Professor Les Dawes

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PhD (Queensland University of Technology), BAppSc(Geology) (Queensland Inst. of Technology)

Broad area of research: STEM and Engineering Education, Sustainable Development, Water Resources,  Dr Dawes focuses on four main research areas:

  • STEM and Engineering Education
  • Protection of Land and Water Resources
  • Protecting and Restoring Water Quality
  • Sustainable Development

STEM and Engineering Education Les and research colleagues continue to strive towards improving the quality, relevance and performance of STEM and Engineering Education along with the value of scholarship in Engineering Education. He is Past President of the Australasian Association of Engineering Education and served on the national executive  2006 to 2013 and  as editor of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (AJEE) 2006 to 2019. Engineering education is becoming increasingly important to various fields  and represents a relatively new domain of research that brings together researchers from engineering, engineering education, mathematics education, and science education. His research focus involves:

  • Increasing the participation rates of high school leavers in STEM and Engineering Education  especially of women and non-traditional sources of students.
  • Promoting the development and use of inquiry focused teaching techniques and tools and promote teaching effectiveness.

His research highlights the importance of providing engaging student friendly learning environments, aligning assessment strategies and learning outcomes and providing authentic real world projects that cater for a wide range of learning styles and promote deep learning approaches. From 2013 to 2017, Les was project leader of the Step Up project, one of five projects awarded a total of $12 million by the ETMST (Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers Programme). The Step Up project was led by QUT in partnership with Australian Catholic University (ACU), Griffith University (GU), James Cook University (JCU), The University of Queensland (UQ), and the Queensland Department of Education and Training (DET). Step Up sought to identify where significant change and impact can be made – going beyond traditional approaches that have involved providing more content, method and resources, and reconceiving what is possible through collaboration between practising scientists, mathematicians and teacher educators – as we prepare the next generation of our nation’s science and mathematics teachers. The focus of the grant was on pre-service, secondary mathematics and science teachers in Queensland. Throughout the project numerous stakeholders were engaged external to the universities (e.g., Queensland College of Teachers [QCT], Independent Schools Queensland, DET Schools, Science Teachers Association of Queensland and State Library of Queensland), along with stakeholders within the university environment (e.g., pre-service teachers and STEM students, Heads of School, teacher educators, discipline experts, curriculum panels, and administration).

Protection of Land and Water Resources The main direction of Dr Dawes’ research has been towards developing a better understanding of natural systems, both land and water related. His research is application based and grounded in finding solutions to complex environmental problems. He is particularly interested in developing a better understanding of the interrelationships between the hydrologic and water quality characteristics of catchments, with particular emphasis on the way in which these complex interactions affect aquatic ecosystems. The main direction of Dr Dawes’ research is focused on enhanced protection of land and water resources and the informed use of a resource currently being wasted. The use of water is approaching, and in some cases exceeding, the limits of sustainability both in Australia and worldwide. As a result, wastewater is increasingly being recognised as a valuable resource (particularly for non-potable use); indeed both stormwater and wastewater recycling are focal points of water conservation programs. Dr Dawes’ research identifies issues and challenges in water recycling and developing options for reuse. An important key to sound urban water management is the integration of stormwater and recycled water as resources into the urban water system. His research areas include:

  • Water quality and treatment
  • Water conservation
  • Options for Water recycling
  • Groundwater Management
  • Landfill hydrology

Protecting and Restoring Water Quality All over the world, cities and regions can be seen as engines of the economy driven by people. Urban and regional areas need advanced research to craft and understand the distinct characteristics of their water environments in order to assist people and institutions in their effort to promote health, enhance the efficient use of water resources, and protect environmental values. Dr Les Dawes research focuses on a series of investigations; from understanding the behaviour of contaminants through to knowledge of their impact. His research develops approaches and methods to assess and diagnose the causes and pollutant sources, tools to assess the exposures and reduce the human health risks, provides the approaches to attain water quality standards. Dr Les Dawes’ research involves a combination of laboratory experiments, field investigations and computational analyses and simulations. His research focus involves:

  • Analytical methods for water quality evaluation
  • Water pollution mechanisms
  • Land use relationships

Sustainable development Dr Dawes was part of the team of QUT staff to develop and advance feasibility studies for the sustainable urban development of a substantial area of government land at Temaiku, South Tarawa. This project involved working with both the Kiribati government and community in developing a sustainable living concept for Temaiku that addresses accommodation, community need, civic needs, employment, business, industry, education, recreation, health, energy, water, transport, sewerage and sanitation and supporting the contemporary culture of Kiribati. This projects approach has great applicability to other Pacific Islands. The project is notable for its sustainable approach to social and economic development, sustainable alternative infrastructure and energy supply, cultural appropriateness, and sustainable housing and urban design. As a result of his involvement with this project, Dr Dawes was principal supervisor of a PhD project titled “Urban Agroforestry in future settlements of the Republic of Kiribati”. Dr Dawes and his research team have been granted funds to conduct the following research projects:

  • Transforming mathematics and science pre-service secondary teacher education in Queensland
  • The feasibility of using siphons to drain glacial lakes and provide electrical power to mountain communities in Bhutan
  • Development of resources and supporting materials to facilitate the delivery of energy efficiency content in undergraduate engineering courses
  • Modelling adsorption processes on soils associated with CSG water
  • Predictive modelling of Surat Basin coal seam gas water quality and impacts on downstream treatment technologies.
  • The effect of recycled water in cooling towers with respect to the diversity and activity of the bacterial population in the surrounding environment
  • Difference between public perceptions and scientific fact, in relation to the domestic use of greywater
  • Water quality profile of an urbanising catchment - Ningi Creek catchment
  • Initial Field Testing of Emissions from Honda Outboard Motors
  • Investigation into Issues and Implications of Using Recycled Water
  • Improving the quality of science and engineering graduates from the 20 public universities in Thailand
  • Development of an integrated risk-based approach to on-site sewage treatment system sitting, design and management
  • Performance evaluation of on-site wastewater treatment
  • Development of generic guidelines for the rehabilitation of sand mining areas
  • Audit of septic tank performance for the development of management strategies

Awards and Recognition

  • 2014: Vice Chancellors Award for Excellence, Power of Engineering Team
  • 2011: Vice Chancellors Award for Excellence
  • 2010: ALTC, Australian Awards for University Teaching,  Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
  • 2009: Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, Australasian Association of Engineering Education, Engineers Australia.
  • 2008: National Business and Higher Education Round Table Award for Community Engagement
  • 2008: Vice Chancellor’s Performance Fund Award for teaching excellence.
  • 2007: Commendation for Contribution to Student Learning, BEE Faculty
  • 2006: Best paper at the 18th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Educators held at Auckland University of Technology
  • 2003: QUT Early Researcher Grant and recipient of University Collaborative Grant Scheme (Environmental Hydrology and Groundwater Resource Sustainability)
  • 2003: University Outstanding Contribution Award for Secondary Schools and QUT Engineering Activity Kits (SQUEAK) in recognition of exceptional contributions to University mission and goals through outstanding achievement or innovation in service.

Career History

  • 2020; Head of School Civil and Environmental Engineering, QUT
  • 2017 to 2019: Professor, School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment, QUT
  • 2014 to 2017: STEP UP Project Leader, QUT
  • 2009 - 2014: Associate Professor, Civil Engineering and Built Environment, QUT
  • 2007 - 2009: Senior Lecturer, School of Urban Development, QUT
  • 2003 - 2007: Lecturer, School of Urban Development, QUT
  • 1996 - 2003: Part-time Lecturer and Tutor, School of Civil Engineering, QUT
  • 1990 - 1996: Laboratory Technician, School of Civil Engineering, QUT
  • 1987 - 1990: Engineering Geologist, Boral Resources
  • 1984 - 1987: Seismologist, Santos

Additional information

External Collaboration: Within the broad field of environmental engineering research and STEM Education, Dr Dawes and his research team has strong collaborations with:

  • Brisbane Airport Corporation
  • Burnett Mary Regional Group
  • Kiribati Government
  • Qld TMR
  • Carpentaria Shire Council
  • James Cook University
  • Griffith University
  • University of Queensland
  • The Austraian Government, Dept of Education and Training
  • Geofabrics Australasia
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Vice-Chancellors Award for Excellence for Teams, Partnerships and Engagement
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Vice-Chancellors Award for Excellence AcademicLearning and teaching, Partnerships and engagement, and Client Focus
Appointment to Prestigious Positions
Reference year
Elected President of the Engineers Australia Technical Society - Australasian Association of Engineering Education whose general mission is to improve the quality, relevance and performance of engineering education in Australasia.
Editorial Role for an Academic Journal
Reference year
Editor of Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AJEE)2006 to present
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Australian Awards for University TeachingCitation for Outstanding Contributions for Student Learning"For sustained commitment to innovative student-focused learning experiences and environments that engage students in real world learning."
Academic Honours, Prestigious Awards or Prizes
Reference year
Business and Higher Education Round Table (Australia┬┐s national forum for industry-university partnerships). A unique partnership between Queensland University of Technology, Port of Brisbane Corporation and Burnett Mary Regional Group has won a prestigious national award for the design and engineering project Sustainable Futures by Design: Integrated solutions to sustainable growth in coastal Queensland┬┐
Implementing Engineering Experiences In The Middle School
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
engineering education; problem solving; mathematics curriculum; science curriculum; middle school
Developmental engineering education in the primary school
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Engineering Education; Mathematics Curriculum; Science Curriculum; Problem Solving; Primary School