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Nicholas Standish

Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Valerie Linton, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Nicholas Standish as an Emeritus Professor of the University of 18 July 2018.


An exceptional man forged in exceptional times, Professor Nick Standish’s life and career has been nothing short of remarkable. As he recounts in his 2017 memoir, Survival and Success, “there were so many near misses that I shouldn’t be here”. Professor Standish’s life has been one marked by such extremes, sometimes tempered by luck, but more often driven by his own indomitable resourcefulness, ingenuity and commitment, that his survival through World War II, to his success at the frontiers of metallurgy come as no surprise. As an academic of world renown and reputation, who has been with the University of Wollongong since its formative days, we are certainly glad for those near misses, for his contributions to the University over these decades have been considerable.

Born in Yugoslavia in 1932, Professor Standish was forced to flee his home during World War II. At the age of only twelve, he was conscripted into the German Air Force as a cadet. In the aftermath of the war, he spent time in a succession of displaced persons camps throughout Europe before becoming an assisted migrant, which brought him to Australia’s shores in 1949. Drawn to metallurgy, in 1957 he completed a Diploma at Sydney Technical College, and went on to attain a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales between 1959 and 1961, and a PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand in 1965.

Nick’s intellectual ambitions were made clear early on when he submitted his PhD proposal for developing innovative extractive metallurgy techniques in 1961. He had asked for £20,000 to pursue his project and to set up a department in that speciality. That was of course an extraordinary sum of money at the time and the Vice-Chancellor told him that the University simply couldn’t fund it. Instead, the VC told Nick that Lord Rutherford, another New Zealander, and incidentally the father of modern nuclear physics, had had to make do with ping pong balls and string for his project, and so Standish would also have to make do with a considerably more modest budget. Nick must at least have been quietly pleased with the comparison to Lord Rutherford! He was also told that he had been chosen because the University had confidence and trust in him and his considerable talents, and knew, in echo of his early life, that he innately understood what was needed and what could be done without.

And so, Professor Standish has made the most of every opportunity that has come along, and has created many more of his own – mostly, it must be said, for his colleagues and other students. He has supervised a very impressive total of 34 PhD and Master of Science research students through to their graduations and took on an additional 24 Master of Engineering students, supervising their coursework projects to completion. Nick has taught a wide variety of subjects in the areas of blast furnace technology, heat transfer, permeability and screening of granular materials and pyrometallurgical applications of microwaves. His career has been founded on innovations into blast furnace aerodynamics, which he pioneered here at UOW in 1975, and which has had wide ramifications for industry world-wide, into the present day. His collaborative research with industry has included BHP Steel, Stelco in Canada and Thyssen-Krupp in Germany. To put his latter achievements into practical context, the four blast furnaces that Professor Standish worked on with Thyssen-Krupp now produce roughly 11.4 million tonnes of hot metal per year, and have outlasted all industry standards. He has also published in the region of 120 papers, including four books and two publications in the prestigious international academic journal, Nature.

Not least amongst his legion of achievements, Professor Standish has also been instrumental in establishing offshore programs for UOW, promoting the University on the international stage. In 1989 he led a team delivering a technical course at the Australia-China Iron and Steel Industry Training Centre in Wuhan, Hubei Province – a project with an overall budget of $15 million. The jewel in his crown of international achievements, however, was the set-up and management of an offshore UOW academic and research cooperative program with PT Krakatau Steel and the Universitas Tirtayasa in Cilegon, Indonesia. This project commenced in 1992 and was the first major sortie of the University into international teaching and research. Nick became Resident Professor in what became known as “The Cilegon Campus of the UOW”, and for many years, travelled back and forth between Indonesia and Australia.

The Krakatau Steel program also crucially seeded the ongoing materials research activities of the Department of Metallurgy at UOW in the early 90s. The blossoming of materials research in this period led to the development of internationally recognised research strengths in advanced materials, extractive metallurgy, steel processing and steel welding, which has contributed tremendously to the current pre-eminence of materials research at UOW.

In 1990, Professor Standish’s outstanding academic and research achievements were recognised by UOW with the award of a University Chair, making him only the second academic of the University to be accorded this honour at that time.

Vice-Chancellor, for his distinguished contributions to the international field of metallurgy, and his exception service and dedication to the University of Wollongong and its research community, it is a pleasure and privilege to present Nicholas Standish for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.