Indira Samarasekera

Senior Advisor, Bennett Jones LLP

A metallurgical engineer by training, Dr. Samarasekera spent a decade as President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta


Oral Histories - Indira Samarasekera

“The natural resource sector, from time to time, does do a recruitment to try and attract women, but generally speaking, a lot of young people don’t actually know what a career in the natural resource sector would look like. So more outreach continues to be necessary.” Originally from Sri Lanka, Dr. Samarasekera immigrated to Canada to complete a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of British Columbia. She was attracted to Canada partly due to her father’s admiration for the country’s beauty, size and opportunities. She admits that Trudeau-mania, had also captured her attention from the other end of the globe. Since then, Samarasekera has become the epitome of success, having been the first woman to become President of the University of Alberta.

Indira Samarasekera

Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera, President - University of Alberta, discusses partnerships in India

Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta ( discusses collaborations and partnerships with Indian institutions during a visit to India on November 4, 2011.

Former U of A president Indira Samarasekera free to speak her mind

The Globe and Mail, July 10, 2015Online


Nothing about Indira Samarasekera gives any hint that she is a university president who does that most rare thing for the top executives of public institutions: give offence. Wearing a sober beige blouse and green jacket, she is, at the time of our lunch in May, only weeks away from the end of her term as president of the University of Alberta and feeling a bit melancholy. “One part of me says I am going to enjoy not being so incredibly busy and so incredibly rushed and I will have time for introspection, for solitude.… And then all of a sudden it hits you, all the things you will miss every day. You start to savour each and every event,” she says. It’s late May, a month before Dr. Samarasekera hands the baton to her successor, David Turpin, who officially took over as U of A president on July 1. We are sitting at a table at Canoe, a restaurant on the 54th floor of Toronto’s TD Bank Tower that has been teasing the country’s establishment with its culinary perfectionism for 20 years.


Dr. Indira V. Samarasekera served as the 12th President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta, from 2005-2015, one of Canada’s most respected research-intensive universities. A metallurgical engineer with a doctorate from the University of British Columbia, she has specialized in materials process engineering and consulted for over a hundred steel companies around the world. Dr. Samarasekera is currently a corporate director and Senior Advisor for Bennett Jones LLP. Dr. Samarasekera serves on the Boards of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Magna International and TransCanada. She is a federal member on the Independent Advisory Panel for Senate Appointments, the Rideau Hall Foundation, the Asia Pacific Foundation and the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics. Dr. Samarasekera has also devoted her career to advancing innovation in higher education and the private sector, providing national and international leadership through invited lectures and participation on national and international boards and councils. Dr. Samarasekera has received honorary degrees from the University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, University of Montreal, University of Waterloo, Western University in Canada, and Queen's University in Belfast. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2002 for outstanding contributions to steel process engineering. In 2014 she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in the US as a foreign associate, the professions highest honour.


Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal | Professional


Officer of the Order of Canada | Professional


Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Engineering | Professional


E.W.R Steacie Fellowship, NSERC | Professional

Award recognizing promising young Canadian researchers 1991

Canada's Public Policy Forum Peter Lougheed Award | Professional

Leadership in public policy 2012

Additional Titles and Affiliations

Senior Advisor for Bennett Jones

Served as both board member and chair of the National Institute for Nanotechnology

Federal member on the Independent Advisory Panel for Senate Appointments

Distinguished Fellow in Residence Liu Institute

CEO of the Year Advisory Committee

Chair of the Worldwide Universities Network

Board member for Scotiabank and Magna International

Past Talks

The Public Eye: Lessons in Leadership from a Female President

Women of Influence Evening Series

Calgary, AB, September 10, 2016


  • University Administration
  • Research
  • Metallurgical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Education
  • Board Director


  • University of Sri Lanka
    Mechanical Engineering
    B.Sc, 1974
  • University of California
    Mechanical Engineering
    M.S., 1976

    Fulbright Scholar

  • University of British Columbia
    Metallurgical Engineering
    PhD, 1980