In Memoriam: Dr. Charles Burns

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Burns, Charles M., BASc, MASc, PhD

1938 – 2019

Members of the Department of Chemical Engineering were saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Charles Burns at the age of 81 on August 26, 2019. 

Professor Burns came to the University of Waterloo in 1967 as a physical/mechanical polymer properties expert and taught in the department for 34 years. He had earned his BASc and MASc at University of Toronto in 1961 and 1962, respectively, and his PhD at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1966. He was a longstanding member of Waterloo’s Institute for Polymer Research (IPR).

His research in polymer science, particularly in polymer characterization, made many contributions to the field and provided valuable and interesting fundamentals for his courses. His engaging teaching style will be remembered fondly by countless graduates of the department, many of whom were introduced to polymer properties through Professor Burns’ courses and have put the knowledge he imparted to good use in their careers. 

CHE Professor Feng, who took CHE 641: Physical Properties of Polymers from Professor Burns in the nineties, remembers his personable nature and interest in the success of his students: “He went above and beyond to help his students succeed. He got to know all of us – not just the troublesome ones – and made sure that we understood and enjoyed his lessons.”

Professor Burns worked for students behind the scenes as well. He was known as a student advocate, working on numerous committees and special projects to provide them with a wide range of support. From his work as a first-year student advisor, to his involvement with the student debate team, to his decade of service to the senior design project course, Professor Burns got involved with our students and encouraged them to be their best.

He was similarly inspirational among the faculty. Known for his bright smile, gentle manner and valued mentorship, his reputation as a positive force in the department endures.

As expressions of sympathy, Professor Burns’ family would appreciate if you direct donations to the Alzheimers Society of Canada towards ‘Research.’

Visit for Charles' memorial.