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Dr Shirley Northover

Profile summary

Professional biography

After my first degree (in Natural Sciences) and my PhD in physical metallurgy, both at Cambridge University, I was appointed as Research Fellow in the Dept of Materials, University of Oxford, working in three separate subject areas over the course of twelve years: high voltage electron diffraction, stress corrosion cracking of Inconel and high temperature oxidation of stainless steel. I then worked as a technical writer and editor at the Energy Technology Support Unit, Harwell, for a while before joining the Open University, full-time, as a staff tutor in the Technology Faculty, based in Newcastle, in 1996. In this role I managed up to eighty associate lecturers teaching on our faculty's courses all over the NorthEast of England, Cumbria and continental Western Europe. In 2001 I transferred back to Oxford to perform a similar role. In 2006 I re-started research by spending a few months as an academic visitor at the University of Oxford, Dept of Materials and since then I have combined research in the Materials Engineering group of the Open University with the staff tutor role and latterly that of postgraduate tutor in the Department of Engineering and Innovation, Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology. I retired as a staff tutor in December 2015 but remain active in research as a Visiting Fellow.

I am married to another metallurgist who's also an archaeologist and we conduct some joint research on archaeological materials particularly silver and copper.

Research interests

My background is in using electron microscopy (both SEM and TEM) to study the structure and properties of grain boundaries (GBs) in metals, growth of grain boundary precipitates and the initiation of phase transformations at GBs. Along the way I’ve also worked on theoretical electron diffraction and stress corrosion cracking.

More recently I’ve also become interested in creep of high temperature materials and especially how electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) can be used to investigate creep damage and to characterise the deformation structures developed during creep.

Although widely used to study engineering materials, EBSD has been used very little in studying archaeological metalwork and I have been using EBSD to examine gold, silver, copper and bronze objects from a range of periods between 13th century BC and 18th century AD to investigate their methods of manufacture. This technique has proved especialy useful in examining copper bolts from the hulls of ships of the time of Nelson's navy and we are comparing measurements of their crystallographic texture by neutron diffraction with the results of EBSD studies.

I'm still very interested in phase transformations and, in addition to work on how precipitation during service can affect the behaviour and lifetime of engineering components used at high temperature, have been looking at the mechanisms of discontinuous precipitation in silver-copper alloys and on the question of whether there might be a microstructural 'fingerprint' to distinguish unambiguously between either cast or wrought 'silver' from the modern era and objects that are genuinely old.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Materials Engineering GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

Toward the Regeneration of Aged Stainless Steels
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Oct 201531 Jul 2018EDF Energy

This proposal aims to study electropulse-induced microstructure regeneration of stainless steels. Specifically, multi-scale modelling and lab-scale experiments will investigate the stability and reversibility of aged microstructures under pulsed electric currents, in cast austenitic stainless steel (CASS) and duplex stainless steel (DSS). In CASS, ageing produces precipitates. In DSS ageing induces spinodal decomposition and G-phase formation. Electropulsing’s ability to dissolve precipitates and reverse spinodal decomposition shows the potential to regenerate the microstructure and properties of alloys. This research is set to explore the mechanism behind this, to understand the scientific nature of the phenomena, and to assess the applicability of the technique in engineering practice.


Spatially resolved neutron texture measurements of copper bolts from the Deltebre I (1813) site (2022-10)
Malamud, F.; Northover, P.; Northover, S.; Nneji, S.; Kelleher, J.; Ciarlo, N. C. and Mauri, R. Geli
Materials Characterization, 192, Article 112183

Technological examination of bolts from Deltebre I (1813) site by means of spatially resolved neutron texture measurements (2020)
Malamud, Florencia; Northover, Peter; Northover, Shirley; Nneji, Stephen; Kelleher, Jo; Ciarlo, Nicolas C. and Geli Mauri, R.
The Society for Archaeological Sciences Bulletin, 43(2) (p 3)

Spatially resolved texture analysis of Napoleonic War era copper bolts (2017-10)
Malamud, Florencia; Northover, Shirley; James, Jon; Northover, Peter; Nneji, Stephen and Kelleher, Joe
Journal of Applied Crystallography, 50(5) (pp. 1-17)

Multiscale correlative tomography: an investigation of creep cavitation in 316 stainless steel (2017-08-04)
Slater, T. J. A.; Bradley, R. S.; Bertali, G.; Geurts, R.; Northover, S. M.; Burke, M. G.; Haigh, S. J.; Burnett, T. L. and Withers, P. J.
Scientific Reports, 7, Article 7332(1)

Texture analysis of Napoleonic War Era copper bolts (2016-04)
Malamud, Florencia; Northover, Shirley; James, Jon; Northover, Peter and Kelleher, Joe
Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing, 122(276) (pp. 1-12)

Multiscale 3D analysis of creep cavities in AISI type 316 stainless steel (2015)
Burnett, T. L.; Geurts, R.; Jazaeri, H.; Northover, S. M.; McDonald, S. A.; Haigh, S. J.; Bouchard, P. J. and Withers, P. J.
Materials Science and Technology, 31(5) (pp. 522-534)

The use of size distributions in determining growth mechanisms: the growth of grain boundary precipitates in cobalt-20 iron (2014-12-25)
Northover, Shirley M.
Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, 46(1) (pp. 164-177)

Microstructures of ancient and modern cast silver–copper alloys (2014-04)
Northover, S. M. and Northover, J. P.
Materials Characterization, 90 (pp. 173-184)

An EBSD study of the deformation of service-aged 316 austenitic steel (2013-09)
Githinji, David N.; Northover, Shirley; Bouchard, P. John and Rist, Martin A.
Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, 44(9) (pp. 4150-4167)

Anelasticity in austenitic stainless steel (2012-11)
Rao, Ashwin; Bouchard, P. John; Northover, Shirley M. and Fitzpatrick, Michael E.
Acta Materialia, 60(19) (pp. 6851-6861)

Influence of grain boundary microstructure on the susceptibility of Inconel 600 to intergranular attack and stress corrosion cracking (1988-05)
Payne, Shirley and McIntyre, P.
Corrosion, 44(5) (pp. 314-319)

In situ ion milling of field ion specimens using a liquid metal ion source (1984-12)
Waugh, A.R.; Payne, S.; Worrall, G.M. and Smith, G.D.W.
Journal de Physique Colloques, 45(C9) (pp. 207-209)

Analysis and metallography of copper and brass components from Alum Bay (2014)
Northover, Peter; Northover, Shirley; Malamud, Florencia; Kelleher, Joe and James, Jon
In: Satchell, Julie and Whitewright, Julian eds. The Maritime Archaeology of Alum Bay: Two shipwrecks on the north-west coast of the Isle of Wight, England. BAR British series (608) (pp. 48-55)
ISBN : 9781407313368 | Publisher : Archaopress | Published : Oxford

Applications of Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) in Archaeology (2012)
Northover, S. M. and Northover, J. P.
In: Meeks, Nigel; Cartwright, Caroline; Meek, Andrew and Mongiatti, Aude eds. Historical Technology, Materials and Conservation: SEM and Microanalysis (pp. 76-85)
ISBN : 978-1904982654 | Publisher : Archetype Publications

Investigating plastic deformation around a reheat-crack in a 316H austenitic stainless steel weldment by misorientation mapping (2016)
Unnikrishnan, Rahul; Northover, Shirley; Jazaeri, Hedieh and Bouchard, P. John
In : 21st European Conference on Fracture (ECF21) (20-24 Jun 2016, Catania, Italy) (pp. 3501-3507)

Aspects of discontinuous precipitation reactions in Ag-7.5Cu (2015-06-28)
Northover, Shirley; Northover, Peter and Wilson, Alison
In : International Conference on Solid-Solid Phase Transformations in Inorganic Materials (PTM 2015) (28 Jun - 3 Jul 2015, Whistler, BC, Canada)

Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) measurement of accumulated strain (2014-05)
Githinji, David; Northover, Shirley and Bouchard, P. John
In : 3rd International ECCC- Creep & Fracture Conference: Creep & Fracture in High Temperature Components (5-7 May 2014, Rome, Italy)

Discontinuous precipitation in silver-copper alloys (2013-09-10)
Northover, Shirley; Northover, Peter and Wilson, Alison
In : Euromat 2013 (8-13 Sep 2013, Seville, Spain)

Microstructures of ancient and historic silver (2013-09)
Northover, Peter; Northover, Shirley and Wilson, Alison
In : Metal 2013 (16-20 Sep 2013, Edinburgh) (pp. 253-260)

Microstructures of cast silver-copper alloy archaeological artefacts (2012-09-16)
Northover, S. M.; Northover, J. P. and Imlach, G. G.
In : EMC2012 (The 15th European Microscopy Congress) (16-21 Sep 2012, Manchester, UK)

Copper for the navy (2011-09-14)
Northover, J. P.; Northover, S. M. and Wilcox, N. J.
In : Cultural Heritage meets Science: The Interface (14 Sep 2011, Portsmouth, UK)

Measurement of residual stresses in a dissimilar metal welded pipe (2011-09-07)
Kankanala, Anusha; James, Jon; Bouchard, John; Northover, Shirley and Yescas, Miguel
In : MECA SENS VI (7-9 Sep 2011, Hamburg, Germany)

Applications of electron backscatter diffraction in archaeology (2011)
Northover, Shirley and Northover, J. Peter
In : EBSD 2011 - 20th Annual Meeting (28-30 Mar 2011, Dusseldorf, Germany)

The role of EBSD in studying creep in metals (2010-03)
Northover, S. M.
In : Electron Backscatter Diffraction Meeting (29-30 Mar 2010, Derby)

Using size distributions for determining growth mechanisms of grain boundary precipitates (2010-02)
Northover, S. M.
In : TMS 2010 (14-18 Feb 2010, Seattle)

Boundary selectivity of crack paths in corrosion fatigue of stainless steel (2008-04)
Northover, S. M. and Grovenor, C. R. M.
In : 15th Electron Backscatter Diffraction Meeting (31 Mar - 1 Apr 2008, University of Sheffield)

A TEM, STEM and backscattered electron channelling imaging study of martensite formation in Co-19.6Fe (1986-09)
Payne, S. M.
In : Proceedings of the Beijing Symposium on Electron Microscopy (Sep 1986, Beijing)