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LAWRENCE D. BURNS is professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan (U-M). His research focuses on transforming mobility and energy systems.
Prior to joining the U-M faculty, Larry completed a 40-year career with General Motors (GM) on October 1, 2009. He left GM as corporate vice president of research and development and strategic planning, a role in which he oversaw GM’s advanced technology, innovation programs, and corporate strategy. He also served on GM’s top decision-making bodies for operations and products.
In addition to driving innovation into today’s vehicles, Burns led GM’s development of a new automotive “DNA” that marries electrically driven, connected and driverless vehicle technologies. The goal is to realize sustainable personal mobility with smart vehicles that are aspirational and affordable.
Burns began his career as a member of the Research & Development staff, where his research focused on transportation, logistics, and production systems. He subsequently held executive positions in several GM divisions in the areas of product program management, quality, production control, industrial engineering, and product and business planning. In May 1998, he was named a vice president of General Motors, with responsibility for R&D and planning.
Burns holds a PhD in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) and his master’s degree in engineering/public policy from U-M.
From January 2010 to June 2013, Burns was the Director of the Program for Sustainable Mobility at Columbia University. He was also Vice Chairman of the Board of MRI Global from 2019 to 2102.
In 2000, Burns received Kettering University’s Engineering Alumni Achievement Award for his contributions to the engineering profession. In 2002, the Deafness Research Foundation recognized him with its National Campaign for Hearing Health Leadership Award. He served as National Honorary Chairman for the MATHCOUNTS Foundation during 2004 and 2005. In 2005, he was a member of a General Motors team awarded the Franz Edelman Award from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. He is also the recipient of the 2005 Alumni Merit Award from the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering Department.
In 2007, Burns was awarded the ASM International Medal for the Advancement of Research and the Society of Plastics Engineers Global Engineering Leadership Award. In 2008, he received the Golden Gear Award from the Washington Automotive Press Association and the Industry Pioneer Award from the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute. Most recently, he has been named the recipient of the 2009 Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition Award for demonstrating significant leadership in promoting the overall advancement of fuel cell technology. Dr. Burns was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011.