An engineer, Tom Brzustowski graduated with a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Physics from the University of Toronto in 1958, and a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton in 1963. He was a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo from 1962 to 1987, teaching and carrying out research in thermodynamics and combustion. He served as Chair of Mechanical Engineering from 1967 to 1970 and as Vice-President, Academic of the University from 1975 to 1987. After that he served as deputy minister in the Government of Ontario from 1987 to 1995, first in the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, and later in the Premier's Council. He was appointed President of NSERC in October 1995, and reappointed in 2000.
Tom Brzustowski holds honorary doctorates from several institutions, namely, Alberta, Concordia, école Polytechnique de Montréal, Guelph, McMaster, Ottawa, Royal Military College of Canada, Ryerson, and Waterloo, and received the Engineering Alumni Medal from the University of Toronto. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society of Canada.