Systems Engineering + Design student Joao Felipe Costa Casares Earns 2023 Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement  

Joao Felipe Costa Casares used to navigate the sea from his home country, Brazil, and international waters.

After his graduation in the Brazilian Naval Academy, Class of 2012, and a few years working on Navy ships, he decided to pursue engineering. He graduated with a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Sao Paulo, Class of 2018, ranking first in his class.

Immediately following graduation, he was assigned to work at the Directorate of Naval Engineering in Rio de Janeiro, where he became involved in a diverse range of projects in the scope of naval architecture and marine engineering. He developed and implemented the methodology of risk-based structural integrity management in the Brazilian Navy, which is still being used to assess vessels and assist Naval Administration decisions.

In 2021, the Brazilian Navy selected him for a master’s program at the University of Michigan. Since his research topic was related to structural integrity management on naval vessels, which is part of life cycle management, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NAME) and Integrative Systems + Design (ISD) programs’ courses were flexible enough to fit his research interests.

“It was the best possible match,” he said.

Applied Research

His main research and capstone topic is quantitative risk-based maintenance scheduling optimization considering multi-environmental corrosion prediction models on naval vessels to support structural integrity management and decision making. This project involves the development of a dedicated algorithm that could be used directly for professional purposes. 

“Since I worked before on the stakeholder side, within Navy ships and as a surveyor, it is easier to identify what values should be incorporated in the deliverables of this project,” he said.

Forging His Own Path

After starting the graduate program and participating in conferences, he witnessed the US academia and industry spotlight on marine unmanned systems and realized the opportunity to be within the community who is forging this new path. He was selected as a candidate for sponsorship in the 2022 MIT Portugal Marine Robotics Summer School in Faial (Azores). The program is a strategic international partnership among Portuguese universities and research institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Portuguese government, and partners from industry and other non-academic institutions.

After this course, he joined the University of Michigan Field Robotics Group. Within the group, he contributed to the design and manufacturing of a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) mounting support that was used to conduct successful tests in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory. 

As non-research leadership experience, he took part in a volunteer position as an assistant coach at the U-M Men’s Rowing Team during the 2021 summer season. During this time, he assisted freshmen with their rowing form and first experiences with the sport.

Academic Performance and Achievements 

At the University of Michigan, Casares is scheduled to earn a dual MS in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and MEng Systems Engineering + Design in 2023.

Casares was selected as a candidate for a Graduate Student Instructor position in the 2023 winter term for the ISD graduate class on Systems Engineering Architecture and Design. Other achievements included earning a Swieca Family Israel Travel Fund and serving as a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

In recognition of his academic achievements, Casares earned the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s 2023 Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. The annual award is presented to an outstanding graduate student (Master’s or PhD student) in each degree program. Criteria considered by the department awards committee include student’s active participation in research, leadership, and academic performance.

“My time at the University of Michigan has been filled with incredible opportunities that have been putting me in touch with extremely talented people and inspiring leaders,” he said. “I believe this has been the main motivation driving me so far.”

Casares is also a husband and a father. He considers his family support fundamental to his academic achievements.

“It was an incredible joy for me to have my daughter present at the awards ceremony to witness this important achievement in my life,” he said. “Having her there with me made this moment more special. Unfortunately, my wife was unable to attend the ceremony as our son had been born only a few days prior, which brought us great happiness. Though I missed her presence at the ceremony, this achievement is a celebration for our whole family.”