Presidential Address

Presidential Address by Emeritus Professor Bob Reuben


Dieter, mine’s a half: Form and Function in Materials Engineering

In this lecture, Professor Bob Reuben will reflect on his 50-year long research interest in structure-property relationships in metals, and other “materials”. This will include early work on dual-phase and fine-grained steels, failure analysis of such diverse structures as offshore oil drill pipe and prison bars, properties of solders at the microscale, monitoring of structures and, most recently, advanced manufacturing with structural and functional titanium alloys.

Along the way, Bob will talk about structure-property relationships in biological materials, specifically the search for a mechanical phenotype of soft tissue cancer. There will also be some observations on the changes in university teaching and research in materials engineering.

The lecture will be given as part of the 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Association for Metals on Tue 26 September ‘ 6pm.  To register for the meeting, go to

Brief biography

Bob Reuben is Professor Emeritus in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University. He graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a First Class Honours Degree in Metallurgy in 1974, following which he spent 3 years at UKAEA Dounreay carrying out industrial research on stainless-steel-clad fast reactor fuel elements. He returned to academe (for the rest of his career, as it turned out) in 1977, first as a Research Assistant at the Open University’s Oxford Research Unit, culminating in his PhD thesis entitled “Hydrogen Permeation in Nickel, Molybdenum and 316 stainless steel: the Influence of Phase Boundary Processes”. In 1980, he returned to Strathclyde University as a Research Assistant to work on structure-property relationships in steels. In 1983, he obtained a lectureship at Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology (later to become RGU) in Aberdeen, teaching at HND, undergraduate and postgraduate levels and acting as metallurgical consultant to the offshore engineering industry. In 1985, he moved to Heriot-Watt University as a lecturer in the Department of Offshore Engineering. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1992 and to Professor of Materials Engineering in 1995. He was Head of the Department of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering from 1999-2002 and Director of Teaching and Learning in the newly-formed School of Engineering and Physical Sciences from 2002-2010. In 2017, Bob took over as Head of the (Research) Institute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, which he held up to his retirement in 2021. Over his career, Bob has accumulated around 70 years’ experience of teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, served concurrently at the Open University and at RGIT and HWU.

In retirement, Bob continues to be active in materials engineering research and in the development of teaching of mechanical engineering. He is also Chief Technical Officer of a spin-out company, IntelliPalp Dx, which he founded in 2020 with a long-term clinical collaborator, and which is seeking to commercialise a screening tool for prostate cancer. Bob is dedicated to gender equality in engineering, having chaired the School’s Athena SWAN SAT, culminating in renewal of its Bronze Charter Mark for 5 years from October 2020. He is currently lead for a British Council funded Gender Equality Partnership with Nile University in Ghiza, Egypt.

Although he has stopped counting, he estimates that he is author of over 350 journal and conference articles and around 150 consultancy reports of failure investigations and has been an investigator on at least £20M of externally-funded research from EPSRC, Industry and European research agencies. He has supervised (or co-supervised) around 70 research students and has acted as external examiner for PhD, postgraduate taught and undergraduate programmes in around 20 HEIs world-wide.