College of Engineering
Michael T. Huggins
Class of '85, Aerospace Engineering
Research Site Director & Chief, Space and Missile Propulsion Division
Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards Air Force Base
In 1985, Michael T. Huggins graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. He immediately went to work at Rockwell International as a test engineer for the B1-B Bomber and F-101 engine programs.
“My extensive hands-on lab experience at Cal Poly Pomona enabled me to succeed and contribute right away to the B1 test program,” says Huggins.
In 1987, he entered the Department of Defense Civil Service when he joined the
Air Force Astronautics Laboratory, which was re-named the Phillips Lab, three years later. Huggins started as a program manager, quickly rising through the ranks to become director of the Propulsion Business Resources Division in 1997. During that ten-year span of time, he managed, directed or had oversight over many multi-million dollar rocket propulsion and strategic missile projects. In 1997, Huggins was named California 's Air Force Civilian Employee of the Year by the Air Force Association, capping an astonishing advancement through six pay grades in less than a decade.
“My Cal Poly Pomona professors did a great job of honing my leadership skills through the school's design team efforts,” he says, “and it paid many dividends in my career.”
Huggins accepted two assignments to the Air Force Research Lab at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio , where his accomplishments included the direction of the first successful ground demonstration of a hydrocarbon scramjet system and the development of a pulse detonation engine for aircraft operations. He returned to Edwards to become the chief of the 145-person Rocket Propulsion Division. His duties included directing work on major projects such as a new reusable liquid hydrogen rocket engine cycle and new propellants for the Peace Keeper missile and the Minuteman replacement. In 1999, he was named chief of the Space and Missile Propulsion Division, where his technical direction has focused on the first generation of re-usable kerosene rocket engines, the next generation of strategic/global reach missiles, as well as satellites that will operate on high performance and yet non-toxic propellants. He currently directs the planning, formulation, and execution for $120 million annually in exploratory research and advanced development programs at the AFRL at Edwards. Huggins is research site director as well as chief of Space and Missile Propulsion Programs and is responsible for more than 500 personnel, including chemists, physicists, and engineers. He serves as the lead USAF representative to the National Defense Rocket Propulsion Committee and is chairman of the NATO Applied Vehicle Technologies Panel that oversees land, sea and air platform technology transfer among NATO allies.
“I am thankful that Cal Poly Pomona gave me such a strong educational foundation and that the Air Force has provided me such a great opportunity to help expand our nation's science and technology base,” says Huggins.
In 2006, Huggins was honored by the Secretary of the Air Force with the USAF Exceptional Civilian Service Medal, the highest possible Air Force Civilian recognition, for his efforts in building strong ties between his division and his Air Force warfighting customers. In 2003, he was named the Aerospace Engineering Alumnus of the Year at Cal Poly Pomona. He was instrumental in obtaining USAF funding grants for construction of the new Sub- and Supersonic Wind Tunnels for the College of Engineering . The research-grade tunnels are of great significance to the college, the university and the region. There was a particular reason for Huggins' enthusiastic motivation.
"When I was an engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona, I once broke one of the old wind tunnels during an experiment," he confessed. "I felt compelled to help the College of Engineering obtain new and better ones."
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