About Ilene

Ilene Busch-Vishniac is the ninth president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan.

Ilene began her post-secondary education career studying piano at the Eastman of Music while taking classes at the University of Rochester. A freshman class in the physics of music piqued her interest and she switched into physics and mathematics for her undergraduate degrees, which she earned in 1976. That same year she married fellow physics student Ethan Vishniac.

From Rochester, Ilene moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she earned Master of Science and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following completion of her PhD, she worked first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a member, technical staff in the Acoustics Research Department of Bell Laboratories.

In 1982 she found herself at the University of Texas (Austin) as an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Over the next 16 years in Texas, Ilene rose through the ranks becoming an endowed chair and eventually serving as the associate chair of the department. During this time, Ilene and Ethan also welcomed their daughters Cady and Miriam.

In 1998 the family moved from Texas to Baltimore, Maryland where Ilene accepted a position as the dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. In 2007, Ilene became provost of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. As provost, she was instrumental in technology systems renewal, the development of a new budget model, improving the student experience, faculty renewal, strategic enrolment planning, advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning on campus, and modeling a highly successful and collaborative college-university partnership. She also worked to enhance diversity initiatives at McMaster, particularly focusing on ties to First Nations communities nearby.

On July 1, 2012, upon finishing her term at McMaster, Ilene began a five-year term as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan. Since settling in Saskatoon, Ilene and Ethan, a renowned astrophysicist and the editor-in-chief of the Astrophysical Journal, welcomed their first grandchild. And since making the President’s residence at the U of S campus home, they have also adopted a mixed breed puppy named Nipin.

Ilene’s research career primarily focuses on aspects of acoustics and on diversity issues as they relate to engineering education. She is perhaps best known for her work to control noise in hospitals and for her efforts to revise engineering curricula to suit a more diverse population. She has authored more than 60 technical articles, a monograph and a number of popular papers. Additionally, she holds nine U.S. patents on electromechanical sensors. 

She has supervised 18 PhD students, 34 MSc students, and a host of undergraduate students engaged in research projects. Ilene has received many teaching and research awards, including the Curtis McGraw Research Award of the American Society for Engineering Education, the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics of the Acoustical Society of America, and the Achievement Award of the Society of Women Engineers. She has also served in a variety of leadership roles, including president of the Acoustical Society of America and chair of the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents.