In 2018, AECOM (a premier New Zealand and international company that designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets, including on the University of Waikato campus) established an award to commemorate the contributions made by the late David Andrew Burns and to encourage graduate students into a career in engineering geology.
David had strong connections with the University of Waikato, spending formative years at the University, graduating from the Department of Earth Sciences in 1975 and completing an MSc in 1980. He played significant roles in developing a route for engineering geologists to gain professional status as chartered members within Engineering New Zealand and worked at AECOM for many years on a wide range of projects across New Zealand and around the world.
David was instrumental in helping to revise the guidelines for field descriptions in engineering geology. A passionate geologist, he helped many benefit from his knowledge, leaving a legacy and lasting impression on students, friends, family, colleagues and the industry.
Despite having no formal training other than his University of Waikato Earth Sciences degrees, David was a highly respected and experienced Technical Director in ground engineering. The AECOM David A. Burns Award recognises the personal abilities of David in achieving such status in the field, the quality of his founding degrees obtained at the University of Waikato, and the support and training he received from AECOM.
The David A. Burns Award is for full-time students enrolled in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, undertaking a 300 level engineering geology paper and intending to enrol in a masters degree in Earth Sciences, offering a $2000 award and a valuable, paid summer internship at AECOM.
The first annual recipient of the AECOM David A. Burns Award is George McQuillan. George graduated later than most, enrolling at the University of Waikato in his 30s after working in the aviation and biosecurity industries, as well as 15 years’ volunteer firefighting. A Te Awamutu local, George had always been interested in Earth Sciences and after witnessing childhood friends graduating in the subject he decided to go back to study, which he refers to as the “best decision he’s ever made”. George can see a bright future in the geotechnical or volcanology fields and offers words of wisdom for those interested in Earth Science: “Get out there and explore the world in person, don’t just read it in a book and think ‘that’s what I want to do’. Get out there and go bush for a little bit, do some hiking, do some tramping, look at some rocks and get your hands on, that’s where you’re going to figure out what you want.”