Earlier this year the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) welcomed Professor Ana Deletic as its new Dean of Engineering. With a stellar academic background, she brings a vision of more sustainable forms of engineering and is passionate about bringing more women into the profession.
For Deletic, the move to QUT to become its Dean of Engineering was about returning to what she loved most. While enjoying her previous role as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research at UNSW, she realised that she longed to get back to tinkering and finding new ways to solve engineering challenges.
Deletic has spent most of her life studying and building groundbreaking solutions around urban water management, water engineering and sustainability. In 2017 she was recognised by Engineers Australia as one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers for her green-blue wall, a wall that uses plants as a biofilter for greywater that is then collected for non-potable uses. Deletic was also named an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia in 2019 for her work in integrating urban water management.
“Even now, I’m still absolutely fascinated to work with water. Finding new ways to improve our water sustainability and help populations manage this precious resource keeps me pushing forward,” said Deletic.
QUT is already well known for its robust engineering programs and the real-world industry experience it provides students. It is currently the top-ranked university for biomedical engineering in Australia, and in the top ten for civil and chemical engineering. It also ranks well internationally, placing in the top 50 in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which measures institutions against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the next few years, Deletic wants the university to establish its reputation in engineering of the future. Her vision is for QUT to lead the way in areas such as robotics, biomedical engineering, renewable energy, clean chemical engineering and sustainable infrastructure. Sustainable or green engineering is a holistic approach that rethinks the fundamentals of engineering and is a paradigm shift in the way engineers work.
“We still build and design things in a way that causes issues for our ecosystems. Sustainable engineering goes beyond better materials choices, to looking at processes and systems and finding new ways to create things that don’t require remediation or cleanup afterwards. I hope we can champion this approach here at QUT,” said Deletic.
Her vision ties in well with the university’s strategic values, which includes QUT living lightly on the earth by reducing its impact on the environment. The university has also made aspiration and inclusion strategic priorities. It wants to remove barriers to participation of Indigenous Australians and is working towards being the most gender-equitable university in Australia.
The timing of Deletic’s appointment is auspicious, with the International Women in Engineering Day having just been held on 23 June. While celebrating the achievements of women in engineering worldwide, it is also an opportune time to encourage more women to consider a career in engineering. The engineering industry in Australia has around 13 per cent representation by women, which is around the same as the United States, but much lower than that of Europe at 41 per cent.
“There’s been some progress, but it will still take quite some time to build up the numbers of women in engineering. I’ve noticed that female engineers often choose focus areas that are more to do with societal impact or environmental sustainability, so their contributions will be critical for all our futures,” said Deletic.
“I still believe we have to keep challenging the cultural bias that pushes young girls and boys towards certain roles at an early age.”
Deletic believes that industry must also play its part. While the graduate salary for women in engineering is higher than men, Deletic says more must be done to deliver quality outcomes across an entire career, not just the beginning. That includes focusing on promotion paths, flexible work practices and long term remuneration.
“I’m really proud that my daughter just finished studying and has become an engineer. She received many good offers for graduate positions, and her career is off to a great start. Through her experiences and those of other graduates, I can see that the opportunities are there for women entering engineering. We just need more support beyond those first few years, so that it can be a rewarding lifelong career for all,” said Deletic.
Deletic’s vision for the Faculty of Engineering has brought new energy to the university. She hopes to develop even more opportunities for students, academics and industry partners at QUT as they come together to solve the engineering challenges of the future world.
To explore opportunities to partner with students, educators and researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, please contact the team at QUT.