Mary Helen McCay Named to National Academy of Inventors

Holder of 24 Patents Joins
Elite Group of 2017 Fellows

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Mary Helen McCay, a University Research Professor at Florida Institute of Technology, director of the school’s National Center for Hydrogen Research, NASA astronaut alternate and holder of two dozen patents, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the organization announced today.

McCay, the founding president of Florida Tech’s National Academy of Inventors local chapter and an inductee into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame this year, joins a 2017 class of 155 others from top universities and research agencies worldwide, including CalTech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

“Congratulations on this great achievement and recognition as a truly prolific academic inventor,” the organization said in announcing McCay’s election.

With the 2017 class there are now 912 NAI Fellows, representing over 250 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. The 2017 Fellows are named inventors on nearly 6,000 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 32,000 issued U.S. patents.

McCay is now part of an elite group including more than 100 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes; 439 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and 29 Nobel Laureates.

“I am honored to be named a Fellow with such a distinguished group of women and men,” McCay said. “Together the class of 2017 and all past NAI Fellows highlight the far-reaching and positive impact scientists and researchers can have, and I look forward to helping the next generation of pioneers continue to explore and illuminate our world in important ways.”

At Florida Tech, McCay has led an interdisciplinary team of researchers focused on providing innovative solutions to the renewable energy sector. Since joining Florida Tech in 2003, she has generated over $4.5 million in funding, partnering with Siemens Energy to build a state-of-the-art thermal spray and high heat-flux laboratory. Her current research is directed toward testing and improving thermal barrier coating materials with the goal being to increase turbine efficiency.

Prior to joining Florida Tech, McCay was professor of engineering science and mechanics, chair of the Center for Laser Applications, and adjunct professor of metallurgical engineering and materials science at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. There, she conceived the idea of using laser-induced-surface improvement-generated, permanent markings to track surgical instruments. Today, Censis, a University of Tennessee start-up company, provides instrument-level tracking systems that increase patient safety and improve clinical outcomes in approximately 350 U.S. medical facilities.

Together with her co-inventors, McCay received the American Museum of Science and Energy Award for Technical Achievement, and she was awarded the UT Wheeley Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer for the laser innovations and the Chancellor’s Award for Creativity in Research at the University of Tennessee. Twenty-two of McCay’s 24 patents are for the laser-induced-surface improvement and its applications.

Additionally, McCay was a Payload Specialist Astronaut (alternate) for NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger Flight Spacelab-3 mission. A principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for almost 20 years, she studied the influence of microgravity on single crystal formation and conducted failure analyses of space vehicle materials. She was also principal investigator on a Microgravity Laboratory I flight experiment and three others. She received the NASA Scientific Achievement Medal for her work.

Those elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.

The 2017 class of NAI Fellows was evaluated by the 2017 Selection Committee, which included 18 members comprising NAI Fellows, U.S. National Medals recipients, National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and senior officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Association of American Universities, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of University Technology Managers, among other organizations.

Dwayne McCay, Florida Tech’s president and May Helen McCay’s husband, was named an NAI Fellow in 2016.

The 2017 Fellows will be inducted on April 5, 2018, in Washington, D.C., as part of the 7th Annual NAI Conference. U.S. Commissioner for Patents Andrew H. Hirshfeld will provide the keynote address.


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