Dr. James E. Hubbard, Jr.

  • TEES Eminent Professor, Hagler Institute Fellow
  • Director, Morpheus Laboratory

Department of Mechanical Engineering

About Me

Dr. James E. Hubbard, Jr. (December 21, 1951) is a mechanical engineer who has made significant contributions to the field of aerospace engineering throughout a career spanning more than four decades in academia and industry.

Hubbard is considered a pioneer in the field of adaptive structures having developed piezo-film sensors and piezoelectric actuation systems for suppressing vibration and noise, surface morphing, and other applications.[1] Hubbard has published more than 100 technical papers and three books in the areas of adaptive structures and photonics.[2] He cofounded three companies and has received 24 U.S. and worldwide patents, leading to technological advances benefiting the aerospace, medical, defense, and other industries.[3]

Throughout his career, Hubbard has served in numerous technical advisory roles, including the National Academy of Engineering’s Air Force Studies Board[4] and the Naval Research Advisory Committee

Despite facing significant racial stigma throughout his early life, Hubbard became Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s first black Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.[5] He is now a member of the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional engineering accomplishments.[6] He was also granted the “Key to the City” of his hometown of Danville, Virginia for his lifetime achievements and community service.[7]

Hubbard is currently a Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Eminent Professor[8] and Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies Fellow at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas[9] where he resides with his wife Adrienne and his three sons, James, Drew and Jordan.

Early Life and Education

Hubbard was born on December 21, 1951 in Danville, Virginia, a small, racially segregated southern city.[10] The site of significant racial turbulence, civil rights protests in Danville throughout the summer of 1963 led to the arrests of hundreds of demonstrators, including Hubbard’s mother Lillie Echols Hubbard.[11]

Hubbard’s family later moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he was one of the only black students in his newly integrated school system and endured significant racial stigma from fellow classmates. In an effort to keep Hubbard focused on his studies, his mother sent him to enroll in Sea Scouts, a program of the Boy Scouts of America. However, he accidentally enrolled in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a youth development organization promoting interest and skill in naval disciplines.[12]

Following graduation from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (an engineering high school), Hubbard began his career in 1971 as an engineering officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine shipping munition and equipment to the war effort in Vietnam. He was one of only a handful of African Americans serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine fleet, and at 19, he became one of the youngest servicemen licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a marine engineer.[13]

After returning to the U.S., Hubbard was invited to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Despite struggling initially, several important mentors helped Hubbard find a place in the engineering community, including Dr. Donald Fraser, Dr. Wesley Harris and Dr. Herbert Richardson. Together they activated a group called Black ME to help black mechanical engineering students achieve their academic goals.[14] Hubbard graduated from MIT with his B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering in 1977 and 1979, respectively. For his doctorate, Hubbard researched helicopter aeroacoustics, and in 1982, he became MIT’s first black Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.[5]





Hubbard served on the faculty at MIT researching active vibration control of structures.[15] Hubbard’s research in the early 1980s led to what many consider the first example of an adaptive structure,[16] one that can change its structural characteristics in response to external stimuli. Mechanical vibrations can cause systems — particularly large spacecraft structures such as telescopes and satellites — to fail or affect their precision. In 1985, Hubbard and coauthor Thomas Bailey published a seminal paper describing how a thin, continuous piezoelectric film could both sense vibration and apply its own electric force to dampen the vibrations of a steel beam.[17]

Hubbard was granted two patents for this research.[18][19] Today, he is considered the founding father of the field of adaptive structures,[16] which has numerous applications ranging from damping vibrations to morphing aircraft  to deployable space structures.

As an assistant professor at MIT, Hubbard received one of five nationwide IBM Young Faculty Development Awards.[20] For his teaching and mentoring efforts, Hubbard earned the Goodwin Medal for “conspicuously effective” teaching[21] and the Steward Award for outstanding service to the community.[22] He was also recognized as a Scott Foundation Fellow and Vertical Flight Foundation Fellow.[23]

In the Private Sector

While lecturing at MIT, Hubbard also held positions at two research and development organizations, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Optron Systems, Inc. As chief of adaptive sensors at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, he was recognized with annual awards for best technical patent, best paper, and best invention.[24]

In 1995, he accepted a position at Boston University’s newly founded Photonics Center, a research institution and high-tech incubator.[25] While at the Photonics Center, Hubbard cofounded two companies — PhotoSense, Inc. and iProvica Inc. — and developed 12 patents, including one for Smart Skin technology.[26] Smart Skin is a large-area sensing surface with a wide range of applications from hospital beds that can track a patient’s medical indicators to car seats that sense the size and weight of a passenger.[27]


Return to Academia

In 2004, Hubbard joined the University of Maryland as director to both the Morpheus Laboratory and the Center of Adaptive Aerospace Vehicle Technology at NASA’s National Institute of Aerospace.[28] The research program focused on improving the aerodynamic efficiency of modern air vehicles by enabling radical shape change — for example, improving the fuel efficiency and range of drones by designing wings that morph as aerodynamic conditions change.[29]  

Hubbard is currently a Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Eminent Professor[8] and Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies Fellow at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.[9] He is leading the StarLab at the RELLIS Campus where researchers are advancing the science of autonomous vehicles and human-robot teaming.[30] This work becomes increasingly important as autonomous vehicles are used in a growing number of applications, from self-driving cars to crop surveys to search-and-rescue missions.

