Professor Neil James
Professor of Mechanical Engineering (Research)
Faculty of Science and Engineering
- Fatigue and fracture
- Structural integrity
- Failure analysis
- Material properties
- Residual stresses
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I have been Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Plymouth since 1996 and my research interests lie in design for structural integrity, covering the fields of fatigue and fracture, residual stresses, fatigue life prediction and welded joints. I have variously been Dean of Technology (6½ years), Pro-Vice Chancellor (15 months) and Head of the School of Marine Science & Engineering/Associate Dean (6½ years).
I was educated at Allan Wilson Technical High School, Harare, Zimbabwe, hold a BSc(Eng) degree in Mechanical Engineering (Cum Laude 1976) from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; a PhD (1984) in Metallurgy and Materials Science from the University of Cambridge, England; a DTech (Honoris Causa - 2003) from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa, and a DSc(Eng) (2005) from University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Awards include the 2020 Robert Moskovic award from Technical Committee TC12 of the European Structural Integrity Society (one of 3 such awards in 2020) in “recognition of an outstanding contribution to Fatigue and Fracture of Structural Alloys and Materials”; the Coffin-Manson medal in 2019 awarded by the Italian Fracture Group in “recognition of the research work done throughout his academic career to understand and model the fatigue behaviour of metallic materials and welded joints”, and the Silver Medal of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering in 1986.
I have held, or hold, Visiting or Honorary Professorial appointments at Sheffield-Hallam University, Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu, China, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa and the University of Ferrara, Italy.
I am Co-Editor (Europe, Middle East and Africa) of the International Journal of Fatigue (impact factor in 2019 of 4.369 and ranked 16/130 in Mechanical Engineering by Clarivate Analytics), am an Editorial Board member of Engineering Failure Analysis (Elsevier Science), and Frattura ed Integrità Strutturale - the International Journal of the Italian Fracture Group; have previously been on the Editorial Board of the ICE journal Forensic Engineering .
I have authored/co-authored more than 180 research publications in refereed International Journals and Conference Proceedings. I have given numerous invited Plenary or Keynote lectures at International Conferences. In 2008 I was invited to be the John Orr Memorial Lecturer for the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering. This prestigious lecture is intended to celebrate the achievements and contribution of Professor John Orr OBE, Hon. LLD (1870-1954) to engineering and engineering education in South Africa. My chosen topic was ‘Reliable Products and Structures’. I am an Honorary Member of the Gruppo Italiano Frattura (Italian Fracture Group) in recognition of “outstanding achievements in the research fields of Material Science, Fracture Mechanics and Structural Integrity”.
I have significant experience of acting as a failure analysis and metallurgical consultant, generating some 180 reports over the last 40 years. My work has ranged over advising on fatigue design, through determining mechanisms and causes of failure in mechanical equipment, plant and structures, to metallurgical assessment, corrosion problems, fatigue life and fracture toughness testing. I have acted variously as a fatigue and fracture expert, an Expert Witness in court cases, and a forensic engineering consultant to industry and legal firms in a number of countries, including the UK, USA, South Africa, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.
1973-1976 BSc(Eng) (4 year degree) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Graduated Cum Laude in mechanical engineering.
1980-1983 PhD in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science, University of Cambridge, England. Thesis entitled The Growth of Small Surface Fatigue Cracks in Structural Steels (Supervisor Mr G C Smith and external examiner Dr C J Beevers, University of Birmingham).
2003 Doctor of Technology (Honoris Causa) degree conferred by the Port Elizabeth Technikon, South Africa, in recognition of standing in the field of mechanical properties of metals and development of mechanical engineering at the Technikon.
2005 DSc(Eng) conferred by the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, for a thesis entitled A contribution to knowledge and understanding of fatigue crack growth phenomena representing a distinguished contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the subject.
2003 Honorary award of title of Visiting Professor to the Materials Research Institute at Sheffield-Hallam University for 6 years from June 2003.
2005 Appointed Advisory Professor of the Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu, PR China in the State Key Laboratory of Traction Power.
2007 Appointed Honorary Professor of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa in the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering for 5 years from August 2007, re-appointed for a further 5 years in 2012.
2008 Appointed Professore di chiara fama and Docente at the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy (founded 1391) in the Department of Engineering from January 2008.
Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, London
Registered as a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council, London.
Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Roles on external bodies
Member of Panel 30, Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise organised by the Higher Education Funding Council of England.
Member of the EPSRC Peer Review College; grant Reviewer for the National Science Foundation, USA, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Austrian Science Fund, the National Research Foundation, South Africa, National Office for Science and Technology Awards, People's Republic of China, the Slovenian Research Agency, the Portuguese Foundation for Science & Technology; the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Centre of Science & Technology Evaluation, Kazakhstan.
