University of Alabama in Huntsville

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is a public research university in Huntsville, Alabama. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees, and comprises nine colleges: arts, humanities & social sciences; business; education; engineering; honors; nursing; professional & continuing studies; science; and graduate. The university's enrollment is approximately 9,700.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville
TypePublic space-grant research university
Endowment$79.5 million[2]
PresidentDarren Dawson
ProvostChristine Curtis
Academic staff
573 (Fall 2018)[3]
Students9,736 (Fall 2018)[4]
Undergraduates7,671 (Fall 2018)[4]
Postgraduates2,065 (Fall 2018)[4]
Location, ,
United States

34.727175°N 86.639818°W / 34.727175; -86.639818
505 acres (2.04 km2))[5]
ColorsRoyal blue and white
AthleticsNCAA Division IIGulf South
AffiliationsUniversity of Alabama System
MascotCharger Blue

UAH is one of three members of the University of Alabama System, which includes the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. All three institutions operate independently, with only the president of each university reporting to the Board of Trustees of the system.


Moquin(interim, 1990)
Altenkirch(2011–2019 )
Dawson(2019– )

The genesis for a publicly funded institution of higher education in Huntsville was years in the making. Beginning in January 1950 as an extension of the University of Alabama and known as the University of Alabama Huntsville Center, classes were first taught at West Huntsville High School.

However, the university's direction changed in 1961, when Wernher von Braun, a German rocket scientist brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip after working for the Nazi regime, helped create a research institute to provide advanced engineering and science curricula to NASA scientists and engineers.[1]

UAH's first undergraduate degrees were awarded in May 1968 as part of the spring commencement ceremony at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, (although a "cap and gown" ceremony was held in Huntsville). One year later, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees voted to make UAH an independent and autonomous campus. Dr. Benjamin Graves, a 1942 graduate of the University of Mississippi and president of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, was tapped as UAH's first president in 1970. He returned to faculty status in 1979 and retired in 1989. The first degree awarded for work completed entirely on the UAH campus was awarded to Julian Palmore in 1964. Mr. Palmore was at the time a United States Navy ensign assigned to NASA's Research Projects Division. The first official on-campus graduation ceremony at UAH was in June 1970. The first woman to earn a Ph.D. from UAH was Virginia Kobler in 1979, in Industrial Engineering.

UAH's second president, Dr. John Wright, former Vice Chancellor of the West Virginia University, served from 1979 to 1988. UAH's third president was Dr. Louis Padulo, former Stanford professor and dean of engineering of Boston University. Huntsville leader Joseph Moquin took over the UAH presidency on an interim basis in 1990. Dr. Frank Franz, who was then provost at West Virginia University, was chosen as UAH's fourth president. His wife, Dr. Judy Franz, accompanied him and was granted full professorship in the physics faculty. Her renown in the scientific community was reaffirmed when she was named executive officer of the American Physical Society in 1994. At the beginning of the 2006–2007 academic year, Dr. Franz announced his plan to step down as president after that year.[6] On July 1, 2007, Dr. David B. Williams, formerly a professor of materials science and engineering and the vice provost for research at Lehigh University, began serving as UAH's fifth president. He left in 2011 to join Ohio State University as dean of engineering.[7]

The university briefly gained national attention in February 2010 when a professor killed three people and wounded three others during a faculty meeting.

Dr. Robert Altenkirch was hired as the university's sixth president in September 2011. Dr. Altenkirch served as president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology for nine years before joining UAH. In 2019, Dr. Darren Dawson, former dean of the College of Engineering at Kansas State University, became UAH's seventh president.


Fall Freshman Statistics[8]
  ApplicantsAdmits% AdmittedEnrolledAvg GPA
2018 4,4653,59080.41,4283.87
2017 4,3223,57382.71,3403.89
2016 4,3743,33776.31,1933.73
2015 3,3582,70680.61,0273.72
2014 2,1041,72667.07243.69
2013 2,0541,65680.66513.64
2012 1,9381,50577.66243.86
2011 1,9521,24363.66773.62

UAH offers 89 degree-granting programs, including 44 bachelor's degree programs, 30 master's degree programs, and 15 PhD programs through its nine colleges: arts, humanities & social sciences; business; education; engineering; honors; nursing; professional & continuing studies; science; and graduate. Nursing is UAH's largest single major, although Engineering is the largest college. There is also an Honors College that offers an enriched academic and community experience for undergraduates in all disciplines.

Not surprisingly given Huntsville's technology-based economy, UAH is known for engineering and science programs, including astrophysics, atmospheric science, aerospace engineering, cybersecurity, and digital animation. The first "commercial" non-rocketry programs (Consort and Joust) in the U.S. were managed by UAH scientists, the first "high-temperature" superconductor was discovered at UAH, and the first U.S. experiment flown aboard the Soviet Mir Space Station was from UAH. UAH is a Space Grant university and has a history of cooperation with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal. In conjunction with helping NASA reach its goals, UAH makes NASA's research and technology available to all of Alabama's colleges and universities. The National Space Science and Technology Center is one of 17 high-tech research centers on UAH 505-acre campus.