Awards and honors

For his professional achievements and contributions, Hubbard has been elected a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics[31] and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers[28]. Selected by his peers in 2016 for advances in adaptive structures, Hubbard is a member of the National Academy of Engineering — one of the highest professional engineering achievements.[32] Most recently, he was also inducted into The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.[33]

Honors include Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award (2002) from U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine[27] as well as the Smart Structures Product Innovation Award (1999)[34] and the Lifetime Achievement Award (2016)[35] from the International Society for Optics and Photonics, among others.


[1] University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering (2016) “Hubbard Elected to the National Academy of Engineering.”

[2] Google Scholar. James E. Hubbard Jr. Accessed 2019-08-22. 

[3] Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University. Dr. James E. Hubbard Jr. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[4] National Academy of Engineering. Air Force Studies Board. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[5] Massachusetts Institute of Technology Black History. Faculty Notes: Teaching While Black at MIT. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[6] National Academy of Engineering. Dr. James E. Hubbard. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[7] Grauer, Jared A. and James E. Hubbard Jr. (2013) “About the authors.” Flight dynamics and system identification for modern feedback control. Woodhead Publishing Limited: Cambridge, UK. xxi-xxii. Print.

[8] Reiley, Jennifer (2018) “Hubbard joins the Department of Mechanical Engineering.” Texas A&M Engineering News.

[9] Totzke, Deana (2019) “Three College of Engineering faculty among Hagler Institute’s first permanent members.” Texas A&M Engineering News.

[10] Bearinger, David. “What Is Bloody Monday, and Why Don’t We Know About It?Parade. 24 Aug. 2013. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[11] Lillie Echols Hubbard v. Commonwealth of Virginia. 2017 Va. 673 (1967)

[12] Atkinson, Joe. “James Hubbard Jr. and the Story of ‘The Brain.’” NASA Langley Research Center. 25 Feb. 2014. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[13] The HistoryMakers. James Hubbard, Jr. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[14] Johnson, Kimberly. “We celebrate the journey of one of the first African-American engineers at sea.” The Michigan Engineer. 20 Feb. 2017. Accessed 2019-08-22. 

[15] University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering (2013) “Hubbard Chosen for HistoryMakers Oral History Collection.”

[16] Clark, Robert, William Saunders, Gary Gibbs (1998) Adaptive Structures: Dynamics and Control. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New York, NY

[17] T. Bailey and J.E. Hubbard (1985) “Distributed Piezoelectric-Polymer Active Vibration Control.” J. Guidance. 8(5): 605–611. doi.org/10.2514/3.20029

[18] Method and Apparatus Using a Piezoelectric Film for Active Control of Vibrations: U.S. Patent Number 4,565,940. January 21, 1986.

[19] Method and Apparatus for Active Control of Vibrations: U.S. Patent Number 4,626,730. December 2, 1986.

[20] National Institute of Aerospace (2016) “NIA Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor from UMD Elected to National Academy of Engineering.”

[21] MIT Office of Graduate Education. The Goodwin Medal. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[22] MIT Black History (2016) Distinguished Scholar, Scientist, Engineer, Faculty Member, & Mentor. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[23] MIT Black History. NASA Figures an MIT Constellation. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[24] University of Maryland (2005) “Hubbard Named UM Langley Professor.” Engineering at Maryland. 5(1): 4.

[25] Craig, David (2002) “Photonics Center’s Hubbard wins a Black Engineer of the Year award.B.U. Bridge. V(20)

[26] A Smart Skin Sensor for Real-Time Side Impact Detection and Off-Line Diagnostics: U.S. Patent Number 5,797,623. September 3, 1998.

[27] President’s Award: James E. Hubbard, Ph.D. (2002) U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology. 26(1): 42.

[28] University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering (2015) “Hubbard Named ASME Fellow.”

[29] Morpheus Laboratory, University of Maryland Department of Aerospace Engineering. Morpheus Director. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[30] Kuhlmann, Steve (2019) “Pursuing the future of autonomous vehicle technology at Texas A&M’s StarLab.” Texas A&M Engineering News.

[31] University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering (2012) “Wereley and Hubbard AIAA Fellows.”

[32] National Academy of Engineering (2016) “National Academy of Engineering Elects 80 Members and 22 Foreign Members.”

[33] The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas. Members. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[34] Texas A&M University J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering. James Hubbard Jr. Accessed 2019-08-22.

[35] University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering (2015) “Hubbard Named SPIE 2016 Smart Structures and Materials Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient.”

External links



  • Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982
  • M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1979
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1977