Manager and PI of Phase 2 of the development and exploitation of FaME38, the Facility for Materials Engineering at the Institute Laue-Langevin (ILL) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France, on behalf of a UK consortium of 12 University partners (2005). Funded by EPSRC grant EP/C008847/1, £467 460 for 12 months, with €200 000 of matching support from the ILL and ESRF. Previously invited to join the Management Committee (2002).
Holistic approaches to engineering design and design philosophy
Use of internet resources to promote student-centred learning, enhance access and support larger student groups
Development of high level on-line resources to support teaching, e.g. interactive tutorials and case studies
Fracture mechanics and fatigue
Staff serving as external examiners
I have acted as an External Examiner for some 43 MPhil and PhD degrees for UK and overseas universities since 2001. Have been an external examiner at the University of Portsmouth and the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Fatigue and fracture of structural alloys and materials
Residual stresses in components and structures
Fatigue design and life prediction
Friction stir welding - optimisation for dynamic performance
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
Recent research degrees candidates include:
P J McGrath, PhD An investigation of residual stresses induced by forming processes on the fatigue resistance of automotive wheels, 2001.
G R Bradley, PhD Fatigue Properties of Metal Inert Gas and Friction Stir Welded Aluminium Alloy 5383-H321, 2003.
H Lombard, PhD Optimized fatigue and fracture performance of friction stir welded aluminium plate: a study of inter-relationships between process parameters, TMAZ, microstructure, defect population and performance, 2007.
Yanwei Lu, PhD Full-field modelling of crack tip shielding phenomena, 2011.
Mark Newby, PhD Optimisation of shot peening for 12Cr steel in steam turbine blade applications, 2013 (ESKOM Research Programme).
A Mahmood, PhD Processing-performance relationships for fibre reinforced composites, 2015 (Iraqi Government Scholarship).
C A Yeo, MPhil The Development of a Methodology for a Dynamic Design Process, 2004.
Grants & contracts
As either PI or Co-PI, I have held research and/or teaching grants from a number of external funding bodies, including major industry, The International Lead Zinc Research Organisation, the EPSRC, the Leverhulme Foundation, the UK Centre for Materials Education, the Newton Fund of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Department of Higher Education and Training, South Africa.
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Reports & invited lectures
2020 Plenary Lecture at the 1st Virtual European Conference on Fracture, Google Meet http://www.vecf1.eu/, 29 June to 1 July 2020.
2019 Keynote Lecture at the 8th International Conference on Materials Structure & Micromechanics of Fracture, Brno, Czech Republic, 27-29 June 2019.
2019 Plenary Lecture at the 25th International Conference on Fracture and Structural Integrity, Catania, Sicily, 12-14 June 2019.
2018 Plenary Lecture at the 2018 Conference of the South African Advanced Materials Initiative, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 23-26 October 2018.
2017 Plenary Lecture at the International Conference on Structural Integrity and Durability 2017, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 15-18 August 2017.
2016 Plenary Lecture at the 21st European Conference on Fracture, Catania, Sicily, Italy, 20-24 June 2016.
2015 Keynote Lecture at the 4th International Conference of Engineering against Failure, Skiathos, Greece, 24-26 June 2015.
2014 Plenary Lecture at the 4th International Conference on Advances in Product Development and Reliability, Hangzhou, China, 29-321 July 2014.
2012 Plenary Lecture at the 4th International Conference on Crack Paths, Gaeta, Italy, 19 - 21 September, 2012.
2010 Plenary Lecture at the 18th Spanish National Conference on Mechanical Engineering, Ciudad Real, Spain, 305 November 2010. Only four invited plenary lectures were given at this conference.
2010 Plenary Lecture at the 10th International Fatigue Congress, Prague, Czech Republic, 6-11 June 2010. Only four plenary lectures were given at this conference which attracts 300-400 delegates and is the premier fatigue conference series.
2010 Opening Keynote Lecture at the Gruppo Italiano Frattura Workshop on Problems of Fracture in Engineering Materials, Forni di Sopra, Italy, 7-9 January 2010.
Other academic activities
Editorial Advisory Board member of Frattura ed Integrità Strutturale - the International Journal of the Italian Fracture Group from August 2010.
Co-Editor (from January 2008), Regional Editor (Europe, Middle East & Africa) since 1999 of the respected Elsevier publication International Journal of Fatigue.
Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Elsevier journal Engineering Failure Analysis from 2004.
Member of Editorial Board of the Bentham Open Mechanical Engineering Journal from February 2007.
International Journal of Fatigue:
Engineering Failure Analysis: