Professor Alan J. Brown, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy, has been awarded the Harold E. Saunders Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE).  

During his career of 40 years and counting, Brown has earned broad acclaim as a world-renowned naval engineering expert. He pioneered a new and critical area of naval engineering research in developing advanced multiobjective analytical and statistical optimization methods for rigorously exploring the entire design solution space. His leading-edge research and development results have had a profound impact on the way important technical decisions are made, but also the way naval ships are designed. 

Brown was nominated for the award by Mark Parsons, a naval architect and marine engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. The nomination was supported by 11 letters of recommendation from fellow professors, naval officers, former students, program managers, and government and private industry executives.

“Dr. Brown has given two careers to the naval engineering community, contributed technical publications on a broad range of topics, served at an international level, and helped to develop the next generation of naval engineers,” said Parsons, who earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. under Brown’s supervision in 2019 and 2021, respectively. 

“As a professor at MIT and Virginia Tech, he has taught and mentored two generations of naval architects using his expertise from his first career in the Navy. He has worked with his brightest students and his professional network of colleagues to push the research envelope of what was thought possible. Al is a wealth of knowledge and in a class of his own, and it is a privilege to call him a professional colleague, as well as a personal friend.”

Brown, throughout his career, has actively helped to develop the next generation of naval engineers. He served as a captain in the U.S. Navy Engineering Duty Officer community on ship operations, maintenance, repair, salvage, oil spill response, design, construction, ship systems research, and development assignments with ships, fleet staff, shipyards, Naval Sea Systems Command, and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Upon retiring from the Navy, he joined academia, teaching and conducting research at MIT before joining Virginia Tech in 1998. 

In the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Brown restructured the undergraduate ship design course, one of the only undergraduate programs in the country that teaches warship design, along with the U.S. Naval Academy. With the support of the U.S. Navy, he also introduced submarine design into the curriculum. Under his leadership, he has elevated ship design research, teaching, and service activities at Virginia Tech into a powerful, productive program recognized throughout the international naval engineering community. 

Brown was formally honored at ASNE’s Technology, Systems and Ships Symposium in Arlington in January.

He has previously been honored with the ASNE Solberg Award for Research in 2007 and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers' William H. Webb Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Education in Naval Architecture, Marine or Ocean Engineering in 2015.

The Harold E. Saunders Award, presented annually since 1977, honors an individual whose reputation in naval engineering spans a long career of notable achievement and influence. Saunders’ contributions to the arts and sciences of naval engineering spanned nearly 50 years, culminating in the publication of his monumental work, “Hydrodynamics in Ship Design.” He set a standard of professionalism and dedication for all naval engineers. 

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