Leon Liebenberg

Leon Liebenberg
Leon Liebenberg
Teaching Professor
(217) 300-5496
121 Talbot Laboratory

For More Information


  • B. Eng. (Mechanical), University of Johannesburg, 1989
  • M. Eng. (Mechanical), University of Johannesburg, 1991
  • Diploma of Imperial College (DIC): Advanced Mechanical Engineering, University of London, 1992
  • M. Sc. (Mechanical Engineering), Imperial College London, 1993
  • Ph. D. (Mechanical Engineering), University of Johannesburg, 2003


For the past 30 years, Leon Liebenberg has been engaged in engineering teaching, research, and community engagement. Leon is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the UIUC. Before coming to the UIUC in 2017, he was a higher education consultant in Lausanne, Switzerland for three years. And prior to that he was a full professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Pretoria and at the North-West University, South Africa.

Leon is passionate about multidisciplinary research, particularly in the fields of engineering education, energy engineering, and biomedical engineering. His university research has focused on development of industrial energy-efficient technologies and cancer therapies using energy restriction methods, as well as developing novel pedagogies of engagement. His first love is however for teaching. At the UIUC he founded the strategic instructional innovations program called ENGINE (ENgaGement In eNgineering Education); he collaborates with 20 faculty and graduates from various disciplines where they explore the relationship between pedagogies of engagement and cognition and emotion, to better understand how we may engage students more fully in their learning, reflection, and testing of ideas.

In 2021, Leon co-founded and coordinated the inaugural Sustainability Competition for Undergraduate Students, which drew 193 entries from across campus. The competition attracted 165 entrants in Fall 2022, including entrants from Zhejiang University, the University of Pretoria, and from Yale University. The competition now enjoys the support of the Student Sustainability Committee and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs. In 2023 the competition became a fully-fledged international competition with 240 participants from 10 global universities.

Leon teaches a variety of subjects, including: Innovation; Statics; Dynamics; Thermodynamics; Fluid Dynamics; Automatic Control Systems; Design for Manufacturability; Mechanical Design; Energy Conversion Systems, Heat Transfer; Aerodynamics; Aeronautics; and Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer. Leon holds a diploma in advanced mechanical engineering from the University of London, a masters degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London, and bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Johannesburg. Leon Liebenberg enjoys an h-index of 31.

CORE COMPETENCIES: Passionate instructor - Team Leadership - Design-thinking - Multidisciplinary Research - Education for Sustainability - Technical Writing - Mentoring - Student Engagement - Negotiations - Partnership Development - Gamification - Brand Ambassadorship - Fundraising - Marketing - Strategies - Technical Presentations - Public Relations - Media Relations

Academic Positions

  • Teaching Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering, Aug. 2023 - present

Professional Registrations

  • Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2020 - current
  • Member, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA), 2020 - current member
  • Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), intermittently a member since 1997, current member
  • Member, American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), intermittently a member since 1997, current member
  • Member, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), 2019 - current member

Other Professional Activities

  • Affiliate, Siebel Center for Design (SCD), Aug. 2023 - current
  • Faculty Affiliate, Center for Global Studies (CGS), 2022 - current
  • Co-Chair of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) Fellows Program, 2019 - 2021 Fellow of the CITL, 2019-2022

Research Interests

  • Cross-disciplinary research activities focusing on energy system optimization and heat transfer enhancement
  • Collaborative intelligence techniques in engineering teaching and learning, with a focus on "self-directed learning", "pedagogies of engagement", "learning through play", "design-thinking", and stimulation of "emotional learning"

Books Authored or Co-Authored (Original Editions)

  • In April 2024, Wiley published Leon Liebenberg's 750-page textbook on Energy Systems (ISBN: 978-1-1198694-6-7). The textbook targets senior undergraduates and junior graduates and features pedagogies of engagement. https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Energy+Systems%3A+A+Project+Based+Approach+to+Sustainability+Thinking+for+Energy+Conversion+Systems-p-9781119869467

