The LIFT Team is a dedicated group of individuals working in the institute every day to move the needle on our technology and talent development programs. From engineering and program management to human resources and finance, our team of experts is driving LIFT and our ecosystem into the future.

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Nigel Francis

CEO & Executive Director

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Victor Claudio

Chief Financial Officer

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Hadrian Rori

Chief Technology Officer

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Jim McManus

Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development

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Philip Chizek

Vice President, Department of Defense Business Development

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Kevin T. Kerrigan

Vice President, Business Development and Talent Operations

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Noel Mack

Vice President, Technology

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Joe Steele

Senior Director, Communications And Legislative Affairs

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Pete Czech

Senior Director, Program Management

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Alan Taub

Senior Advisor, Technical

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Nancy Cummins

Corporate Controller

Sherri Diehl

Program Controller

Marianne Donoghue

Director, Learning Lab

George Panourgias

Project Director

John Keogh, Ph.D.

Director, Engineering

Amberlee Haselhuhn, Ph.D.

Engineering Manager, Materials & ICME

David St. John, Ph.D.

Senior Engineer, Advanced Manufacturing

David Hicks, Ph.D.

Senior Engineer, Modeling & Simulation

Addie Stone-Richards

Director of Member Engagement

Phaedra Wainaina

Director, Education & Workforce Development Programs

Denise Vallis

Program Manager


Nigel Francis is the CEO and Executive Director at Detroit-based LIFT, one of the founding Manufacturing USA institutes.

Prior to joining LIFT, Nigel served as Vice President and Officer, Advanced Engineering & Technology Development at American Axle (NYSE:AXL), after working as Senior Automotive Adviser to the State of Michigan and Senior Vice President, Automotive Industry Office, Michigan Economic Development Corporation where he was charged with developing, implementing and executing a comprehensive strategic plan and road map to promote, retain and grow the automotive industry in Michigan.

Francis has over 35 years of experience in the global automotive sector having held executive level positions at OEM and Tier 1 companies in North America and Europe, including Tata Technologies, Executive Vice President, Bright Automotive; and Vice President, Vehicle Engineering at Mercedes-Benz Technology. He has spent the majority of his career in advanced design and engineering product development and in recent years has been closely involved with clean technology through hybrid and electric vehicle development and vehicle light-weighting initiatives.

Francis holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with honors from Brunel University in London, England. Professional affiliations include fellow, Institute of Mechanical Engineers of Great Britain; chartered engineer, Great Britain; Member SAE and Member SME. He sits on the advisory boards of several technology companies and universities.

Victor Claudio serves as Chief Financial Officer of the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII). In this role, Claudio is responsible for all financial and administrative functions of the organization. Claudio brings to ALMMII a diverse background in both the public and private sectors, with a keen focus on organizational finance and business operations. Claudio’s professional experience includes product development, fundraising, start-ups and value stream alignment for small, medium and enterprise companies.

Recently, Claudio created a retention and scalability strategy and led the design of a suite of servicing products for one of the leading financial technology enterprise companies in the United States managing a portfolio of over $250B in recurring annual volume. Claudio is credited for the creation of new products that led to additional revenue streams of over $780M within 6 months of launch.

Prior to his role in enterprise product strategy, Claudio co-founded a financial technology and service company focused on creating a new vertical in the financial industry. The result was a digital personal financial wellness product providing services and solutions for the financial services industry. Claudio also successfully owned and operated a process manufacturing and consulting business where he provided a wide range of services to streamline and improve manufacturing technologies and processes for the electronics industry.

Claudio began his career with Code Alarm Inc., holding various technical positions, where he led effective teams of technicians and engineers through the manufacturing, production test and product development cycles for the leader in automotive security for OEM and retail industries.

Claudio studied internationally and possesses a BA in Management from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Claudio also holds an MBA in Accounting and master’s degree in Financial Management and a post graduate certificate in financial planning.

Hadrian Rori is the Chief Technology Officer at Detroit-based LIFT, one of the founding Manufacturing USA institutes.

Mr. Rori is an accomplished executive with over 34 years of experience in product creation and quality improvement.

His previously held positions include consultation to suppliers and entrepreneurial start-ups in the automotive sector providing operational guidance in application development and manufacturing ramp-up from small-scale prototyping to series production.

Prior positions also include Executive Vice President for Akebono Brake Corporation, where he was responsible for North American Engineering, Quality and Program Management. In addition, he served as Vice President of Vehicle Engineering at Bright Automotive. A manufacturer of state-of-the-art lightweight, hybrid electric vehicles for commercial and government fleets.

Prior to Bright Automotive, Mr. Rori spent 24 years with Chrysler Corporation where he held a variety of product engineering executive positions. His last role at Chrysler was Director of Chassis Engineering for body-on-frame products. Prior to this position, he was senior manager – Jeep® Vehicle Development where he directed the group responsible for functional and quality objectives, vehicle testing, and development for the Grand Cherokee® program.

