PhD student Joseph Breeden Recognized with 2 University of Michigan Awards

Fifth year Aerospace PhD student receives the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement and Professor Pierre T. Kabamba Award

Congratulations to PhD student, Joseph Breeden, for recently being recognized with two distinguished awards within the University of Michigan and the Michigan Aerospace Department. His excellent work and dedication has led to him being named a winner of the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize For Distinguished Academic Achievement from the College of Engineering, as well as the 2024 Professor Pierre T. Kabamba Award for graduate student excellence in controls systems from the Aerospace Department. 

“It feels great not only to be nearing completion of my degree, but also to have my work recognized in a broader setting than my niche discipline,” commented Breeden. 

The Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize For Distinguished Academic Achievement is presented to an outstanding graduate student (Master’s or PhD students) in each University of Michigan College of Engineering degree program. The award highlights students who excel in areas including active participation in research, leadership and academic performance (GPA) and is accompanied by a $1,000 stipend. 

The Professor Pierre T. Kabamba Award was established in 2018 to honor Pierre T. Kabamba, a University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering professor and distinguished control systems researcher who passed away in 2014. Each year, an awardee is presented with a certificate and a honorarium of $1,000. Any senior graduate student within the College of Engineering whose research and coursework reflects the disciplines of aerospace engineering and control systems is eligible for nomination by a faculty advisor.

“Both achievements are very well-deserved and reflect Joseph’s outstanding and innovative work on advanced control theory and its application to satellite systems,” commented Aerospace Engineering Associate Professor Dimitra Panagou, Breeden’s faculty advisor.

As a fifth year student in Professor Panagou’s lab, Breeden focuses his research on constrained control of satellites, using a design tool called “control barrier functions.” With this, he aims to increase the level of autonomy achievable in satellite controllers, and specifically, to increase trust in these autonomous controllers. He further explains that his work develops the necessary extensions of the control barrier function technique to be able to more readily apply it to various satellite systems, including satellite docking, constellation management, attitude control, asteroid observation and more. 

Additionally, Breeden had the opportunity to spend a few months at the Laboratory for the Analysis and Architecture of Systems in France, learning about hybrid systems and their potential connections to his work through the Chateaubriand program. The Chateaubriand Fellowship program is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Biology-Health (STEM) fellowship for doctoral students, aimed to reinforce collaboration partnership or joint projects between French and American research teams.

Breeden went into further details about his plans for the future by stating, “My goal is to expand our capabilities for more capable, more complex, and more autonomous space missions to enable the next generation of robotic and manned space applications. After graduation, I am planning to go into industry and apply all that I have learned through my experiences at Michigan to producing not just control theory and simulations but also finished space products.”