Palle Rama Rao did his MA (Physics) from Madras University, MSc (Nuclear Physics) from Andhra University; and PhD (Metallurgy) from Banaras Hindu University (BHU). During 1966-67, he was postdoctoral research associate in the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Faculty, Department of Metallurgy, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore in 1960, moved to BHU in 1962 as Lecturer and then continued to work there as Professor of Physical Metallurgy (1975-82). Thereafter, he served as Director, Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) Hyderabad (1982-91), Secretary to Government of India, Department of Science and Technology (DST) (1991-95) with additional charge as Secretary, Department of Ocean Development; Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Government of India (1996-99); Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad (1999-2002); Member, Atomic Energy Commission, Government of India (2004- ); and Brahm Prakash Distinguished Professorship, Indian Space Research Organization (2002-07).
Academic and Research Achievements: Rama Rao began his research career with X-ray diffuse scattering studies of structural imperfections. He then turned to high temperature mechanical behaviour of metallic materials (tensile, creep, fatigue and fracture characteristics) some of which were undertaken for the first time in the country. He became involved in research-based alloy development during his tenure at the Hyderabad defence laboratory. Notable among these efforts is the development of an ultrahigh strength high fracture toughness low alloy steel. His current research interest is in understanding the effects of solutes on mechanical properties of magnesium and its hot workability. He has to his credit nearly 160 journal papers, 30 edited volumes and over 50 publications in conference proceedings.
Other Contributions: Rama Rao contributed to setting up the Heavy Alloy Penetrator Plant, Tiruchirapalli, the first full-fledged ordnance factory to come up in India based on indigenous R&D, the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials, Hyderabad, Non-Ferrous Materials Technology Development Centre, Hyderabad, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, Safety Research Institute, Kalpakkam and the Technology Development Board of DST. He was Editor of the Transactions of the Indian Institute of Metals and the Bulletin of Materials Science and served on the Editorial boards of Materials Science and Engineering (an international journal), International Journal of Fatigue and International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping. He also served as INSA Council Member.
Awards and Honours: Professor Rama Rao was conferred the SS Bhatnagar Prize (1979), Homi J Bhabha Award for Applied Sciences (1986), Padma Shri (1989), Prize for Materials Science by INSA(1989), Tata Gold Medal (1992) by Indian Institute of Metals (IIM), Platinum Medal (1994), National Metallurgist by the Union Ministry of Steel (1999), Jawaharlal Birth Centenary Award by the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) (1999), Padma Bhushan (2001), SK Mitra Memorial Lecture Award (2001), MN Saha Medal (2004), Millennium Plaque of Honour (2003), and Asutosh Mookherjee Memorial Award (2009). He was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Ukranian Academy of Sciences, Kiev, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad and Indian National Academy of Engineering. He has been President, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (1995-98), Indian National Academy of Engineering (2001-02), ISCA (General President) (1997-98), IIM (1990-91), Materials Research Society of India (1992-94), Indian Nuclear Society (2008-09), and International Congress on Fracture (1989-93); and Vice President, International Union of Materials Research Societies (2002-03). American Society of Materials awarded him their Distinguished Life Membership in 2004.