Mr. Rori has a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and an M.S. in Engineering Management from the University of Detroit. He holds four U.S. patents – two patents for lightweight vehicles and associated components and two patents for advanced passenger car chassis systems.

Philip Chizek, has more than 30 years of Automotive, Aerospace and Defense experience in international sales, marketing and business development for advanced and emerging technologies.

In his current role at the Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), Philip manages all aspects of business development including: sales, marketing, project definition, stakeholder relations, member growth and relations. He also supports building a scalable and growth business infrastructure for the institute.

Philip is a highly successful professional and U. S. Air Force Veteran with a broad range of business and technical experiences that has provided global sales, marketing and business development leadership for a diverse range of large and small companies and organizations such as: L3 -Combat Propulsion Systems, U.S. Army – Science and Technology, Ford Motor Company, and Allied Signal Aerospace.

Kevin Kerrigan is the Vice President, Business Development at LIFT. In this role, Kevin’s focus is connecting LIFT with manufacturers across industries to help them work with the institute to further develop, optimize and then commercialize their innovations.

Kevin brings to LIFT decades of experience in the manufacturing sector having previously served as Senior Vice President, Automotive Office and the Senior Automotive Adviser to the State of Michigan with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, where he focused on international business development for the MEDC’s Automotive Office. Working with the world’s automotive manufacturers he is promoting Michigan’s automotive industry, building and maintaining strong international client relationships, nurturing economic development and assisting foreign based companies who choose Michigan for their future expansion.

Prior to working with the MEDC, Kevin led his own automotive design and engineering company for 20 years and has worked at an executive level for Tier 1 automotive suppliers. Prior positions Kevin had to joining MEDC include President of Eurotech Design, Inc. a Michigan based full service engineering organization, President of Adaptive Systems a turnkey robotic integration company. Chief Engineer at Tata Technologies and Principal Engineer for International Automotive Components based at their Advanced Development Center, Troy Michigan.

Born and educated in the United Kingdom, Kevin has lived and worked in the U.S. since 1983. He is married with two children and currently resides in Fenton, MI.

Kevin completed a full indentured British Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship in the UK.

Joe Steele is a veteran communications and public affairs leader with a track record of developing and executing successful plans, strategies and delivering legislative victories, employee engagement and building key stakeholder relationships for Fortune 500 companies, statewide political campaigns, nonprofits and startups.

As director of communications and legislative affairs at LIFT, Joe is responsible for building media and stakeholder relationships, as well as supporting the sales and marketing teams.

Over his career, Joe has led the public affairs strategy for a large telecommunications company, managed internal communications for a large financial institution as it transitioned through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and built a Political Action Committee (PAC).

Joe began his career as a reporter for several newspapers across Michigan, before moving to politics to lead the communications for a U.S. Senate campaign and then as a staff member in the Michigan House of Representatives followed by serving as an appointee of the Michigan Secretary of State.

Joe has a B.A. degree in Telecommunications from Michigan State University.

Alan Taub joined the faculty of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan in the Fall of 2012. In this role, Taub is conducting research in advanced materials and processing and has a leadership role as Chief Technical Officer of the newly established American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Taub retired from General Motors in April 2012. Prior to his retirement, he was vice president, Global Research & Development, leading GM’s advanced technical work activity, seven science laboratories around the world, and seven global science offices. He joined GM R&D as executive director in 2001 and was named vice president in 2009.
Taub serves on the boards of several small companies: Nine Sigma, CellEra and Brightway Vision and is technical advisor for a new strategic venture fund, Auto Tech Ventures.

Before joining GM, Taub spent 15 years in research and development at General Electric, where he earned 26 patents and authored more than 60 papers. He also worked at Ford Motor Company for eight years.

Taub received his bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Brown University and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in applied physics from Harvard University. Taub was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2006. He is currently Chair for the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is a member of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) Energy Materials Blue Ribbon Panel. He also serves on advisory boards for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Taub received the 2011 Acta Materialia Materials & Society Award. In 2010, he was awarded the Charles S. Barrett Medal from ASM International’s Rocky Mountain Chapter. He received the Materials Research Society’s Special Recognition Award in 2004 and Woody White Service Award in 2002. He also received the Brown University Engineering Alumni Medal in 2002.

Dennis Capa

Manufacturing Engineer

Marina Cipi

Staff Accountant

Jacob Devine

Executive Assistant & Salesforce Admin

Rich Hoffer

Manager, Facility Operations

Ed Kenny

Advanced Manufacturing Technician

Jihad Mims

Manager, Agile and Smart Manufacturing Division

Felipe Perea

Events Coordinator

Alessandro Posteraro

Manufacturing Engineer

Jessica Saba

Accounts Receivable

Bret Saka

Financial Analyst

Ivory Smaw

Executive Assistant, Sales & Front Receptionist

Demaro Turner

Senior Advanced Manufacturing Technician

Mark Whalin

Executive Assistant and Human Resource Generalist

Lorraine White

Contracts Administrator

Derek Zbikowski

Senior Advanced Manufacturing Technician