According to the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the YIP awards intend "to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering." The awards program is competitive. The Air Force received more than 265 applications this year. Burns was among 55 scientists and engineers to receive a total of $20.6 million in grants from the program.
The Burns Research Group researches at the intersection of metallurgy, solid mechanics and chemistry. The area of professor Burn's work which garnered the award is focused is fatigue of aerospace aluminum alloys, specifically the effect of high altitude environments on the dislocation structure evolution during fatigue cracking.