Prominent US energy expert Professor Eric McFarland will lead the new multimillion Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation at UQ.
Prominent US energy expert Professor Eric McFarland will lead the new multimillion Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation at UQ.
11 June 2013

In a coup for Queensland, it has been announced today that prominent US energy expert, Professor Eric McFarland will lead the new multi-million Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation at The University of Queensland (UQ).

Professor McFarland’s appointment as inaugural director once again sets Queensland at the leading edge of research and education for some of the world's most pressing sustainability challenges such as the need for cleaner energy, clean water and conservation.

To be known as The Dow Chair in Sustainable Engineering, Professor McFarland will take up the five-year post in the first quarter of 2014.

The Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation is part of a $10 million science and engineering partnership between UQ and the Dow Chemical Company that was announced in 2012.

Professor McFarland comes to Queensland from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is Professor of Chemical Engineering. Previously a Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his PhD Professor McFarland also achieved a Doctor of Medicine (MD) from Harvard Medical School, and has held leadership and board positions in several chemical technology companies.

He has also forged productive links between research and industry, in areas including natural gas in gas-to-liquids and cleaner chemical production.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to build something important for the global community with an outstanding team of colleagues at a great university, I am very much looking forward to the challenge and I’m honoured to have been selected,” Professor McFarland said.

The Queensland-based partnership will drive technological advancement, frontier research and world-class education programs to find solutions to the core sustainability issues of the 21st century.

Dow CEO and UQ alumnus, Dr Andrew Liveris said the appointment affirms Dow and UQ's mutual commitment to sustainability by focusing on outcomes of global significance for future generations.

At an event to mark Professor McFarland's appointment, Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ian Walker said the appointment is another great step forward for Queensland.

"This partnership cements Queensland's reputation as a leading international research hub with clear capability to deliver practical solutions to global sustainability challenges."

UQ President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj congratulated and thanked Professor McFarland, saying his commitment to the new centre flagged its potential to provide solutions to challenges in Queensland while confronting significant global challenges.

“Eric’s expansive contributions as a researcher and businessman include innovations used in the gas industry – an industry which the Queensland budget forecasts will underpin future economic growth.

“Eric’s leadership will help the Dow Centre contribute to Queensland’s prosperity, at the same time as the centre pursues issues of global relevance.

“His move from a university that employs five Nobel laureates and is ranked second in the world in the Leiden publication quality index, reaffirms that Queensland has a place in global innovation, particularly when researchers and industry work closely together.”

The Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation will be located in the School of Chemical Engineering at UQ’s St Lucia campus. An advisory board of industry, government and academic experts, investors and leaders, will support Professor McFarland in his role as The Dow Chair.

Professor Eric McFarland and Dr Andrew Liveris are available for interview. Please contact Sarah McCormack on (07) 3346 3921 0452 631 537 or at

About Professor Eric McFarland

Professor Eric McFarland is presently on the faculty of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the President and CEO of Urban Electric Power, a spin-out company from the Energy Institute of City University of New York.
Over the course of his career Professor McFarland has been a start-up team member of several technology companies, including Symyx Technologies where he was a founding technical Director. He was CEO and President of GRT Inc, which is devoted to natural gas conversion to liquid fuels and chemicals, and where he led major programs which included projects with Dow Chemical. His present company, Urban Electric Power is commercialising novel battery technology. He has served on the Board of Directors of several chemical and technology companies; is the inventor on over 35 US patents and authored over 140 scientific publications. In the last ten years his research has focused on fuel and energy production involving both solar and hydrocarbon resources. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in chemical reaction engineering, catalysis, safety, and energy science. Until recently Professor McFarland practiced medicine, part-time, as an Emergency Room physician in Massachusetts and at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital and was part of international relief medical teams. Professor McFarland holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley; A PhD from the Nuclear Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and an MD from Harvard Medical School.

About The Dow Chemical Company

Dow connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world's most challenging problems. Dow's diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of USD60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 5000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe.

About The University of Queensland (UQ)

The University of Queensland is one of Australia’s premier teaching and research institutions and is a member of the Group of Eight research-intensive Australian universities. It is consistently ranked in the top one per cent of the world’s leading universities in independent global rankings and the Federal Government’s current Excellence in Research for Australia survey confirmed UQ as one of the nation’s top two universities, measured on a combination of research quality and breadth. UQ’s research spans six faculties and eight world-class research institutes.