Professor Attila Brungs, the Vice-Chancellor and President of UNSW, is a proud alumnus who graduated as the university medallist for Industrial Chemistry in 1995.

Growing up in Sydney, Prof. Brungs came to UNSW following in the footsteps of his mother, a UNSW Science graduate and his father, also a UNSW graduate and respected staff member in the materials science, chemistry and engineering community. His father spent most of his academic career at UNSW and was a head of school for many years. Three of Prof. Brungs’ siblings also studied at UNSW.

After finishing his studies at UNSW, Prof. Brungs was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and went to Oxford with a strong vision for how he wanted to use his education and opportunities to contribute in the future.

Writing for University publication ‘The Link’ in 1994, he said he wanted to “use the knowledge gained and experiences I have had abroad to promote the cause of science in Australian industry.”

He was awarded his PhD in inorganic chemistry in 1998 for a thesis on transforming waste CO2 with methane into clean hydrogen, using transition metal carbides. The aim being to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop alternative fuel pathways.

Prof. Brungs always felt a need to return to Australia. In 1993 he had said “the most common species overseas is the Australian scientist who couldn’t get funding at home…I’d like to contribute to make a difference in the long term by working in the industry and from a policy point of view.” He did indeed return home.

After an early career step with consultant group McKinsey, Prof. Brungs started working for the CSIRO, Australia’s government agency responsible for scientific research. He was promoted to the role of General Manager for Science Investment, Strategy and Performance.

His return to tertiary education, starting at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2009, continued this mission to be a champion for Australian research but enabled a broader focus into his other passions of education and innovation. He was appointed the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research), giving him general oversight of its higher degree studies and commercialisation opportunities. He went on lead UTS as Vice-Chancellor in 2014.

In 2022, Prof. Brungs found himself back where he started, becoming the 10th Vice-Chancellor and President of his alma mater.

Under Prof. Brungs’ leadership, UNSW continues to be the biggest and best university in Australia for Engineering. This is backed by being consistently ranked number one in the subject by the QS World University Rankings.

Appointed as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering in 2018, the prestigious organisation recognised him for playing a major role in “building Australia’s higher education and innovation profile overseas, alongside improving collaboration between industry, universities and government.”

Looking ahead to the challenges in today’s world that engineers and scientists like him are called on to solve, Prof. Brungs says his current job is to create the best environment, support structures and networks to enable our bright and talented students and academics to soar unencumbered, to have big dreams, big aspirations and to transform the world around them.

“For 75 years since our founding in1949, Engineering at UNSW has driven progress for all. It is a testament to our incredible community over this time that we have stayed true to our mission, ensuring access to excellent learning and teaching, and using our research and skills to tackle significant challenges facing NSW, Australia and more recently the globe. To see the outstanding engineering and science disciplines that nurtured and challenged me as a student grow and transform so quickly into one of the world’s greatest Engineering schools has been fantastic to watch. I was proud to be a member of the UNSW community as a student and even more proud now to be a staff member of this great UNSW community.”

As Australia’s best engineering faculty turns 75, there are just as many reasons why we’ve earned that title. Discover new stories weekly, celebrating the successes that have enabled progress for all.