The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Darryll Pines

Aerospace engineer and mechanical engineer Darryll Pines was born on August 28, 1964 in Oakland, California. received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to receive advanced degrees in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his M.S. degree in 1988 and his Ph.D. degree in 1992.

Pines worked for the Chevron Corporation and Space Tethers, Inc. before joining Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)’s Advance Technology Program. At LLNL, he helped design the sensor technology of Clementine-1 spacecraft. In 1995, Pines joined the faculty of the University of Maryland (UMD) as an assistant professor. He became the director of UMD’s Sloan Scholars Program in 1996 and the director of the GEM Program in 1999. Pines has also served as chair of the Engineering Council, director of the NASA CUIP Program and director of the SAMPEX flight experiment. He took a leave of absence from 2003 to 2006 to serve as the program manager for the Tactical Technology Office and Defense Sciences Office of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). In 2006, Pines became chair of UMD’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, where under his leadership, the department was ranked eighth overall among United States universities. Three years later, he was named dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the Nariman Farvardin Professor of Engineering. Pines’ research focuses on structural dynamics, smart sensors, biologically inspired structures as well as the guidance and control of aerospace vehicles.

Pines was named a fellow of the Institute of Physics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has received the NACME Alumni Circle Award and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Darryl Pines was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 13, 2012.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Marital Status



University of California, Berkeley

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Search Occupation Category
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Historic

Favorite Quote

Scientists study the world that is. Engineers design the world that will be.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Short Description

Aerospace engineer and mechanical engineer Darryll Pines (1964 - ) is the dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

University of Maryland, College Park

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Darryll Pines' interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Darryll Pines lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Darryll Pines describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Darryll Pines describes his mother's childhood in Liverpool, England</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Darryll Pines describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Darryll Pines describes his father's decision to join the U.S. Air Force and his parents meeting in Liverpool, England</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Darryll Pines talks about American servicemen who married British women while stationed in England</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Darryll Pines describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Darryll Pines describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Darryll Pines talks about his siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Darryll Pines describes his parents' careers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Darryll Pines describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Darryll Pines talks about the Black Panther Party, the loss of jobs, and the gradual deterioration of the East Oakland neighborhood where he grew up</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Darryll Pines talks about the prominent entertainers and athletes who came from Oakland, California</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Darryll Pines talks about political activism in the San Francisco Bay Area</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Darryll Pines describes his exposure to technology</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Darryll Pines describes the neighborhood where he grew up in East Oakland</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Darryll Pines describes his mother's role in getting into Berkeley High School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Darryll Pines describes his experience in grade school at Markham Elementary School and St. Benedict's Catholic School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Darryll Pines describes watching the moon landing and meeting Neil Armstrong</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Darryll Pines talks about the major events of 1994</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Darryll Pines describes his relationship with his twin brother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Darryll Pines talks about playing basketball</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Darryll Pines describes his decision to become an engineer</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Darryll Pines describes his decision to attend the University of California, Berkeley</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Darryll Pines talks about his mentor and advisor, Daniel Mote</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Darryll Pines talks about his interest in science fiction</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Darryll Pines talks about political activism in Berkeley in the 1980s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Darryll Pines talks about his decision to study mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Darryll Pines talks about the relationships he formed at the University of California, Berkeley</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Darryll Pines talks about decision to attend MIT and his dissertation on the control of structures in space</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Darryll Pines describes human powered aircraft</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Darryll Pines describes his Ph.D. dissertation research</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Darryll Pines talks about his doctoral advisor, Andy von Flowtow</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Darryll Pines talks about meeting his wife</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Darryll Pines describes his space research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Darryll Pines describes his decision to work at the University of Maryland, College Park</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Darryll Pines describes his students' research in deep space navigation and uninhabited air vehicle systems</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Darryll Pines describes his professional relationship with Freeman Hrabowski</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Darryll Pines describes programs designed to increase minority student enrollment in STEM</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Darryll Pines describes the NASA CUIP program for the next generation of space vehicles</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Darryll Pines describes the SAMPEX program at NASA Goddard</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Darryll Pines describes his research with DARPA</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Darryll Pines talks about DARPA's technological contributions to modern-day society</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Darryll Pines describes his experience as chair of the aerospace engineering department at the University of Maryland</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Darryll Pines talks about the current generation of students in engineering and science</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Darryll Pines describes his students' efforts to use their engineering skills to have a positive impact on society</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Darryll Pines talks about the balance between his research and administrative roles</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Darryll Pines talks about recruiting minority students to the University of Maryland's College of Engineering</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Darryll Pines describes cutting edge research in science and engineering</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Darryll Pines talks about his hopes and concerns for the African-American community today</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Darryll Pines talks about what he would have done differently to prepare for his career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Darryll Pines reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Darryll Pines talks about his family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Darryll Pines describes how he would like to be remembered</a>







Darryll Pines talks about decision to attend MIT and his dissertation on the control of structures in space
Darryll Pines describes his space research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Okay, alright. Alright, now, okay, so MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] now, how did you choose MIT? Was it easy--well, if you can get in, you should choose it (laughter).$$Well, okay, you know, four years later after coming out of high school, I was a much smarter person, much wiser about the world. And I realized that, and I'm a very competitive person, so once I realized--I went to U. C. Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley] and I was able to do well. I realized that I wanted the biggest challenge. I wanted to take on the toughest challenge and I wanted to be at the best school this nation had to offer, and I felt that was MIT. And I wanted to also experience the East Coast, and so I applied to MIT, Stanford [University, Palo Alto, California], U.C. Berkeley, University of Washington [Seattle, Washington] and Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California]. The only school I didn't get into, and I won't hold it against them, was Cal Tech, and it really made me mad at the time, I mean, to be honest with you. And I still hold that letter today, right. And it's used, I've used that letter as ammunition for my entire life, to be honest with you. Even though this is on this tape, I'm just telling it like it is (laughter). You know, because I said I got into every school and I didn't get into Cal Tech, you gotta be kidding me, at that time, you know, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-one years old. So, I went to MIT, and being the competitive person that I am, I wanted to go to the best college, and I felt MIT was that school. And it actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. And because I went to MIT, got admitted, obviously started my graduate program, met some fantastic people--I mean people who just are my colleagues and best friends today--I met a fantastic advisor who took me underneath his wing. His name was Andy von Flotow. He was--$$Can you spell that?$$Yeah. Andy, A-N-D-Y, von Flotow, V-O-W [space] F-L-O-T-O-W. And he was, Andy was a person who grew up in Canada and got his Ph.D. from Stanford [University] and ended up on the faculty at MIT in the aeronautics and astronomics department. Even though I was a student in mechanical engineering, Dr. von Flotow was willing to take me as a student, a graduate student, and do some research on space structures control. And at that time, in space research there was this interest in building these very large telescopes. I mean, telescopes, if you can imagine, ten kilometers in length, I mean ten kilometers in length in space, to look deep into the vacuum and see if there are other solar systems, civilizations, so forth. And one of the problems that these large structures had is that they were so long that they would vibrate, and therefore when they vibrated they would affect the focus of the instrument. So, the problem I worked on was could I develop a method that can control these structures to, you know, fractions of an arc, what we call the arc second of angle, very small fraction of an angle, to get the resolution that these instruments needed? And I ended up developing the sensor that could be used to control these vehicles of large spatial extent, and that's what I worked on for my Ph.D. But I worked on it for Andy von Flotow. And in so doing I met so many fantastic people at MIT, and really understood why I was in MIT, just like I had thought. I didn't know what it would be, what the experience would be, but the experience was even better than I could imagine. So, I truly enjoyed it, and to this day I feel like it was one of the best decisions of my entire life, was to go there and be educated at MIT, so--.$Okay, okay. Now, 1992, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [in Livermore, California]. So, what was going on there?$$So, I chose Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory because at the time, even though it's a Department of Energy facility and tends to work on big physics projects--because Livermore's lab is dominated, again, by scientists as we had an earlier discussion about (laughter). So, big physics happens at Lawrence Livermore Lab. But what they were doing just before I got there is that they had this incredible space project that involved-- you may remember this, as under President [Ronald] Reagan's time, 'Star Wars', do you remember that? And during this time period he put a lot of money into a space shield for the United States that literally, for any intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] coming from Russia or anywhere, that we could put up and deploy a family of spacecraft that would not only look out for the intercontinental ballistic--ICBMs, but it would also shoot them down in their ascent trajectory. So, I joined that program. Honestly, I joined that program because it was spacecraft and I was excited about being a part of that, to be honest with you. And they had a lot of money. They had a billion dollars of money. Livermore had several hundreds of millions of dollars for this program, and they were looking at the time for a spacecraft engineer to help solve that problem. So, I was in heaven. I was like wow, I get to work on all this stuff, this is great. So, I went to Livermore and I became part of the main team that was working on this problem. And while we were working on that problem we got another big project which was called the Clementine Spacecraft, which was a demonstration program to demonstrate advanced technology that would help legitimize the Star Wars problem. That is, that you could detect ICBMs coming at you and you could shoot them down. So, Clementine was the demonstration project that demonstrated this could be done. So, my job was to do the navigation for the spacecraft, but also help design and analyze some of the instruments, the sensors, the optics that were used to track the ICBMs. So, this turned out to be a great project for me, because what happened was there was a major science part of the project. So, we were going to deploy the spacecraft. It was going to do an orbit around the moon and then after it did an orbit around the moon it was going to fly by an asteroid, the spacecraft. So, I, with a couple of colleagues at National Naval Research Lab was developing the navigation algorithms and the control algorithms for the vehicle. And it turned out that this particular spacecraft with the sensor sweep was the first spacecraft to discover water at the South Pole of the moon, which allows for life to exist on the moon. But no one had confirmed whether there was water on the moon and not at the South Pole. So, this did it at the South Pole. Using the hyper-spectra imagery system that we had, we were able to ascertain that indeed water was present at the South Pole. It was a major discovery in science, and it was such a major discovery in science at the time, that to this day a replica of the Clementine Spacecraft sits in the [National] Air and Space Museum [Smithsonian Institute, Washington, District of Columbia]. So, that was a proud moment for me personally to be a part of that program and a part of that accomplishment with my colleagues from Livermore and from Naval Research Lab. So, I was just lucky, again, in the right place and the right time there to work on that program. And then I worked on several other programs related to uninhabited air vehicles also, for Livermore up until about 1994.$$Okay, okay. That's big stuff. So '94 [1994], is that your last year with Lawrence Livermore?$$That's right. So I ended up having a great time. I worked there from 1992 actually to 1995.