The UAH Propulsion Research Center (PRC) promotes interdisciplinary research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. The PRC was founded by Dr. Clark W. Hawk in 1991 and has since provided support for NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Department of Energy. Research topics include air-breathing and electric propulsion; solid, liquid & hybrid propellant combustion; magnetoinertial fusion; high-temperature materials; and space and terrestrial power systems.

Research in nanotechnology and microfabrication is conducted by the Nano and Micro Devices Center.

Atmospheric Sciences and related research areas are headquartered in the NSSTC and SWIRLL buildings.

At least nine departments or programs also hold accreditation from professional associations, including the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, the American Chemical Society, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and the National Association of Schools of Music.


University rankings
Forbes[9] 475
Times/WSJ[10] 401-500
U.S. News & World Report[11] 263
Washington Monthly[12] 380
Times[13] 501-600
U.S. News & World Report[14] 819

UAH ranks #263 of National Universities and #128 of Top Public Schools in the 2020 U.S. News Best Colleges.[15]


UAH sponsors nine men's and nine women's varsity athletics programs. In 2016, UAH added men's and women's lacrosse to its varsity athletic programs.[16] UAH is a member of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), competing in Division II in 17 sports and Division I in men's ice hockey. UAH is a member of the Gulf South Conference in all sports except hockey, which plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and men's lacrosse (Great Lakes Valley Conference).

Student life and activities

Student government

The UAH Student Government Association is the primary recipient of student-activity funding from UAH's Office of Student Life; the Space Hardware Club, a registered student organization in the College of Engineering is the secondary recipient. The SGA holds an advisory role with campus administrators on activities involving students. The SGA hosts a number of events including Week of Welcome, a bi-annual event welcoming students back to campus that begins the weekend they arrive on campus and runs through the first week of each semester.

Residence halls

UAH has five residence halls: Central Campus Residence Hall (CCH), Frank Franz Hall (FFH), North Campus Residence Hall (NCH), Southeast Campus Housing (SCH), Charger Village (CVG). Central Campus is reserved for first-time freshmen. Frank Franz Hall is reserved for Honors College students. Charger Village is reserved for sophomores, whereas upperclass students have the option of living at the other residence halls.

Campus housing originated with the construction of Southeast Campus Housing. These suites were originally built under the auspices of the late Dr. Benjamin Graves, the first President of UAH, with the assistance of the late Alabama Senator John Sparkman.

Greek life

UAH is home to the following fraternities and sororities. Most Greek organizations rent a fraternity or sorority house from the university. Construction of the original houses was made possible by donations from Mark and Linda Smith and Jim and Susie Hudson.


The Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) is a student run and operated organization that hosts weekly events throughout the academic year as well as standing programs such as Friday Night Flicks, Sunday Cinema, Late-Night Breakfast, and ACE Wednesday. Notable guests include Daniel Tosh and Recycled Percussion.[17]

Clubs and organizations

UAH has more than 185 student-run organizations on campus. Team UAH is internationally renowned for its award-winning concrete canoe construction competition team and is the current record holder with five national titles in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2001. The National Concrete Canoe Competition is sponsored annually by the American Society of Civil Engineers.[18]

The UAH American Society of Mechanical Engineers student chapter also competes in the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. It currently holds two championship titles.

The UAH Space Hardware Club conceptualizes, designs, builds, tests, and flies hardware for high-altitude balloons, satellites (ChargerSat Program), the CanSat competition, and high-powered rocketry. Members must maintain a GPA of 3.0 to participate.[19]

Student Success Center

The Student Success Center (SSC) offers tutoring for nearly all freshman- and sophomore-level courses offered at UAH. Additional tutoring is available for math courses online and in person.

The SSC recruits university students for its PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) program, in which students sit in on courses that they have already succeeded in, and offers class-specific study sessions outside of class, usually 3 hours per week. Historically difficult freshman courses are targeted for PASS, including calculus, chemistry, and economics.


The College of Science houses the Alabama High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Center, which is dedicated to providing modern high field NMR capabilities to academic and corporate researchers in the state of Alabama and surrounding areas.

UAH's Earth System Science Center is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the Earth as an integrated system with an emphasis on space- and ground-based remote sensing data.

UAH's Department of Biological Sciences partners with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to offer research opportunities to UAH students through the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium.

UAH's Psychology Department has eight research labs: Lifelong Learning, Memory and Cognition, Personality Testing and Assessment, Privacy in Cyberspace, Psychobiology, Teamwork and Social Cognition, Employee Engagement and Productivity, and Leadership and Organizational Behavior.

