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Mary Helen McCay

Professor | College of Engineering and Science - Mechanical and Civil Engineering

Director | Center for Advanced Coatings

Contact Information

Personal Overview

Mary Helen McCay, Ph.D., PE (ret), is a university professor and director of the Center for Advanced Coatings.

She is the former director of the National Center for Hydrogen Research and was a professor of mechanical engineering at Florida Tech. Prior to Florida Tech she was chairman of the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, where she directed the laser materials processing program. 

While at NASA, Dr. McCay was a Payload Specialist Astronaut (alternate). She served as a Principal Investigator on a Microgravity Laboratory I flight experiment along with three other flight experiments and received the NASA Scientific Achievement Medal. She established a program to correlate the grain structure with the properties of superalloys and developed solidification and heat-treating processes for control of the structures. Dr. McCay also investigated miscibility gap material and the causes of changes in grain structure during metal casting and participated in failure analysis of space vehicle related problems.  

Educational Background

Middle Management Program Simmons College 1979
Ph.D., Metallurgical Engineering University of Florida 1973
M.S., Materials Science Florida State University 1969
B.S. Engineering Science, Florida State University 1966

Professional Experience

2017-Present - Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Advanced Coatings, Florida Institute of Technology

2003-2017 - Director of the National Center for Hydrogen Research

2003, 1999, 1995 - Chairman, Center for Laser Applications, University of Tennessee Space Institute

1986-2003 - Professor, Engineering Science and Mechanics, Adjunct Professor, Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science, at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI)

Principal Investigator for International Microgravity Laboratory flight experiment concerning the influence of microgravity on directional solidification

1975-1986 - Principal Investigator at Marshall Space Flight Center on materials programs related to microgravity processing and materials' properties. Developed programs and hardware for these programs. Testified to congres­sional committees on results of programs.

Alternate Payload Specialist Astronaut on Spacelab Three

1968-1975 - Materials Engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center. Responsible for developing viable crystal growth program and supporting the analysis of space vehicle related materials problems and failures.


Selected Publications

D. Fisher, E.J. Grotke, J.R. Brenner, M.H. McCay, T.D. McCay, E.L. Caraway, Alternative Solid Waste Management Techniques for a Sustainable Hydrogen Economy, Sustainable Pathways: New Research & Practices.

M.H. McCay, C.M. Sharp, J.A. Hopkins, B. Shapiro, T.D. McCay, Plasma Assisted Laser Surface Alloying, Journal of Laser Applications, Vol#15, November 2003, p. 84.

M.H. McCay, Laser Based Marking Methods, Industrial Laser Solutions, September 2002, p. 15-17.

M. H. McCay and T. Dwayne McCay, The Hydrogen Economy, The Utilities and Energy Project, May,2005, pp. 110-112.

T. Tramel, M.H. McCay, J A. Hopkins and T.D. McCay, The Influence of Nozzle Geometries on Laser Surface Alloying, Journal of Laser Applications, Vol. 14 #3, August 2002, pp. 174-184.

M.H. McCay, J.A. Hopkins and T.D. McCay, Melt Instabilities During Laser Surface Alloying, Journal of Laser Applications Vol. 14, #1, February 2002, pp. 24-30.

M.H. McCay, John A. Hopkins and T.D. McCay, The Influence of Gravity Related Convection on Secondary Arm Evolution in NH4Cl-H2O, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, Vol. 29A, pp. 1137-39, March 1998.

Reviewer, Journal of Laser Applications

Reviewer, Journal of Thermophysics & Heat Transfer

Reviewer, Journal of Crystal Growth

Reviewer, Journal of Heat Transfer

Reviewer, American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Reviewer, Journal of Surface Coatings

Sponsored Seminars:
Technion University in Israel (Krengel Fellow), NRC sponsored lectures in Portugal, NSF sponsored lectures in Yugoslavia and India and NASA sponsored lectures in Belgium.

Technical Publications:
Over 100 technical publications.

Recognition & Awards


Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, NASA, 1982

The University of Tennessee Chancellor's Award for Creativity and Research, 1992

General H.H. Arnold Award for Aerodynamic and Astronautical Science, Tennessee Chapter of AIAA, 1994

American Museum of Science & Energy, 1998 University of Tennessee B. Otto and

Kathleen Wheeley Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer 2002


U.S. Patent 4,198,232, “Preparation of Monotectic Alloys having a Controlled Microstructure by Directional Solidification under Dopant-Induced Interface Breakdown,” April 15,1980

U.S. Patent 4,681,437, “Laser Schlieren Crystal Monitor,” July 21, 1987

U.S. Patent 5,503,703, “Laser Bonding Process for Ceramic Articles,” April 2,1996

U.S. Patent 5,961,861, “Apparatus for Laser Alloy Induced Improvement of Surfaces”, Oct. 5, 1999

U.S. Patent 5,985,056, “Method for Laser Induced Improvement of Surfaces,” Nov. 16, 1999

U.S. Patent 6,016,227, “Apparatus and Method for Producing an Improved Laser Beam,” Jan. 18, 2000

U.S. Patent 6,173,886, “Method for Joining Dissimilar Metals or Alloys”, Jan. 16, 2001

U.S. Patent 6,284,067, “Method for Producing Alloyed Bands or Strips on Pistons for Internal Combustion Engines”, Sept. 4, 2001

U.S. Patent 6,294,225, “Method for Improving the Wear and Corrosion Resistance of Material Transport Trailer Surfaces”, Sept. 25, 2001

U.S. Patent 6,299,707  "Laser Process for Producing Wear-Resistance Aluminum Cylinder Bore Surfaces”, Oct. 9, 2001

U.S. Patent 6,229,111 “Method for Laser/Plasma Surface Alloying, May 8, 2001

U.S. Patent 6, 328, 026, “Method for Increasing Wear Resistance in an Engine Cylinder Bore and Improved Automotive Engine”, Dec. 11, 2001

U.S. Patent 6,223,137, “Method for Marking, Tracking and Managing Hospital Instruments”, Apr. 24, 2001

U.S. Patent 6, 350, 326, “Method for Practicing a Feedback Controlled Laser Induced Surface Modification”, Feb 26, 2002


Current research is interdisciplinary, focused on integrating computational and laboratory methodologies for the improvement of the design, engineering, testing and manufacturing of advanced coatings for use in extreme environments. Work is being conducted on catalysts, sensors and storage mediums. A high energy laser is being used to produce materials with desirable surface properties related to these topics.

Research interests while at NASA George C. Marshal Space Flighter Center included the influence of the gravitational force on single crystal growth, directional solidification,and casting. This involved optical observations of the phenomena as well as investigating the grain structures and substructures in metallic alloys. Other interests were failure analysis and the influence of the environment (hydrogen, corrosive mediums etc.) on material properties.

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