Neil James 2003


Neil James was born on 4 April 1953 in Singapore and left in 1959 when his family moved to Zimbabwe.  He was schooled at Marlborough Junior School and Allan Wilson Technical High School where he completed his 'O' and 'A' level exams. 

In 1971, he finished school and went to work for Rhodesia Railways as a parcels clerk.  From 1973 until 1976, he read towards his Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand where he graduated Cum Laude.  He then worked as a Mechanical Engineer for the Rhodesian Government’s Ministry of Water Development until 1979, which included 18 months of National Service in the British South Africa Police Force.  Thereafter, he worked as an Assistant Mechanical Engineer with Southern Area Motive Power - National Railways of Zimbabwe. 

In 1980, he was awarded a Beit Trust Post-graduate Fellowship to attend Jesus College at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Here he was awarded his PhD in Metallurgy and Materials Science.  He then conducted post-doctoral research as a Research Associate at Cambridge before taking up a Research Fellowship at the University of the Witwatersrand where he worked as a Senior Research Officer in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering.

Whilst on special leave, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.  In 1987, he returned to the University of Witwatersrand as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering and in 1992, became an Associate Professor (on the Special List) in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, eventually serving as Acting Head of the Branch of Physical Metallurgy.

He has spent time on sabbatical leave in the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at the University of Sheffield, working in the Structural Integrity Research Institute.  He returned to the UK in 1996 where he took up the Chair in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Plymouth.  At the beginning of this year, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Technology at Plymouth with its 145 academic staff and 2 300 students.

Professor James is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, London, a Fellow of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineers, registered as a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council of London and registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa as a Professional Engineer.

He was invited by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) to serve on the subject panel for Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering for its 2001 Research Assessment Exercise - a major exercise which assesses research in all universities in England on a four year cycle.  He is also Regional Editor of the International Journal of Fatigue, a leading Elsevier Science publication in the field.

Over the past six years, Professor James has contributed significantly to the development of research expertise within the Faculty of Electrical, Industrial and Mechanical Engineering at the PE Technikon, specifically with regard to the Manufacturing Technology Research Centre.  His involvement has enhanced the reputation of the Faculty and has created several unique opportunities on which it has capitalised.   This has assisted in creating a national research resource for SA in the areas of Friction Stir Welding and sophisticated residual stress measurements.

The Council and Senate of the PE Technikon wish to accord recognition to this outstanding engineer and academic.  It is an honour to confer the degree DOCTOR TECHNOLOGIAE (HONORIS CAUSA) on PROFESSOR M NEIL JAMES.