of more than two decades, Jackson focused on her mentors’ advice, asking herself what she would do with the time she spent outside the military and to focus on staying in the military until she had found that answer.

Jackson’s passion for science began at a young age, falling in love with television shows she watched, including “Bill Nye,” “321 Contact,” “A Different World,” but most of all “Star Trek.” Jackson said the characters that inspired her most were Nyota Uhura, the first African American woman to be depicted on television in space, and Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton who hosted another show she watched called “Reading Rainbow.” Jackson stated that her love for Uhura, as she was known on the show is something she shares with one of her real-life heroes Dr. Mae Jemison, who was the first African American woman to go into space.

The “Lab Life” podcast, hosted by Michele Miller and Kenneth McNulty, brings its audience behind the scenes with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), scientists, engineers and professionals who develop tomorrow’s technology for the Air Force and Space Force’s today.