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LAWRENCE D. BURNS is professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan (U-M). In addition to his U-M role, he is director of the Roundtable on Sustainable Mobility with The Earth Institute at Columbia University. His focus at both institutions is energy policy and transportation.
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 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 GM operations and products and was a member of the USCAR Operating Council and the FreedomCAR Partnership Executive Steering Committee.
In addition to driving innovation into today’s vehicles, Burns led GM’s development of a new automotive “DNA” that marries electrically driven and “connected 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 Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where he is a member of the Advisory Council for its Institute of Transportation Studies. 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.
Burns serves on the board of U-M’s Automotive Research Center and the External Advisory Board for its Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Midwest Research Institute and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
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.