Peter Burns

Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences; Director, Energy Frontier Research Center; Concurrent Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Prof. Burns’ research interests include actinide chemistry, environmental mineralogy and crystallography, mineral crystal structures and crystal chemistry, mineral structural energetics, mineral paragenesis and, most prominently, nuclear materials, including waste disposal.

He leads efforts at Notre Dame at the Center for Sustainable Energy (cSEND) to develop a greener nuclear fuel cycle.

Prof. Burns is also director of a multi-million-dollar Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) at Notre Dame, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and established to pursue advanced scientific research on energy.

Notre Dame’s EFRC is titled “Materials Science of Actinides.” The focus of this center, which includes participants from several other universities and national laboratories, is the elements that are the basis of nuclear energy (uranium, plutonium and other actinides). Research in the center seeks to understand and control materials that contain actinides at the nanoscale. This research is intended to lay the scientific foundation for advanced nuclear energy systems that may provide much more energy while creating less nuclear waste.

Prof. Burns has been named one of the top 10 most-cited authors in the field of geosciences for the period 1997 to 2006. A fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America (MSA), he is also a member of the American Chemical Society and the Materials Research Society and is past-president of the Mineralogical Association of Canada. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Winthrop Spencer Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Geological Sciences, the Hawley Medal, and the Young Scientists’ Medal of the Mineralogical Association of Canada, the Mineralogical Society of America Award, and the Donath Medal (Outstanding Young Scientist) from the Geological Society of America.