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This site was created as a portal to Dr. John A. Gilbert. Professor Emeritus at UAHuntsville.


Course Descriptions

I've taught many classes during my academic career including Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Continuum Mechanics, Theory of Elasticity, Experimental Techniques in Solid Mechanics, Optical Techniques in Solid Mechanics, Strategically Tuned Absolutely Resilient Structures (STARS), Graduate Seminar, and a number of special topic courses in engineering mechanics, applied optics, and materials science.  

I no longer teach classes, since I officially retired from the staff on June 1, 2013.  However, I thought that I'd post what I taught during my last year at UAH and tell you a little about what motivated me to teach them in the first place.

I grew up in New York City where I began playing rock and roll at age eight. Since my mother was British, we’d spend our summers in England. I remember being in the audience with when dissatisfied customers threw debris at an obnoxious Mick Jagger when he first performed there with the Rolling Stones.

My Mom bought me a guitar in 1956 after I literally wore out the track on a 78 rpm recording of Elvis’ Hound Dog. She treated me to guitar lessons but the stuff that my instructor taught me sounded nothing like Elvis.

I was on the verge of quitting when one of the other instructors in the studio, named Ralph Patt, asked me what was wrong. I said that I was sick and tired of playing single notes up and down the fret board and told him that I wanted to do something different. My Mom seemed impressed when he told us that he was the lead guitarist for Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, and Count Basie. When Ralph asked me what I thought of that and if I wanted to play jazz, I told him straight out that I never heard of those guys and didn’t really know what jazz was. But, when I asked him: “Do you know Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. To my surprise, he said, “Sure. Let’s start a band and play some Rock and Roll.” I said, you bet! 

Ralph slipped me some sheet music for Heartaches and, three weeks later, a couple of his other students and I played our fist concert. A couple of weeks after that, we performed a song written by Fred Parris of the Five Satins which followed one of the best-known chord progressions for early Rock and Roll: C, Am, F, G. I was only eight years old then. After performing “In the Still of the Night" and meeting up with Ralph at the studio, I recall asking him: “How come those girls in the audience were looking at us like that?” I remember him saying, “You’ll understand some day.”

We lived in Tottenville on Staten Island and I went to grade school there. In 8th grade, I sat the entrance exam for Brooklyn Technical High School and passed... which meant taking the ferry boat to Manhattan and the subway to Brooklyn five days a week. I met a couple of guys who sang and played guitar and we’d practice on the boat during trip home. To my amazement, the commuters filled out guitar cases with cash; so much so that we were able to purchase amplifiers and a PA system.

On the weekends, we’d go surfing on the Jersey coast. We’d surf during the day but at night, we’d position ourselves on the boardwalk and play surf music to woo the Jersey girls. Meanwhile, the tourists were often more generous than the commuters.

By the time that I graduated high school in the 60’s, I was playing six nights a week in a band called “Your Mutha.” We’d play at clubs all over the City but what I remember most was opening for bands like The Young Rascals in Harlow’s or “The Grateful Dead” in the Electric Circus. We took the main stage at NYU's Courant Institute backed by the Joshua Light Show who used us as a test bed for the shows they were developing for the Fillmore East. 

After finishing our sets, I'd often go to the east Village to catch the closing act at the Fillmore. This gave me the chance to hobnob with Rock and Roll legends like Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Eric Clapton. The City was filled with creative genius and I loved being part of it. However, my love for music took its toll.

I was attending the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn at the time and really didn't have the time nor desire to concentrate on my studies. In fact, I failed some of the engineering classes that I ended up teaching. I guess that taking them twice was one of the reasons that I knew the material so well. 

After drawing a low number in the draft lottery, the U.S. Arm gave me a choice... either buckle down and graduate or go to Vietnam. I reluctantly put my guitar away but, after earning a Bachelors degree, gladly accepted an NDEA (National Defense Education Act) fellowship. This opportunity opened my eyes to graduate education, research, and teaching. 

All through my graduate studies, I missed being on stage... until I accepted my fist academic position. It was then that I realized that my formal education and Rock and Roll experience could be synthesized to the point where I was able to stand up in front of my engineering classes giving performances involving science and engineering. What a trip!

After telling a portion of this story to one of my Mechanics of Materials classes, the students asked me to play a couple of songs for them. I used the opportunity to demonstrate how Hagstrom had incorporated an "H" bar truss into the neck of my 1967 Viking De Luxe prototype, making the fret board the fastest in the world.

I did the best I could to show them how we made music many years ago and, somehow, my take of Cream's White Room ended up on UTube.

During the Fall '12 semester, I taught:

  • MAE/CE 370 (4 hrs.) - Mechanics of Materials


"Mechanics of Materials," 6th Edition, by Beer, Johnston, DeWolf, and Mazurek, McGraw Hill, New York, NY, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-07-338028-5 

Gilbert, J.A., “Mechanics of Materials,” University of Alabama-Huntsville, Version 10.4, XanEdu Publishing, Inc., 120 pages (2013).

  • MAE/CE 477/577 (3 hrs.) - Experimental Techniques in Solid Mechanics


Gilbert, J.A., “Experimental Techniques in Solid Mechanics,” University of Alabama in Huntsville, Version 5.0, XanEdu Publishing, Inc., 153 pages (2013).


When dealing with the majority of real engineering systems, it is not always sufficient, or advisable, to rely on analytical results alone.  The experimental determination of stress, strain, and displacement is important in both design and testing applications.  MAE 477/577, Experimental Techniques in Solid Mechanics, presents techniques which are valuable complements to the design and analysis process; and, in some difficult or complex situations, provide the only practical approach to a real solution. 

The bulk of the course constitutes a detailed treatment of the more conventional methods currently used for experimental stress analysis (photoelasticity, brittle coatings, moiré methods, strain gages, etc.); however, more recent developments in the field are also introduced (hybrid methods, speckle metrology, holographic interferometry, moiré interferometry, fiber optics, radial metrology, and STARS).  In-class laboratory exercises are included so that students gain some practical experience.  The lecture and laboratory exercises are designed to provide enough exposure for participants to secure an entry level position in the field of experimental mechanics.


Students are required to be present from the beginning to the end of each semester, attend all classes, and take all examinations according to their assigned schedule.  In case of absence, students are expected to satisfy the instructor that the absence was for good reason.  For excessive cutting of classes (3 or more class periods), or for dropping the course without following the official procedure, students may fail the course.


Homework assignments must be done on only one side of 8 1/2" x 11" paper.  Each problem shall begin on a separate page and each page must contain the following (in the upper right hand corner):  Your name, the date, and page __ of __.  All final answers must be boxed and converted (SI to US or US to SI).  Homework is due at the beginning of the class on the date prescribed.  Work must be legible and should be done in pencil.  Problems shall be restated prior to solution and free-body diagrams (FBDs) shall be drawn for problems requiring such.  Loose sheets shall be stapled together in the upper left hand corner.

Note:   For further information on the course and registration procedure, call Professor Gilbert by telephone at (256) 824-6029, or, contact him by e-mail at john.gilbert@uah.edu.

Course Outline:

 1.        Overview of Solid Mechanics - Stress, Strain, and Displacement; Equilibrium, Transformation, Strain-Displacement, Compatibility, and Constitutive Equations.

 2.        Stress Analysis - Method of Attack; Stress Concentration, Failure, Design, and Examples.

 3.        Light and Electromagnetic Wave Propagation – Amplitude, Phase, Polarization, Coherence, Interference, Reflection, Refraction, Birefringence, and Stress Optic Law.

 4.        Photoelasticity – Plane and Circular Polariscopes; Calibration and Compensation Methods; Reflection Polariscope, Birefringent Coatings, and 3-D Photoelasticity.

 5.        Photography – Cameras, Lenses, and Photographic Development; Digital Cameras, Image Acquisition and Processing.

 6.        Brittle Coatings – Theory, Calibration, Application, and Measurement.

 7.        Moiré Methods – Geometrical Considerations and In-Plane Displacement Measurement; Diffraction, Optical Filtering, and Stress Analysis; Out-of-Plane Displacement Measurement and Shadow Moiré.

 8.        Electrical Resistance Strain Gages - Parametrical Studies, Transverse Sensitivity, Rosettes, Circuitry, Installation, and Transducer Design.

