Current Members

Prof. Burns is always interested in working with motivated students. If you would like more information or are interested in applying, please contact Prof. Burns with any questions you may have.

Graduate Students

  • Adam Thompson

    Adam Thompson

    Ph.D. Candidate, B.S. Materials Science & Engineering, Boise State University


    Adam joined the Burns Group in August of 2016. His educational and professional life started when he got his Associate’s Degree in Electron Microscopy at MATC, a technical college in Madison, Wisconsin. He then moved to Boise, Idaho to start his career at Micron Technology working in their TEM lab, while pursuing his undergraduate at Boise State University. He came to the University of Virginia after spending 12 years in Idaho, where he is now working on understanding the effects of low temperature and low water vapor pressure on fatigue crack propagation rates in aerospace aluminum alloys. When not in the lab he enjoys spending time with his pets, talking with his family in Wisconsin/Idaho, cooking, and watching football.

  • Luke Brown

    Luke Brown

    Ph.D. Candidate, B.A. Chemistry, Rollins College


    Luke graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Chemistry and joined the Burns Research Group in July 2017. His interest in material science stemmed from his interest in practical application of his studies in chemistry to the field of engineering. His research is focused on the fatigue cracking of aerospace aluminum in high altitude environments. He enjoys playing baseball and other sports, hanging out with friends, explaining his accent, and talking to his family back home in Orlando.

  • Carly Cocke

    Carly Cocke

    Ph.D. Candidate, B.S. Civil Engineering, University of Virginia


    Carly graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia and joined the Burns group in June of 2018. She decided to pursue an PhD in Materials Science due to her undergraduate research into pseudowollastonite-based cement and her work with the VTRC into materials for civil engineering applications. Her project is on understanding environmental cracking in AA7050-T7451 induced by galvanic corrosion. In her free time she enjoys surfing, hiking, enjoying music, and hanging out with friends.

  • Alex Jennion

    Alex Jennion

    Ph.D. Candidate, B.S. Materials Science & Engineering, University of Maryland


    Alex graduated in 2019 with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Maryland and joined the Burns Research Group in July 2019.  Alex is interested in failure analysis and wanted to study fracture mechanics in graduate school. His current research is focused on understanding mechanisms of high temperature fatigue in Nickel-based superalloys used in jet engine components. Outside the lab, Alex enjoys blacksmithing using his homemade forge, playing soccer, and cooking. 

  • Michael Roach

    Michael Roach

    Ph.D. Candidate, B.S. Material Science & Engineering, Lehigh University


    Michael graduated from Lehigh in 2017 with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and started my career working as a Materials Research Engineer at Metamagnetics working to develop magnetic materials for novel radio frequency device applications. His undergraduate degree had a heavy focus on metallurgy and mechanics and the interest in materials research Michael developed at Metamagnetics led him to join the Burns Group in August 2019. His research focuses on the environmental cracking of additively manufactured 316L stainless steel. Outside of the lab Michael plays rugby and skis as much as the weather permits. Michael also enjoys swimming, playing video games, reading, and hanging out with friends.

  • Sarah Blust

    Sarah Blust

    Ph.D. Student, B.S. Materials Science & Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology


    Sarah graduated with a bachelor's degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and joined the Burns group in August of 2020. She was briefly at Procter and Gamble in their R&D department where she worked on Tide and Downy products. Due to her love for research and experimental work in metallurgy as an undergrad, it was natural for her to pursue a PhD. Sarah has a passion for materials science, and within the Burns group is researching the impact of atmospheric conditions on stress corrosion cracking in stainless steel. When not researching you can find Sarah enjoying her new crossfit gym, exploring all the awesome hikes around Charlottesville and getting to know the area's wineries!

Undergraduate Students

  • Crestienne DeChaine

    Crestienne DeChaine

    Majoring in Mechanical Engineering and in Materials Science & Engineering


    Crestienne DeChaine is a fourth year student from Great Falls, Virginia. She is currently pursuing a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. She joined the Burns Group in the Fall of 2018. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, hiking, knitting, and baking.

  • LeeYung Chang

    LeeYung Chang

    Majoring in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Materials Science & Engineering


    LeeYung Chang is a fourth-year student from Springfield, Virginia, currently pursuing a major in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Materials Science and Engineering. He joined the Burns Group in the summer of 2019. He is a member of the Virginia Rifle and Pistol Club (practicing Olympic-style target shooting) and in free time enjoys collecting fountain pens, reading, and awkwardly writing biographies in the third person.

Research Associates

  • Zachary Harris

    Zachary Harris

    Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Virginia, 2018. B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Boise State University, 2014.


    Zach joined the Burns Group in August 2014 after completing his undergraduate work at Boise State. He came to the University of Virginia after developing a keen interest in environmentally-assisted fracture while interning at Sandia National Laboratories in CA. In the lab, Zach is working to better understand the influence of strengthening precipitate morphology on hydrogen-assisted cracking in Ni-based superalloys. This work will be used to better inform micromechanical models and provide insight into crack tip-deformation interactions in precipitation-strengthed materials. Outside of the lab, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Emma, being outdoors, playing basketball, talking with his family back in CA, and reading.