UAH's Propulsion Research Center connects the academic research community and the propulsion community through interdisciplinary collaboration in the following areas: aerospace materials and structures, computational modeling, energy and power systems, fusion propulsion and power, plasmas and combustion, propellants and energetics, and propulsion systems integration.

UAH's College of Engineering is home to the following labs:

  • Advanced Digital Hardware Design Lab
  • Communication Systems Laboratory
  • Controls and Dynamic Systems Lab
  • Cyber Chargers Security Lab
  • ECE Systems Design Lab
  • Electronics Laboratory
  • Integrated Biometrics Lab
  • LaCASA - Computer Architecture Research Lab
  • MEMS Fabrication Lab
  • MHealth - Mobile Health and Wellness Monitoring Lab
  • Multimedia Development Lab
  • Multicore Reconfigurable and GPU
  • Enabled Parallel Computing Lab
  • RF Circuits and Devices Lab
  • Software Safety Engineering and Security Lab
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Security Lab
  • Linux Labs I and II
  • Photonics Lab
  • Optoelectronics
  • Optical Hybrid Computing
  • Nano-Microfabrication Laboratory
  • Laser Science and Engineering Lab
  • Transistor and MEMS Undergraduate Microfabrication Lab
  • Ubiquitous Computing Lab

UAH's Kinesiology Research Lab, located in the College of Education, has an underwater treadmill that enables students to conduct aquatic exercise research on adults with type 2 diabetes and lower-limb amputation.

SWIRLL (Severe Weather Institute – Radar and Lightning Laboratories) is a core research facility dedicated to research on severe and hazardous weather, radar meteorology, lightning meteorology, lightning physics, and air quality. It comprises a research operations center with multiple workstations, a high bay used for the maintenance and fabrication of comprehensive mobile platforms and other instruments, a sounding preparation lab, and five roof platforms to support instrument testing and data collection.

UAH's Learning and Technology Resource Center, located in the College of Nursing, offers high-tech, hands-on clinical experience thanks to its high-fidelity simulators, telehealth robots, and laboratory spaces.

UAH's Early Learning Center, an outreach and service unit of the College of Education, provides inclusive early childhood education for children in developmentally appropriate classrooms.

Notable alumni and faculty

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Werner J. A. Dahm 1978 Emeritus Professor of Aerospace Engineering at The University of Michigan, Professor at Arizona State University, former Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force [20]
Jan Davis 1983, 1985 Astronaut (STS-47, STS-60, STS-85) [21]
Marta Grande 2009 Italian Parliament Representative and from June 2018 President of the Foreign Committee of Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament
Jeffrey S. Harper 1993 Executive Director of Graduate Programs in the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University
John Hendricks 1974 Founder and chairman of Discovery Communications [22]
Steve Hettinger 1974 Alabama State Representative (1982–1988), Mayor of Huntsville (1988–1996) [23]
Phil Ligrani Eminent Scholar in Propulsion and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville [24]
Josh Magette 2012 National Basketball Association Point Guard (Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic)
Scott Munroe 2006 Professional ice hockey player [25]
Toyin Odutola 2008 Artist [26]
James Record Former chairman Madison County Commission and Alabama State Senator [27]
Jared Ross 2005 Professional ice hockey player
Travis S. Taylor Researcher and science fiction author [28]
Cameron Talbot 2010 National Hockey League goaltender (New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames)
Destin Sandlin 2003, present American YouTube personality
Name Department Notability Reference
Mustafa A.G. Abushagur Electrical and Computer Engineering Founding president of RIT Dubai and the interim Deputy Prime Minister of Libya [29], [30], [31]
John Christy Atmospheric Science Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and director of the Earth System Science Center [32]
Lawrence J. DeLucas Materials Science STS-50 [33]
H. E. Francis English Fulbright professor [34]
Michael D. Griffin Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 11th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, eminent scholar and professor
Owen Garriott Biological Sciences Skylab 3, STS-9, and adjunct professor in the Laboratory for Structural Biology after his NASA career [35]
Roy Spencer (scientist) Atmospheric Science Winner of American Meteorological Society Special Award and NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (both with John Christy) [36],[37]


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  17. Recycled Percussion
  18. ASCE. "Alabama Concrete Canoe - Team UAH". Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  19. "Space Hardware Club". Retrieved July 17, 2015.
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  24. University of Alabama Huntsville. Faculty biography: Phillip Ligrani, PhD
  25. "Scott Munroe hockey statistics & profile". Hockey DB. Retrieved August 1, 2010.
  26. xxyy013. "Cindy Wright". Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  27. "Alabama Authors and Their Works: 20th century and Beyond". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2010.
  28. "About Doc Travis". Archived from the original on June 16, 2010. Retrieved August 1, 2010.
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