 9.        Advanced Topics – Moiré Interferometry, Speckle Metrology, Holographic Interferometry, Fiber Optics, Digital Image Processing, Hybrid Methods, Panoramic Imaging Systems, Radial Metrology, and STARS.

  • MAE 495 (1 or 2 hrs.) - STARS Lab

A description of what the 2 credit lab entailed follows:

As you may know, the STARS lab is run as an independent study for 2 credits.  The course will include R&D and/or laboratory work involving the design, construction, and testing of the concrete canoe being built by our American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Chapter.  For this 2 credit course, a minimum of 40 hours of lab work is required; the grade will be based on a lab log detailing the work done.  Your primary contact person is:  

Mr. Matthew Pinkston, ASCE Chapter Vice-President
Phone: (256) 653-2862; Email: mmjpink@hotmail.com

The Chapter will be electing new officers and you will be informed of any chances made in the primary contact person.  Meanwhile, Matt will be contacting you regarding the Chapter’s meeting and work schedules and I will be continually updating the Chapter’s website (see below).  My understanding is that the rules for the Concrete Canoe Competition will be coming out shortly after Labor Day and that our first Chapter meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 5th at 7:00 p.m. in Tech Hall S105.  Attendance at Chapter Meetings is not required for this class but students may list up to 1 hour of lab work for each meeting that they attend.

In preparation of completing and submitting your lab log, keep running records listing the dates and hours along with the tasks completed.  Have Matt or one of the ASCE Chapter officers (see link below) sign off on each task immediately after it has been completed.  You do not need to submit this running record to me but it must be shown to the individual who signs off on your lab log at the end of the semester (see next paragraph).

The lab log must be prepared in the format used in the attached Excel file (no exceptions).  After you have completed the required hours, include your name after the colon, fill in all of the required information (insert or delete rows as needed), print the Excel file, sign the document, and secure the signature of a Chapter officer by showing him/her a copy of your running record.  Then, scan the signed log (merge the image into an MSWord document first if necessary) and send me a PDF (in portrait format).  Label your log using: your last name, first initial, followed by the sequence STARSLabLogf12.  Mine would be called: GilbertJLabLogf12 (a sample of what I need is shown below).  You must email a PDF of your lab log to me at john.gilbert@uah.edu.  The deadline for electronic submission is 5:00 p.m., Friday, November 30th.

The Chapter’s web site is called “teamuah.org” (“Google” it if you wish).  A list of the officers and their contact information can be found on the “Current Events” page at the bottom of the right hand column at the link:


Please feel free to contact any one of the officers regarding the Chapter’s activities and/or work schedule.  The latter are also posted on the above page.  The chapter meetings will be held as mentioned at the top of the right column.  I can be contacted by phone at (256) 824-6029.

In Spring '13, I offered:

  • MAE/CE 370 (4 hrs.) - Mechanics of Materials

    Please see the information provided above for this course. 

  • MAE 495/595 (3 hrs.) - "STARS" (Strategically Tuned Absolutely Resilient Structures)

  • MAE 495 (1 or 2 hrs.) STARS Lab

     Please see the information provided above for the lab.  A description of the lecture portion of this course follows:

MAE 495/595 - 3 hrs.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
Time and place: Friday 8:00 a.m. - 10:40 a.m.; TH S117

Text: Gilbert, J.A., “Strategically Tuned Absolutely Resilient Structures,” University of Alabama-Huntsville, Version 2.0 XanEdu Publishing, Inc., 258 pages, (2013).

The STARS concept makes it possible to build a structure capable of storing potential energy in the form of elastic deformation that can be released in a controlled fashion in the form of work or kinetic energy.  The composite section must be designed based on the strength, stiffness, and the position of the component materials.  The ability to store and release energy depends upon a complex interaction between the shape, modal response, and the forcing function initiated to the structure.  Since the method relies on energy recovery through elastic deformation, steps must be taken to prevent damage so that the structure is absolutely resilient.

The course will include lectures and independent study in this exciting new area.  Topics will range from proof of principle to practical application.  Specific areas to be addressed include composite section design, structural analysis, stress analysis, integrated sensing, non-destructive evaluation, finite element modeling, and modal analysis.

