Next month he will take over as Principal and Vice Chancellor at Heriot Watt University, a large science and engineering university based in Edinburgh, Dubai and Malaysia.
I first met Richard in 1986, when he attended the NATO Advanced Study Institute in Falmouth. He was then a Research Associate with Imperial College, UK, but it was obvious even at that early stage that he was destined for great things. In 1992 I invited him to the Editorial Board of the developing Minerals Engineering journal, a position he has held with enthusiasm and distinction ever since. But he is much more than a mineral processor. He is an academic leader, engineer and innovator, his leadership experience spanning a career developed at five UK Universities (Imperial, UMIST/Manchester, Exeter, Leeds and Birmingham) and he is one of the few engineers in UK to be an Academician of both the UK and Australian Academies of Engineering. He has particular experience at building and inspiring academic teams to develop significant new activities and business partnerships in UK and overseas locations. He has also been successful in the acquisition of global talent to build and focus research capacity and is widely networked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and three provinces in China. His direct experience with building businesses and business awareness in UK and internationally has yielded new strong university partnerships in rail, automotive, renewable energy, nuclear, space technology and defence sectors. Some of these are cross-disciplinary reflecting the necessity for future research frontiers to address social, technical, political and economic agendas.
His academic work spans scholarly publications in chemical and mineral engineering sciences, to applied engineering and instrumentation that has created new high throughput manufacturing processes with major environmental and business benefits. He was appointed full professor aged 33 and one of the youngest Academicians and Vice Presidents of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2000 and again recently in 2015. Amongst his many honours, awards and prizes is the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to science and engineering. He is on the technical advisory board of Lloyds Register Foundation.
Richard graduated from the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College in 1981 with a degree in Mineral Technology, and in 1985 with a PhD in the electrochemistry of ferrosilicon suspensions.
|With fellow Imperial College students John Marsden and Cathy Evans, and their|
former tutor Prof Tim Napier-Munn at the IMPC in Brisbane
At Birmingham he continued research in minerals systems with a focus on particle adhesion and wider systems energy. He was a Director of the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and of the development of a new metallurgical activity in the form of a £60M High Temperature Research Centre in collaboration with Rolls Royce. These activities have developed the Coventry site as a major industrial campus for the University of Birmingham. In 2013 he became Professor of Energy and Minerals Resource Engineering at Birmingham, and in 2014 Honorary Professor at Taylors University, Kula Lumpur, Malaysia as part of the Grand Challenge Alliance. He is a visiting professor at Southeast University in Nanjing and at Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A characteristic of his fundamental work in particle, surface science and processing systems has been the way it has transferred to industrial practice. His early work on packing of ‘arbitrary shaped particles’ is widely cited and used in particle packing and waste management. The frustrations of visualising the invisible particle behaviour in opaque mineral slurries led to the creations and commercialisation of industrial electrical tomography, now used worldwide in minerals separation and audit, hydraulic conveying and food sectors. He was amongst the first to demonstrate desk-top use of x-ray tomography in mineralogical assessment of complex ores and multi-scale modelling of filter cakes.
|Richard with other UK Pioneers of Process Tomography, Ken Primrose, Prof Brian Hoyle,|
Prof Lynn Gladden, Prof J Seville, Prof H McCann and Prof D Parker
|Richard (right) and his wife Jane (left) and collaborators from the nuclear industry|
receiving the Institute of Chemical Engineering prize for best innovation based company
(Industrial Tomography Systems plc) from Mr Boris Johnson
|On Sky TV discussing the energy storage|
and transport using cryogenic liquids
As I said earlier, he is a remarkable man, and the above brief outline of his achievements only scratches the surface of his many achievements in what has been a relatively brief career to date. The wonderful thing, however, is that his many accomplishments has not changed the man within. He is still the friendly, unassuming man that I met all those years ago at the NATO conference in Falmouth, so it was a pleasure to talk to him about his life and his thoughts on the future of science and engineering.