close up of advanced instrumentation in the Core Analytical Facility


Advisory Board

The Alabama Materials Institute gives its deep appreciation to the following individuals who provide an external consultatory committee to AMI’s leadership. This board provides assistance and guidance towards AMI’s efforts as a leading academic-based, interdisciplinary materials research organization for faculty, staff, students, and its stakeholders.

Mr. Steve Cook

Senior Managing Director, Cerberus Capital Florida LLC

Mr. Cook is a Senior Managing Director on the Supply Chain and Strategic Opportunities team, which invests in businesses driving next-generation technologies and capabilities that advance supply chain integrity. Mr. Cook, who joined Cerberus in 2024, brings more than three decades of government and private sector leadership in the rapid development of disruptive aerospace and defense systems. He most recently served as the President of Leidos Dynetics, a provider of mission-critical systems and solutions for the hypersonics, threat systems, cyber, space, and force protection markets. Mr. Cook previously spent nearly two decades at NASA in senior engineering and leadership roles, where he oversaw the development of the Ares I and V (now Artemis) launch vehicles and helped direct research, technology, and development activities for future generations of space transportation and propulsion. Mr. Cook holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and mechanics from the University of Minnesota and has authored more than 20 papers on advanced space propulsion and launch systems. Mr. Cook is an AIAA Fellow and Distinguished Engineering Fellow at The University of Alabama.

Professor Babu, Sudarsanam (Suresh) Babu

UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair of Advanced Manufacturing Professor

Professor Suresh Babu has more than 30 years of experience in advanced manufacturing, joining sciences, additive manufacturing, physical metallurgy, and computational materials modeling. He has published more than 250 journal papers and numerous conference proceedings in these areas. Dr. Babu obtained his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India, and his master’s degree in industrial welding metallurgy-materials joining from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He earned his PhD in materials science and metallurgy from University of Cambridge, UK in 1992. Professor Babu has held research and/or professor appointments at the Institute for Materials Research (Sendai, Japan), Edison Welding Institute (Columbus, Ohio), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), University of Tennessee (UT), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), and The Ohio State University. In 2020, Professor Babu was appointed to the National Science Board by the President of the United States of America for a six-year term. And, in 2022, Professor Babu was appointed into the inaugural senior advisor for research and STEM to the Provost and Vice Chancellor of Research at UT. Throughout his career, he has received many recognitions for his technical leadership and service to the materials and manufacturing community. He is a fellow of AAAS, ASM International, AWS and SME.

Mr. Michael Johns

Senior Vice President, Kratos SRE

Michael David Johns was named Senior Vice President of Kratos SRE in 2022; a new entity formed after leading a successful transaction of the Engineering Division of Southern Research Institute to the San Diego based Kratos Defense and Securities Solutions, Inc. Prior to that, he served as the Vice President of the Engineering Division of Southern Research Institute since 2004. Mr. Johns has directed and managed high-profile research and commercial projects in the advanced aerospace materials sector and currently leads teams of researchers working in electromechanical systems and integration, hypersonic and ballistic missile systems, materials engineering, automotive engineering, nuclear engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning, directed energy, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and computational sciences. Mr. Johns received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in mechanical engineering from The University of Alabama, and he received a Master in Business Administration from UA. In 2009, he became a distinguished engineering fellow at UA. He is an active member on various boards including the engineering leadership boards of UA and the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the president’s council at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He also serves on the NASA National Advisory Council and chairs the Technology Innovation and Engineering Committee of the NAC. Mr. Johns was named Engineer of the Year by the Engineering Council of Birmingham in 2016 and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2020 where he also now serves on the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame.     

Mr. Timothy N. McKechnie

President of Plasma Processes LLC.

Plasma Processes was founded by Mr. McKechnie in 1993 and is a state-of-the-art fabrication center specializing in ultra-high temperature materials, coatings, and propulsion components using additive manufacturing and thermal spray processes including High Pressure Cold Spray, Vacuum Plasma Spray, plasma spray, HVOF, and electro-deposition. In addition he orchestrated the purchase of the EL-Formâ Technology from the Engelhart Corporation and the successful installation, expansion, and productionizing of the process at Plasma Processes which now averages 10,000 parts per month using this technology. Collectively, these coatings and structures produced by Plasma Processes are routinely integrated into a variety of aerospace, nuclear, medical, industrial and commercial applications meeting ISO 9001 and AS9100 standards. Mr. McKechnie was previously the Lead Engineer for Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International in Thermal Spray for use on the Space Shuttle Main Engines. He has a Master of Science degree in Material Science and Engineering and Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical and Materials Engineering from Vanderbilt University. Mr. McKechnie has 40 years of experience in fabrication of high temperature materials for propulsion and other extreme environments where he has written or been co-author of over 60 technical publications. He is an ASM International Fellow. 

Mr. John Vickers

Principal Technologist and Senior Leader for Advanced Manufacturing, NASA

Mr. Vickers serves as the principal technologist for advanced manufacturing in the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters and as the senior leader for advanced manufacturing at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He also serves as the associate director of the Marshall Materials and Processes Laboratory and as the director of NASA’s National Center for Advanced Manufacturing. In these positions, he provides agency-wide leadership responsible for the formulation of technology investment strategies and as the principal steward of the agency’s advanced manufacturing technical capabilities. He has over 40 years of experience in materials and manufacturing related research, development, engineering, and production for propulsion, spacecraft, and scientific systems. He serves as the NASA representative on the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing and on the Subcommittee on Critical Minerals. He was elected as a fellow of SME and as associate fellow of AIAA.