Grading and Attendance Policies:

Sixty-five percent of the grade will be based on attendance and homework assignments.  Grades received for attending class periods and those received for homework assignments will be averaged; students will earn 100 points for being in class and zero points for not being there.  Failure to attend three or more classes will result in failure of the course.  The homework assignments include a class log (a couple of paragraphs describing what we did in each class) that will be scored on the basis of 100 points.  The class log must be submitted electronically to john.gilbert@uah.edu by 5:00 p.m. on the date specified during the first day of class.  The remaining thirty five percent of the grade will be based on a final oral presentation scored collectively by the instructor and fellow class members.  Cover letters and abstracts for the presentations (in MSWord format) are due on a date to be specified during the first day of class.  The presentations (10 minutes long plus 2 minutes for questions) will be scheduled on dates specified during the first day of class. A PowerPoint must be archived at the time that the presentation is given.  Students are encouraged to update their class log on a weekly basis and must show satisfactory progress in guided readings and laboratory work where applicable.

Course Outline:

 1.        Overview of Solid Mechanics - Forces, Moments, Stress, Strain, and Displacement; Equilibrium, Compatibility, Strain-Displacement, Transformation, and Constitutive Equations.  Homework assignment includes formulating shear and moment diagrams and calculation of maximum bending and shear stresses in prismatic beams subjected to transverse loading.

 2.        Design Considerations for STARS - Stiffness, Strength, Geometry, Forcing Functions, Adaptive Reinforcement, Embedded Sensors, Control Elements, Strain Energy, and Strain Energy Density.  Homework assignment concentrates on deflection criteria and derivation of the elastic curve for prismatic beams subjected to transverse loading.

 3.        Stress Visualization - Design of STAR Structures, Transformed Section Theory, Plane and Circular Polariscopes, Isoclinic and Isochromatic Fringe Patterns, Calibration and Compensation Techniques; and Stress Concentration Factors.  Homework assignment involves comparing experimentally determined stresses in composite photoelastic models with results obtained from the transform section theory and showing how stress transfer can be accomplished by adjusting the compliance of the materials in a composite section.

 4.        Modified Transformed Section Theory – Composite Laminates, Inter-Laminar Stresses, Woven Composite Structures, Composite Laminate Plate Theory, Equivalent Material Properties, Material Testing, Electrical Resistance Strain Gages, Rosettes, and Circuitry.  Homework assignment involves analysis of a tension specimen, torsion specimen, and an end-loaded cantilever beam; geared toward showing how the constitutive equations depend on material properties such as the elastic modulus, Poisson’s ratio, and the shear modulus.

 5.        Optimization of STARS – Structural Optimization of a Cantilever Beam.  Laboratory exercise demonstrates the efficient design of structural members through variation of the section modulus of a beam with the applied bending moment.

 6.        Morphing and Tracking STARS – Compliant Structures, Perspective, Collapse of World Trade Center, Failure Analysis, Proposal Writing, In-Plane Moiré Methods, Optical Filtering, Stress Analysis, and Shadow Moiré.  Homework assignment involves determination of material properties using the moiré method.

 7.        Dynamic Characterization of STARS – Discrete Systems, Continuous Systems, Modal Analysis, Resonance, Eigenvalues, Mode Shapes, Finite Element Analysis, Modal Analysis of Plates, Modal Testing of Structures, Remote Sensing, MEMS, Accelerometer Measurements, Health Monitoring, Diagnostics, and Prognostics.  Homework involves preparation of cover letter and abstract for final presentation.

 8.        Concrete Mixture Design - Binders, Aggregates, Admixtures, Mix Proportioning, and ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition.  Homework geared toward improving UAH performance at the ASCE Southeast Regional Student Competition.

 9.        Structural Information Systems – Reinforcement, Embedded Sensors, Hollow Tendons, Structural Design, and Failure Analysis.

10.       Self-Healing Structures - Method of Attack, Failure Modes, and Proof-of-Principle.

11.       Next Generation STARS - Control Elements, Advanced Polymers, Atomic Bonding, Molecular Interaction, and Theory of Interaction.