Prof. Padmanabhan obtained his B Sc (Metallurgy) – a five-year integrated degree program in Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering- from Banaras Hindu University (India) in 1968, securing the first rank in the university and (all possible) three Gold Medals and his PhD from the University of Cambridge, U.K, in February 1972.

He was an Advisor to TCS and Aditya Birla S&T Company. During January - December 2009. He was the Mercator Professor of DFG at the Institute of Materials Physics, University of Muenster, Germany. Prior to that, he was the Professor of Eminence at Anna University Chennai, India (Nov. 2006 to Dec. 2008). During March 2010 – April 2015, he was the University Chair Professor and prior to that Jawaharlal Nehru Chair Professor (September 2004-September 2006) at University of Hyderabad. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Aachen, Darmstadt, Erlangen and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/ Institute of Nanotechnology, Germany. A former Director of IIT Kanpur and Dean, Academic Research at IIT Madras, he has about 45 years of research & development, consulting and teaching experience in materials science and engineering. He started his professional career in April 1972 at Banaras Hindu University (India) where he was a Lecturer (1972-74) and Reader (1974-79). In January 1980 he joined IIT Madras as the Professor and Head of Metal Forming Laboratory. During 1982 – 85 he served as the Head of the Department of Metallurgical & Materials Engineering of the same IIT. Prof. Padmanabhan established the Centre for Continuing Education at IIT Madras and was its Founder-Chairman during 1986-90. In 1984/85 he received a grant of DM 3.2 million from the Federal Ministry of BMZ, Germany, through its implementing agency, GTZ (Gessellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit), for the establishment of an Indo-German Materials Testing Facility at IIT Madras. He was the founder Chairman, GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) – the qualifying test for admissions with scholarship to higher technical institutions in India – on behalf of Ministry of Education, Government of India, for the First and the Second GATE examinations of 1983 and 1984.
Ten technologies developed by him and his students are used in Indian industries. He holds ONE European, ONE US and SIX Indian patents and has applied for THREE more. He has been a consultant to Tata Motors, Steel Authority of India Limited, Tata Steel, Indian Stainless Steel Development Association, Department of Atomic Energy, Indian Space Research Organization, Defence R&D Organization, Tata Consultancy Services and Aditya Birla S&T Company.

He has authored two expert level books on “Superplasticity” (1980) and “Superplastic Flow: Phenomenology and Mechanics” (2001), both published by Springer Verlag, Heidelberg-Berlin, Germany. The book of 1980 has now been republished as an eBook and in print form, along with 39 other books, under the new Springer series “Springer Book Archives” out of about 4500 books published by Springer Verlag in the period 1842 – 2005 (163 years).  Recently he has been invited to write another book by springer Verlag on “Superplasticity: Common Basis for a Ubiquitous Phenomenon”, which is expected to be submitted to the publishers by the middle of 2016. He has edited 9 books.  He has authored three book Chapters on “Reliability of Nanomaterials” (Elsevier, 2009), “Severe Plastic Deformation” (Trans. Tech. Publications, 2011) and “Superplasticity in and Superplastic Forming of Al-Li Alloys” (Elsevier, 2014). (Another is in the pipeline.) More than 270 research papers have been published by him in refereed international journals and international conference proceedings. His contributions in the areas of superplasticity and plasticity, bulk and sheet metal formability/ forming and fatigue are well known. He is the first Indian engineer/ materials scientist to be conferred the higher ScD degree by the University of Cambridge, U.K. for his “outstanding research contributions”, and the first Indian to be awarded the ‘Forschungspreis’ (career research award, 1994) of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. (In 1985 he received the Fellowship of the Humboldt Foundation also.) In 2001 he became the first recipient of the award “Gastwissenschaftler Programm fuer herausragende Wissenschaftler aus dem Ausland” (“Guest Scientist Program for Outstanding Scientists from Abroad”) of the Research Centre for Technology and Environment (FZK), Karlsruhe, Germany, which is open to scientists of all foreign nationalities working in any area of science and engineering.

He is a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences-India, Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining (London), Indian Academy for Mathematical Modelling and Simulation, Institution of Engineers (India), Life Fellow of the Indian Institute of Metals, Consulting Fellow of the World Innovation Foundation (London), Honorary Academician of the Bashkirian Academy of Sciences, Russia (formerly the Urals Division of the USSR Academy of Sciences), a Member of the Materials Research Society (USA), Materials Research Society of India, Asia Pacific Academy of Sciences, Society of Aerospace Manufacturing Engineers (India) and Indian Structural Integrity Society. He is a Chartered Engineer in India and the UK. He is an Honorary Member of the Indian Institute of Metals and the Institute of Indian Foundrymen and a recipient of the “For the sake of Honor” award of the Rotary Club, Chennai Central, India.

Prof. Padmanabhan has been working in the area of nanostructured materials since 1994. He is the author of the well-cited models on Superplasticity/ Grain-Boundary-Sliding Controlled Flow in Microcrystalline, Sub-microcrystalline and Nanocrystalline Metals and Alloys, Ceramics, bulk metallic glasses, geological materials and intermetallics and the Inverse Hall-Petch Effect. Nature Materials (Vol. 4, No. 8, August 2005, p. 575) described his paper with H. Gleiter (Materials Science and Engineering A, 2004) in an editorial as a “break-through from India”. His models for predicting the forming limit diagram of steels and the limiting grain size obtainable in severe plastic deformation are also well-known.

He was the Founder Professor In-charge of the Centre for Nanotechnology (CFN) at the University of Hyderabad. At Anna University Chennai he established the Siemens Centre of Excellence in Life Cycle Management and the Centre for Technology Development and Transfer (CTDT). In addition, he has been the Chairman of important committees of the Defence R&D Organization and Department of Information Technology, Government of India. He served as a Member of the Joint Scientific Council, consisting of Indian and German scientists, which is responsible for approving projects to be jointly funded by the BMBF of Germany and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India through the Indo-German Science and Technology Centre. From November 2012, he is the (first) Chairman of the Research Council of Defence R&D Laboratory, Hyderabad, the nursery of India’s Missile Technology Program and now a part of the “APJ Abdul Kalam Missile Complex”. 

During February 06-08, 2013 an international conference “Advances in Materials Processing and Characterization (AMPC) 2013” was held on the Guindy campus of Anna University, Chennai, the birth place of Engineering Education in India. At the end of the sessions on February 06, 2013 (the first day), he was honored by the presentation of a plaque for his contributions to “Materials Science and Engineering, Materials & General Engineering Education and Research over his entire career”.