Faculty Profile

Curriculum Vitae

Susan E. Burns

Associate Chair for Finance and Administration & Professor
Geosystems Engineering
Sustainable Communities
Mason 2245


  • Ph.D., Civil Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology September 1997
  • M.S., Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology June 1996
  • M.S., Civil Engineering (Geotechnical), Georgia Institute of Technology March 1996
  • B.C.E., Civil Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology December 1990

Susan E. Burns, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE is a Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Chair for Administration and Finance at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Dr. Burns earned a B.C.E. Civil Engineering (1990), M.S. Civil Engineering (1996), M.S. Environmental Engineering (1996), and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (1997), all from Georgia Tech. After completing her Ph.D., Professor Burns joined the faculty at the University of Virginia where she served for over seven years. In 2004, she joined the faculty at Georgia Tech as an Associate Professor.

Dr. Burns' research focuses on applications in geoenvironmental engineering, with particular emphasis on the productive reuse of waste materials including dredged sediments, fly ash, and biomass fly ash, treatment of highway stormwater runoff using engineered materials, erosion control of soils on highway rights-of-way, interfacial behavior of organic- and inorganic-coated soils, the transport and behavior of microbubbles in otherwise saturated porous media, and the hydraulic conductivity and consolidation properties of fine-grained soils using seismic piezocone penetration testing (SPCPT). Funding for her research group has come from federal, state, and industry sources, including a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in 2000. Dr. Burns has also received major funding from the US Department of Energy, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Department of Education, the Virginia Transportation Research Council, the Georgia Department of Transportation, Southern Company, and other industrial sources.

Dr. Burns is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Arthur Casagrande Professional Development Award (ASCE), the Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award (ASCE), the Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award (University of Virginia), and the David Harrison III Award for Undergraduate Advising (University of Virginia). She was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship (University of Virginia), and was named a Class of 1969 Teaching Scholar (Georgia Tech) and a Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow (Georgia Tech). Most recently, she was selected as the recipient of the 2012 CEE appreciation award (CEE, Georgia Tech) and a 2012 Class of 1934 Teaching Effectiveness Award. She was elected Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013.

Dr. Burns has served as the president of the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER), an organization of approximately 400 professors of geotechnical engineering in the US and abroad (www.usucger.org). She is a past member of the National Research Council's (NRC) Standing Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering, and a past member of the NRC's Committee on Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Waste Containment Barriers. She has chaired the American Society of Civil Engineers/GeoInstitute Geoenvironmental Engineering Committee, and is a past member of the GeoInstitute Awards Committee, and the Transportation Research Board's Committee on Physicochemical Phenomena in Soils. Additionally, she served as an editorial board member for ASCE's Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. She served on the organizing committee for the International Symposium on Deformational Characteristics of Geomaterials (IS Atlanta 2008) and the Fifth International Conference on Scour and Erosion, and served as the editor for proceedings at both conferences.

At Georgia Tech, Dr. Burns has chaired the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Graduate Committee, served on the School's Statutory Advisory Committee, served as the Graduate Coordinator for the Geosystems Group, and served as the group leader for the Geosystems Group in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She was the School's Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs for five years before taking over as Associate Chair for Finance and Administration in 2018. At the Institute level, she has served as a member of the Academic Senate and General Faculty Assembly and the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee.


  • Geoenvironmental engineering
  • Engineered materials
  • Physical and chemical behavior of soils
  • Transport of microbubbles


  • Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers--Elected, 2013
  • Interdisciplinary Research Award, CEE, Georgia Institute of Technology 2013
  • CEE Appreciation Award, Georgia Tech School of CEE 2012
  • Class of 1934 Teaching Effectiveness Award 2012
  • Class of 1969 Teaching Scholar, Georgia Institute of Technology 2009-2010
  • President, US Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research 2005-2007
  • Committee to Assess the Performance of Surface and Subsurface Engineered Barriers, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources 2005-2007
  • Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow, Georgia Institute of Technology 2005-2006
  • U.S. Representative - 2nd Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference, International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Romania 2003
  • Standing Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering 2002-2005 Board on Earth Sciences and Resources 2002-2005
  • Virginia Section, ASCE 150th Anniversary Service Award 2001
  • Outstanding Faculty Advisor, American Society of Civil Engineers 2001
  • Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award, University of Virginia 2001
  • U.S. Junior Faculty Representative - XVth International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Istanbul, Turkey, NSF 2001
  • CAREER Development Award, National Science Foundation 2000-2004
  • Arthur Casagrande Professional Development Award, American Society of Civil Engineers 2000
  • Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement, ASCE 2000
  • Council of Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni, Georgia Tech 2000
  • University Teaching Fellow, University of Virginia 1999-2000
  • David Harrison III Award for Undergraduate Advising, University of Virginia 1999
  • Jean-Lou Chameau Student Research Excellence Award, Georgia Tech 1996
  • Graduate Traineeship, National Science Foundation 1995-1997
  • George F. Sowers Distinguished Graduate Student Award, Georgia Tech 1995
  • Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant, Georgia Institute of Technology 1994
  • Blount Foundation Scholarship, Georgia Tech 1985


