Leon Liebenberg

Teaching Associate Professor
(217) 300-5496
2025 Sidney Lu Mech Engr Bldg

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 25 years, Leon Liebenberg has been engaged in engineering teaching, research, and community engagement. Leon is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and 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 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 15 faculty 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 1997, Leon co-founded the TechnoLab technology awareness facility for junior engineering students and for school children, where learners work in small teams to solve problems using Lego Dacta and employing roleplay. The TechnoLab model has been adopted by several South African schools since its inception. Leon also founded the Space and Aviation Challenge for school learners in South Africa, which aimed at demystifying the aeronautical engineering profession by employing several simulation-based activities. The Challenge was annually presented for several years in collaboration with Nasa (Houston) who offered the first prize for a learner to attend Space Camp USA.

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.


Passionate instructor

Team Leadership


Multidisciplinary Research

Sustainable Development

Technical Writing


Student Engagement


Partnership Development


Brand Ambassadorship


Marketing Strategies

Technical Presentations

Public Relations

Media Relations

Academic Positions

  • Teaching Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mechanical Science and Engineering, Aug. 2019 - present

Professional Registrations

  • Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Member, Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA)
  • Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME)
  • Member, American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Member, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

Other Professional Activities

  • Inaugural Fellow of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL); Co-Chair of CITL Faculty Fellows program, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021

Professional Highlights

  • In 2016 I was a Top 30 Finalist (out of 2300 entries) for the 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise for development of a social network game (with real-world problem-solving component) addressing sustainable development, cultural values, and lifestyle effects. The same gamification techniques and game mechanics can be used to drive student or customer engagement and change behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. I am currently investigating the incorporation of several gamification techniques to help enhance emotional learning in the mechanical engineering curriculum at UIUC.
  • At the North-West University, I Increased the number of research outputs emanating from the Centre for Research and Continued Engineering Development (CRCED-Pretoria) by 450% through intensive mentoring of postgraduate students, by recruiting new (part-time) students from various organizations, and by co-authoring research publications.
  • At the University of Pretoria, I co-developed and taught a unique first-year course in “Innovation”, lectured every year to 800 freshmen engineers. The 10-month course helped students discover the power of wholebrain thinking in problem-solving, as well as the usefulness of roleplaying certain metaphorical mind-sets (personas) when tackling a challenge in teams.
  • At the University of Pretoria, I founded the research publication, “Innovate”, the “Space and Aviation Photographic Competition” for school students (with Kodak SA), and the annual national “Space and Aviation Challenge” for school students (in collaboration with NASA’s International Space School, Houston), initiatives all credited with attracting top performing students to the university and increasing collaboration between different departments within the university.
  • I founded and led the University of Johannesburg’s TechnoLab facility, an innovative way to bring technology awareness to school students and teachers. The program has reached in excess of 60,000 students and teachers since its inception in 1997, using a unique team-based approach to solve technological problems using mainly Lego Dacta as a didactic medium.
  • During compulsory national military service in the South African Navy (1980 - 1982), I was Executive Officer of a naval support vessel, SAS Fleur, with a complement of 30 sailors and five officers.

Research Interests

  • Non-toxic modification of the human energy metabolism to help control prolific disorders, with emphasis on glucose-hemodiafiltration
  • 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"

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.
  • 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 editorial). Objective classification of two-phase flow regimes. Heat Transfer Engineering, 2008;29(1):1-2.
  • 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

Invited Lectures

  • Invited inaugural lecture. CITL lunchtime seminar, The art of teaching

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

  • Rose Award for Teaching Excellence (Feb. 2021)
  • Inaugural Fellow and Co-Chair of CITL Faculty Fellows Program (Fall 2019 - Fall 2021)

Recent Courses Taught

  • ME 200 (ME 300) - Thermodynamics
  • ME 270 (TAM 270) - Design for Manufacturability
  • ME 310 - Fundamentals of Fluid Dynamics
  • ME 370 - Mechanical Design I
  • ME 400 - Energy Conversion Systems
  • TAM 335 - Introductory Fluid Mechanics