Ilene J. Busch-Vishniac

Acoustical Society of America

R. Bruce Lindsay Award


Ilene J. Busch-Vishniac

Ilene J. Busch-Vishniac is the 25th recipient of what until this year was called the Biennial Award. She is the first to receive the award under its new name, the R. Bruce Lindsay Award, and under its new charter by which it is presented every year instead of every two years.

How does a person embark on a career in acoustics? Ilene Busch started, as many do, with an interest in music. Although her major fields as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester (1972–1976) were physics and mathematics, she began as a music student in the Eastman School of Music. Course work in acoustics with Robert S. Knox and Hugh G. Flynn, combined with contact with Frank H. Slaymaker, led to an interest in architectural acoustics. Her senior thesis was on the reverberation time of irregularly shaped rooms. Combining theory with experiment, a procedure she still follows, she checked measurements made with a cap pistol in one of the university's stream tunnels against predictions obtained by a ray tracking computation. Each charge fired by the pistol was ten caps. A side study was made of the startle reaction of passing students. At the end of her senior year in 1976, she married fellow physics student Ethan Vishniac. They set off to be graduate students in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ilene in mechanical engineering at MIT, Ethan in astronomy at Harvard.

Ilene received M.Sc. (June 1978) and Ph.D. (January 1981) degrees from MIT under the supervision of Richard H. Lyon and with the support of a Fannie and John Hertz Fellowship. The M.Sc. research led to her first orally presented paper, which was given at the 95th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (at Providence in May 1978), "A Computer Model to Study Sound propagation in Suburban Environments." Ilene's Ph.D. research is reported in her first published paper, "Paper Noise in an Impact Line Printer," J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 79, 1679–89 (1981). A large part of this research involved modeling and understanding the vibration of thin fluid-loaded structures, which she later turned to use on studies at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

One of us (JW) met Ilene in the fall of 1980 when she joined the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Labs as a Postdoctoral Fellow. From the maze of activities in acoustics, she decided to spend the major part of her time learning about polymer electret transducers. Our first meetings proved one thing: She knew very little about polymer transducers and Jim knew even less about a mechanical engineer's approach to membrane behavior. After a few months of intensive study and many marathon discussions, Ilene concluded that while we were able to design polymer electret microphones and earphones for almost any frequency range, we had little appreciation for the mechanical behavior of these transducers. Ilene began by modeling edge and multipoint supported membranes in suitable geometries for polymer foil electret transducers. Her analysis improved our understanding of these transducers and led to a new approach to polymer transducer design. Application of her newly gained knowledge to practical problems led to a new and unique approach to the control of the directional characteristics of continuous strip electret transducers.

Five patents were generated for directional transducers based on Ilene's work. She was appointed Member of Technical Staff in January 1982 for this work as well as for contributions to the design of integrated capacitive microphones and infrasonic electret transducers for blood pressure measurements. The integrated capacitive microphone patent, granted in 1984, was named outstanding application of the year at Bell Labs.

Ilene came to University of Texas at Austin in 1982 as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. She immediately became a ball of fire in the engineering acoustics program, which is concentrated mainly in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. She revitalized the acoustics and vibration laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department, taught new courses, breathed new life into existing courses, attracted a group of good graduate students, established a research base at Applied Research Laboratories, promoted a new weekly seminar in acoustics, and, in general, made herself known as one of the best new faculty members in the M.E. Department. After four years, the University recognized her outstanding talents by promoting her to the rank of Associate Professor (the norm for promotion from Assistant Professor is six years).

One of Ilene's particular strengths is her breadth of interest in acoustics. At Rochester she learned something about the acoustics of concert halls. At MIT her M.Sc. and Ph.D. research gave her experience in environment acoustics and machine noise. At Bell Labs she picked up an interest in electroacoustics, principally electrets, which at Texas has continued and broadened into general theory of transducers and applications to robotics. Moreover, she has recently developed an interest in physical acoustics, in particular the problem of sound generated by a moving thermoacoustic source (laser beam transmitted into water). One cannot help being impressed by her willingness to pick up a new topic when the opportunity arises and to quickly become adept enough in it to make publishable contributions.

Besides pursuing a vigorous research program, carrying a heavy teaching load, and writing lots of papers, Ilene has taken a very active role in the Acoustical Society. She is a member of two technical committees, Engineering Acoustics and Noise, is the current chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee, and has just completed a term as Chairman of the Austin Regional Chapter. She has organized several special sessions. One of the most memorable was the session at the Nashville Meeting "Astrophysical Applications of Acoustics." It was a family affair, cochaired by Ilene, husband Ethan, and their (soon to be born) daughter Cady.

Ilene's research and teaching have already attracted formal recognition. In 1983 the student ASME chapter at University of Texas presented her the Outstanding M.E. Faculty Advisor Award. In 1984 she was named one of the Outstanding Young Women in America. In 1985 she was chosen as an NSF Presidential Young Investigator (Ethan was also named, the first time, it is believed, that a wife and husband both became PYIs), a General Motors Foundation University of Texas Centennial Teaching Fellow in Mechanical Engineering, and a Golden Key National Honor Society Award for Outstanding Research at the University of Texas.

In addition to her academic and professional activity, Ilene has a full family life. Having encountered and solved the difficult problems any two-career family must face, she and Ethan are now the proud parents of daughter Cady, born 22 December 1985.

We rejoice in Ilene's successes and look forward to the many contributions to acoustics that she will make in future years.