A university scholarship set up by The Australian Industry Group more than 70 years ago is continuing to change the lives of engineering students. 

The James Dowrie Memorial Prize was founded in 1950 with a gift of $2000 by the Metal Trades Industry Association (now Ai Group) in memory of James Dowrie, a pioneer ironmaster in the City of Brisbane and Chairman of the Association from its inception to his death. 

Since then, The University of Queensland (UQ) estimates more than 200 students enrolled in the fields of mechanical or mechanical and aerospace engineering have received the prize for their academic excellence. 

Past recipients told Ai Group the scholarship represented recognition for their years of hard work.  

Alister Curtain, Senior Fire Engineer at ADP Consulting, received a prize in 2017 for achieving the highest result in the third year of his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree.  

“For me, it provided recognition for putting in the hard yards during what was a challenging year,” Mr Curtain said. 

“It recognises those who push themselves, who always try their best. There are certain students who do go above and beyond. This was one of those awards that recognised someone who went above and beyond in that third year.” 

Mr Curtain, who was living on campus at St Leo’s College while completing his degree, used his prize to buy a new laptop.  

“It’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to splurge on without the prize,” he said. 

“As a student, you have a lot of expenses and limited income.” 

There were other benefits to winning the scholarship. 

“It was great being able to put it on my resume,” Mr Curtain said. 

“It was a significant award and it looked impressive when I was applying for jobs. It was a good achievement. It probably helped me to get to the second round of interviews.” 

Computational engineer Kyle Damm, a James Dowrie Memorial Prize winner in 2015, also received the top GPA at the end of his third year.  

“These types of prizes are extremely helpful for undergraduate students,” Mr Damm said. 

“I hope they continue. I really appreciate the prizes I got for my under-grad studies. I always studied hard, but I was still pleasantly surprised to win.” 

Mr Damm, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics, used his prize for textbooks.  

Utkarsh Kiri also recalls being surprised when he won in 2019. 

“I was in a tutorial at the time when I received a call saying ‘you’ve just received a scholarship’,” Mr Kiri said. 

“I was like ‘wow’. I felt really happy because it was unexpected. It was completely out of the blue and it wasn’t something I had applied for. It’s a tough time when you’re a student so it’s always nice to get recognition.” 

Mr Kiri said he hoped scholarships like the James Dowrie Memorial Prize continued. 

“I absolutely recommend that businesses engage in activities like this because they really do motivate students,” he said. 

“It sends the message: ‘If you put in the hard work, it will be recognised.’ 

“It’s not about how much, it’s about receiving that recognition for your effort. It’s also helpful when you are starting out in your career and applying for jobs. 

“Companies do ask for the list of scholarships and prizes you have received throughout your time at university, so it’s always good to add those to your LinkedIn profile. 

“Finally, such prizes — whether it’s cash or an internship — serve to increase the brand engagement of organisations that offer them.”  

Mr Kiri, a Sustainability Consultant at KPMG, and a Research Assistant with UQ’s Net Zero Australia project, is putting his win towards a post-graduate degree that he plans to undertake in the future. 

Tim Abernethy, Senior Gas Transmission Engineer at the Australian Energy Market Operator, agrees that the recognition of receiving the prize was motivating. 

“Textbooks and the like are expensive, as are uni fees, but it’s the recognition for the work that matters most,” Mr Abernethy, a 2013 winner, said. 

“That’s No.1. It’s great to be recognised for the hard work and the long nights of study. 

“Uni cohorts, especially in engineering, are enormous and it’s easy to get lost among that. So, having that recognition is really good.” 

These recent winners follow in the footsteps of many great engineers before them. 

Among them was Emeritus Professor Keith Bullock (1931-2015), the initiator of the hybrid technology concept for large city transit vehicles.

Prof Bullock was among the very first winners, having received the James Dowrie Memorial Prize in 1950 for pursuing the topic of a steam car for his Honours thesis.   

Heidi Hynd, Stewardship Officer, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, said UQ was grateful for the foresight of the Metal Trades Employers’ Association (now Ai Group) in establishing the scholarship to honour “their friend and colleague, James Dowrie”.    

“Over the past 72 years, so many deserving students have been supported by the prize, and we are proud to be a part of keeping James’s legacy alive for many years to come,” Ms Hynd said.  

Rebecca Andrews, The Australian Industry Group’s Head of Queensland, said: “Ai Group is proud to continue making a difference to Australia’s next generation of engineers.  

“Every little bit helps when you’re a uni student. We congratulate recipients for their outstanding academic achievements and the commitment that led to them being awarded a prize.” 


Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.