  • Zhao, Q. and Burns, S.E. (2017). Molecular Simulation of Electrokinetics of Montmorillonite Surface Coated with Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Cations, Colloids and Surfaces, Vol.516, p.354-361.
  • Zhao, Q., Choo, H., Bhatt, A., Burns, S.E., and Bate, B. (2016). Review of the Fundamental Geochemical and Physical Behaviors of Organoclays in Barrier Applications, Applied Clay Science, in press.
  • Renew, J.E., Huang, C.H., Burns, S.E., Carrasquillo, M., Sun, W., and Ellison, KM. (2016). Immobilization of Heavy Metals by Solidification/Stabilization of Co-Disposed Flue Gas Desulfurization Brine and Coal Fly Ash, Energy & Fuels 30 (6), 5042-5051.
  • Choo, H., Yeboah, N.N. and Burns, S.E. (2016). Small to Intermediate Strain Properties of Fly Ashes with Various Carbon and Biomass Contents, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, Volume: 53, Issue: 1, Pages: 35-48.
  • Choo, H. and Burns, S.E. (2015). Shear wave velocity of granular mixtures of silica particles as a function of finer fraction, size ratios and void ratios, Granular Matter, Vol. 17, Issue 5, pp. 567-578.
  • Scour and Erosion (2010). Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Scour and Erosion (ICSE-5), S.E. Burns, S.K. Bhatia, C.M.C. Avila, and B.E. Hunt, eds., November 7-10, 2010, Geotechnical Special Publication 210, San Francisco, CA, 1137 pp.
  • Deformational Characteristics of Geomaterials (2008). Proceedings of IS Atlanta – Fourth International Symposium on Deformation Characteristics of Geomaterials, September 22-24, Atlanta, Georgia; S.E. Burns, PW. Mayne, and J.C. Santamarina, eds., 944 pp.
  • Geoenvironmental Engineering (GSP 163) (2007). Proceedings of Sessions of GeoDenver 2007, Geotechnical Special Publication (GSP 163), S.E. Burns, P.J. Culligan, J.C. Evans, P.J. Fox, K.R. Reddy, N. Yesiller, eds., American Society of Civil Engineers, February 18-21, Denver, CO.
  • Physical and Chemical Remediation Technologies for Contaminated Subsurface Environments (2001). Kluwer Academic Publishers, J.A. Smith and S.E. Burns, eds., 366 pp.
  • Frost, J.D. and Burns, S.E. (2003). "In-Situ Subsurface Characterization", Chapter 27 in The Civil Engineering Handbook, Second Edition, W. F. Chen and J.Y.R. Liew, eds., CRC Press Inc., Florida, pp. 27-1 to 27-19.
  • Zhao, Q., Burns, S., and Rockaway, T. (2014) Organic Contaminant Sorption and Diffusion in Engineered Clays with Organoclay Additives-Understanding Barrier Performance at the Molecular Level. Geo-Congress 2014 Technical Papers: pp. 1919-1928, doi: 10.1061/9780784413272.188.
  • Gray, C., Burns, S., and Griffith, J. (2012) The Use of Natural Zeolites As a Sorbent for Treatment of Dissolved Heavy Metals in Stormwater Runoff. GeoCongress 2012: pp. 3978-3987, doi: 10.1061/9780784412121.408.
  • Bate, B. and Burns, S. (2012) Influencing Factors on the Dynamic Properties of Organobentonites. GeoCongress 2012: pp. 1938-1947, doi: 10.1061/9780784412121.199.
  • Yeboah, N.N.N. and Burns, S.E. (2011). Productive Reuse of Sediment and Fly Ash, Symposium on Enviromental Geotechnics, Japanese Geotechnical Society, Kyoto, Japan, October.
  • Shearer, C.R., Yeboah, N., Kurtis, K.E., and Burns, S.E. (2011). The early age behavior of biomass fired and co-fired fly ash in concrete, The World of Coal Ash (WOCA), Denver, CO, May, 2011.
  • Burns, S.E. (2009)."Interpretation of Cone Penetration Tests for Pile Design Applications at the Georgia Department of Transportation", Georgia Department of Transportation.
  • Burns, S.E. and Ross, W.A. (2008). "Materials Tracking Technology at the Office of Materials and Research", Georgia Department of Transportation.
  • Mitchell, J.K. et al. (2007). Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Waste Containment Barriers, National Research Council, National Academies Press, Washington D.C.
  • Burns, S.E. and Tillman, K. (2006). "Physicochemical Investigation of the Performance of Cement Treated Aggregate in Virginia", Virginia Transportation Research Council.
  • Burns, S.E. and Cline, M. (2002). "Evaluation of Wick Drain Performance in Virginia Soils", Virginia Transportation Research Council.
  • “Keynote: Trends in the Mechanical and Chemical Behavior of Fly Ash Produced During 130 Years of Power Generation”, GeoVirginia, Williamsburg, VA October, 2016.
  • “Keynote: Influence of Interfacial Chemistry on the Engineering Behavior of Soils”, 64th Annual UMN Geotechnical Conference Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2016.
  • “Influence of Interfacial Chemistry on the Engineering Behavior of Soils”, Queen’s University Seminar, Kingston, ON, March 2016.
  • “Keynote: Innovative Materials for Environmental Sustainability”, International Conference on Infrastructure Development on Environmental Conservation and Sustenance (INDECS-15), Hosur, India, October, 2015.
  • "Influence of Iron Oxide Coatings on the Mechanical Behavior of Coarse Grained Soils”, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, April, 2013.