Getting to Know You: Marion Burgess, Past President I-INCE

In our second “Getting to Know You” feature, we sit down with Marion Burgess, past president I-INCE, 2020–2022, to find out about her work in the acoustics field and her involvement with I-INCE.

Can you give me a little background on your involvement with acoustics?
My intention on leaving school was to be a pharmacist—a good career for a female at that time. But as the first year was common and I had done well in physics at school, I enrolled in science and stayed in the physics area. The small number of female students in my class reduced each year, and by the fourth year, as the only woman, I was allocated to an understanding supervisor to do projects on lasers and plasma. My first job after graduation was as a hospital physicist, but after a year I sought a change and was offered a job in the acoustics section of the Australian version of the Building Research Establishment. And so started my career in acoustics, testing the performance of the many new products that were being developed at that time!

And what happened next?
I enjoyed the work, mainly because it was very practical, and we also worked with manufacturers to help them improve and adapt their products for Australian construction techniques—as well as hear the differences! After a couple of years, I moved to the University of New South Wales in the School of Architecture, where Anita Lawrence was undertaking building acoustics research. While acoustics was my main topic, I assisted with all the classes that involved architectural science, so I learned more about the relationship between products for heat and light as well as sound. It was with the support and encouragement of Anita that I had the opportunity to attend some international conferences, especially those that were in the Asia-Pacific area. Due to my husband’s work, we moved from Sydney to the smaller city of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. This turned out to be a great move, as I was able to join the Mechanical Engineering School at the newly opened university campus. Joseph Lai was responsible for the acoustics facilities that came with this campus and was pleased to have some assistance with various projects. And so started the stage of my career when I worked on environmental and workplace noise and noise control—aligned with the INTER-NOISE conference topic areas. As a research officer in the school, I had course teaching commitments only in acoustics, which was a luxury in a small school. So began my work in research, consulting, and short course teaching, which was incredibly diverse. I remember one day when I went from a meeting with the engineering team planning the routing for a new highway to measurement of noise exposure in a meat processing works.

I am officially retired now but an honorary staff member at the Canberra campus, still undertaking occasional consulting and teaching projects and working with a colleague in the School of Aviation on research projects. Added to this are my commitments for the various international acoustics organizations.

So how did you become involved with I-INCE?
While I had been involved with the conference team for some meetings, my first involvement with organizing a large international event followed the successful bid to host the ICA 2010 in Sydney. Due to illness, the proposed chair could not continue, and I took over the main organizing role. This brought me more in contact with the international sphere of acoustics, and I continued on to the board of ICA and also became president. During this period, I was invited to take up a role representing Asia-Pacific on the board of I-INCE and, some years later, was invited to consider the role of president. It was never my goal to become so involved with the management of international acoustics organizations. But such involvement is interesting, challenging, and rewarding as the organizations grow, retain the activities that are worthwhile, and undertake new initiatives to reflect the changes in the world around us. It also means that I have excellent reasons to travel to various locations around the world and not only participate in meetings but also have wonderful experiences in different parts of the world.

What are your thoughts on the future of I-INCE?
I-INCE and the INTER-NOISE congresses are approaching a very important 50-year anniversary in 2021. The founders of I-INCE took quite a risk to establish an international organization and hold an international conference on noise control, especially when it is remembered that 50 years ago, international communication international was by postage and only occasionally by expensive telephone calls. I truly respect what those founders of I-INCE undertook and achieved and look forward to the celebrations, which are well deserved.

The legal status of the organization has been established in recent years, and that is a big achievement. In the future, I would hope that I-INCE is better able to encourage the member societies to engage with international activities like World Hearing Day and International Noise Awareness Day. The I-INCE has made a great contribution to the International Year of Sound (IYS) in 2020 in funding the film Sounds of our Life, which will be freely available in short (2 minute) and longer (9 minute) formats, both from the IYS 2020 site ( and from our I-INCE site.

I-INCE is currently stable and has a well-experienced and capable board, so I am confident that in the future I-INCE will adapt its operations and technical activities to reflect changes in the world around it.

Marion Burgess
Past President I-INCE (2020–2022)