Faculty of
Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

20 September 2017

Professor Simon Biggs, Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

This article first appeared in the Engineering and Technology Alumni Newsletter, September 2017. If you would like to receive this newsletter, please register here

I am writing this on another beautiful sunny day in Brisbane, which is a helpful distraction from the ongoing debate about the future of funding for universities in Australia. It seems this has been a recurring theme for the last few years. In troubled times, the strength of our partnerships with industry and alumni become ever more important. Your continued support to UQ is valued and appreciated in so many ways.

As we move into the last quarter of 2017, a big focus for the Faculty is the Centenary of Chemical Engineering here at UQ. To commemorate the occasion, the School is hosting a Gala Dinner at the Brisbane City Hall on Saturday 18 November, and as I write this, the tickets are selling very fast! We already have nearly 300 attendees confirmed from more than 45 class years.

In 1916, the University noted that the Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering would be awarded after a four-year course of study in the Walter and Eliza Hall School of Applied Chemistry. 1917 saw the first enrolments in the program, with one student, Ernest Stewart Edmiston, graduating in 1921, to become the UQ’s first Chemical Engineer.

From the department’s early days under the leadership of Professors Rolf Prince and Don Nicklin, to its re-launch in 2009 as a fully-fledged School – chemical engineering at UQ has a proud history of innovation and entrepreneurialism. Over the course of the last century, the School has produced an incredible array of outstanding graduates who have gone on to become leaders in engineering, business, government and academia.

The philanthropic spirit of the school is also very evident and we have been both amazed and delighted at the success of the Gus Wiles Scholarship Endowment Fund. Many of you who knew Gus no doubt have many fond memories of him. The 'go-to' person for students, colleagues, and industry alike, Gus' personal dedication to chemical engineering education remains unmatched.

Well ahead of his time, Gus acknowledged the importance of a well-rounded education - one which included international education, vacation work opportunities, and industry networking, opportunities which he at times, personally provided financial support for.

The Fund, established to continue his work with the support of alumni and friends, now has received more than 660 gifts from over 290 separate donors making it the most successful giving fund of this type at UQ.

We hope to be able to announce the Fund’s endowment very soon, which will also be a fantastic legacy from the work of the first 100 years of Chemical Engineering at UQ. This will enable three bright and talented students from the School to participate in a study abroad experience on an annual basis, in perpetuity.

The Chemical Engineering Centenary Gala Dinner marks a wonderful milestone for the School as we celebrate the past and look forward to a bright future. We would love to see you there, as it promises to be a very memorable evening.