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News & Press: Foundation News

Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant - Deadline December 15, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016  
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This grant program is made possible through funding provided by Bentley Systems, Inc.

Funding for this grant has been provided by Bentley Systems, Inc. Bentley Systems is a global leader in providing architects, engineers, geospatial professionals, constructors, and owner-operators with comprehensive software solutions for sustaining infrastructure. Bentley's mission is to empower its users to leverage information modeling through integrated projects for high-performing intelligent infrastructure.

The purpose of the Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant is to utilize information modeling as a means of improving infrastructure safety and fire service preparedness. The grant is named in memory of FDNY Assistant Chief Donald Burns. Chief Burns died in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, while setting up his command post to direct the evacuation.

Chief Donald Burns was a decorated 39-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He was known for his in-depth knowledge of firefighting and the FDNY, and is fondly remembered as a walking encyclopedia for his broad knowledge of New York City. Fighting fires was his passion, and he inspired many of his colleagues within the department, who hailed him as an exceptional leader and brilliant tactician and strategist. Burns was elevated to lieutenant and later captain before being named chief of operations after the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. He was promoted to Citywide Tour Commander in 1997. Burns is survived by his wife Elizabeth and his children Lori; Michael, a police officer; and Patrick, a lieutenant in FDNY.

Statement of Need
Applications will be considered for projects that research, develop or apply information modeling as a means of improving infrastructure safety and fire service preparedness. The grant will fund one baccalaureate, masters or doctorate student research project that applies information modeling and mobility to improving fire service safety when training for, responding to, and operating during building emergencies. Specifically, the grant will be awarded to research focused on the use of information management technology that:

  • Provides "real-time" building-specific information to key fire department personnel during and in response to emergency operations;
  • Utilizes the principles of fire dynamics to predict how fire service operations will impact conditions within a building;
  • Provides information to fire department personnel regarding the design of a building's structural framework, structural fire protection, and how the fire may impact structural stability during a fire;
  • Predicts how humans will behave in a specific structure during a building fire and how their actions will impact fire department operations.

Funding for this grant is to support baccalaureate, masters and doctoral students in fire safety science or fire protection engineering. A condition of funding is that the research must result in a publishable paper and a digital deliverable in Bentley software (i.e. Bentley's tablet-based applications or Bentley MicroStation or Bentley Navigator). Additionally, a paper or an alternate presentation or report must be made available for posting on the SFPE website within 12 months of awarding the grant. If possible, it would also be desirable, if the research work was presented at the 2018 SFPE Conference & Expo.

The maximum amount of the grant award will be USD $25,000 over a one-year period.

Ownership & Rights
Any papers or demonstrations may be used by Bentley and SFPE in demonstrations, trade-shows, technical meetings, etc. Bentley also holds the right to announce the recipient of the award at any time.

Applications must be submitted by the student and must include the student's faculty advisor's recommendation. These should be sent to Nicole Testa Boston at

Note that applications may not be longer than five pages and must include a timeline of major tasks and deliverables.


Grant Period
The grant period will be begin on January 1, 2017 and shall be completed not more than 365 days after the start date. If the project is not completed within this timeframe, a progress report shall be submitted. This progress report shall include a schedule for project completion.

Evaluation Criteria
Applications for this grant must, in addition to the research plan, provide written documentation addressing each of the evaluation criteria. Clear, concise written examples of prior research and experience will greatly aid the evaluation process. The following specific criteria will apply to the review of each application.

Technical Merit - 35%

The quality of the research plan and the possibility that it will yield valid and broadly applicable results or contribute to integrating information modeling and information mobility as a means of improving infrastructure safety and fire service preparedness will be evaluated according to the following:

  • Does the hypothesis or objective have a supported basis?
  • Does the approach follow accepted procedures of scientific inquiry?
  • Are the means of evaluating experimental results appropriate?
  • What are the novel aspects of this research?

Usefulness - 35%
Potential impact of the research on the field of fire protection engineering and information mobility will be determined by the following:

  • Will the research produce results that are useful to protecting occupants, structures and/or firefighters?
  • Will the research advance the student, advisor, or institution in such a way that, individually or collectively, they will be able to contribute to the future of fire protection engineering?

Qualifications - 15%
The qualifications of the applicant and advisor will be evaluated according to a combination of the following criteria:

  • Number of fire protection engineering students whose research was supervised by the faculty supervisor in the last 5 years.
  • Number of student's in other engineering disciplines whose research was supervised by the faculty advisor in the last 5 years.
  • List of students and faculty advisor's major publications resulting from research assisted by student's in the last 5 years.
  • List of publications or research projects carried out by the student or faculty advisor that has directly impacted the fire service.
  • Fire service experience and experience with information modeling.
  • Student's or faculty supervisor's general knowledge and involvement with fire service research.

Achievability - 15%
This is a measure of whether the proposed plan can be carried out within the stated time frame. Applicants should specifically identify the following:

Human and facility resources available (or planned) at the home institution.
Facilities or assistance to be provided from another institution.

Grant Review
Complete applications meeting compliance with the evaluation criteria will be submitted for grant review by a panel established by the SFPE Educational and Scientific Foundation.

Software and Training Materials
Information management software and training materials for this research will be provided by Bentley Systems, Incorporated at no cost to the student researcher(s).

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