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Bello-Ochende T, Liebenberg L, Meyer JP. Constructal cooling channels for micro-channel heat sinks. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 2007;50(21-22): 4141 - 4150.
  • De Beer JC, Liebenberg L. Does cancer risk increase with HbA1c, independent of diabetes? British Journal of Cancer, 2014;110:2361-2368.
  • Du Plessis GE, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH, Du Plessis J. A versatile energy management system for large integrated cooling systems. Energy Conversion and Management, 2013;66:312-325.
  • Du Plessis GE, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH. Case study: The effects of a variable flow energy saving strategy on a deep-mine cooling system. Applied Energy, 2013;102:700-709.
  • Du Plessis GE, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH. The use of variable speed drives for cost-effective energy savings in South African mine cooling systems. Applied Energy, 2013;111:16-27.
  • EDUCATION: Müller M, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH, Young, PW. Quick estimates for analysis and prediction of the flight mechanics of unmanned aerial vehicles. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education, 2012;40(1):53-77.
  • EDUCATION: Van Heerden ASJ, Lidbetter R, Liebenberg L, Meyer JP, Mathews EH. Development of a motion platform for an educational flight simulator. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education, 2012;39(4):306-322.
  • Huyssen RJ, Spedding GR, Mathews EH, and Liebenberg L. Circulation control by means of a fuselage training edge. Journal of Aircraft, 2012;49(55):1279-1289.
  • Huyssen RJ, Spedding GR, Mathews EH, Liebenberg L. On the wing density and the inflation factor of aircraft. The Aeronautical Journal, 2016;120(1224): 291-312.
  • Invited paper to special issue of journal honoring the achievements of Professor Donald Wuebbles: Liebenberg L, McKim R, Tucker-Parks T, Lavey W. Coming to Understand Sustainable Energy using Guided Self-Directed Learning. Frontiers of Earth Science. (Sept. 2024)
  • Jacobs GG, Liebenberg L. The Influence of Timed Coolant Injection on Compressor Efficiency. Energy Conversion and Management, 18:175-189,2016
  • Jonker A, Bosman J, Mathews EH, Liebenberg L. Flow over a glider canopy. Aeronautical Journal, 2014;118(1204):669-682.
  • Kim HJ, Liebenberg L, Jacobi AM. Thermal Performance of a Vertical Brazed Plate Heat Exchanger with Convective Boiling of R-134a near the Micro-Macroscale Transition. Journal of Heat Transfer, 2018;140(9): 09501.
  • Kwon B, Liebenberg L, Jacobi AM, WP King. Heat Transfer Enhancement of Internal Laminar Flows Using Additively Manufactured Static Mixers. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 2019;137: 292-300.
  • Lambrechts A, Liebenberg L, Bergles AE, Meyer JP. Heat transfer performance during condensation inside horizontal smooth, micro-fin and herringbone tubes. Journal of Heat Transfer, 2006;128(7):691-700.
  • Liebenberg L, and Mathews EH. Integrating innovation skills in an introductory design-build course. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 2012;21(4):93-113.
  • Liebenberg L, Meyer JP. (Invited lead article). A review of flow pattern-based predictive corre-lations during refrigerant condensation in horizontally smooth and enhanced tubes. Heat Transfer Engineering, 2008;29(1):3 – 19.
  • Liebenberg L, Meyer JP. Objective classification of two-phase flow regimes. Heat Transfer Engineering, 2007;29(1):1-2.
  • Liebenberg, Thome JR, Meyer JP. Flow visualization and flow pattern identification with power spectral density distributions of pressure traces during refrigerant condensation in smooth and micro-fin tubes. Journal of Heat Transfer, 2005;127(3):209-220.
  • Mathews EH, Stander BA, Joubert AM, Liebenberg L. Tumour cell culture survival following glucose and glutamine deprivation at typical physiological concentrations. Nutrition, 2014;30(2):218-227.
  • Mathews MJ, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH. How do high glycemic load diets influence coronary heart disease? Nutrition & Metabolism, 2015;12:6. (Top 5% of articles ever reviewed by Altmetric.)
  • Olivier JA, Liebenberg L, Kedzierski MA, Meyer JP. Pressure drop during refrigerant condensation inside horizontal smooth, helical micro-fin, and herringbone micro-fin tubes. Journal of Heat Transfer, 2004;126(5):687-696.
  • Olivier JA, Meyer JP and Liebenberg L. Single-phase heat transfer and pressure drop inside smooth tubes for transitional flow with different inlet geometries (RP-1280). HVAC&R Research, Manuscript number RSCH-00195-2008, 22 March 2010.
  • Visagie MH, Mqoco TV, Liebenberg L, Mathews EH, Mathews GH, Joubert AM. Influence of partial and complete glutamine- and glucose deprivation of breast- and cervical tumorigenic cell lines. Cell & Bioscience, 2015;5(1):1-26.
  • Vosloo J, Liebenberg L, and Velleman D. Energy savings for water reticulation systems on deep mines. Applied Energy, 2012;92:328-335.

Articles in Conference Proceedings

Other Scholarly Activities

  • Fall 2020: invited to present inaugural CITL "lunchtime seminar", 5 November 2020: "Exciting students into learning", https://mediaspace.illinois.edu/media/t/1_etz9edwt

Teaching Honors

  • Alumni Effective Teaching Awards, "Two Year Award voted by the class of 2021". (Spring 2023)
  • Alumni Effective Teaching Awards, "Two Year Award voted by the class of 2020" (Spring 2022)
  • Rose Award for Teaching Excellence (Feb. 2021)

Recent Courses Taught

  • ENG 471 - Seminar Energy & Sustain Engrg
  • ENG 571 - Theory Energy & Sustain Engrg
  • ME 200 AL1 (ME 200 AL2, ME 300) - Thermodynamics
  • ME 270 (TAM 270) - Design for Manufacturability
  • ME 310 AL1 - Fundamentals of Fluid Dynamics
  • ME 400 - Energy Conversion Systems
  • NPRE 480 (PS 480, GLBL 480) - Energy and Security
  • TAM 335 AL1 (TAM 335 AL2) - Introductory Fluid Mechanics