Keith Burns received his PhD from the University of Warwick in 1983. He held postdoctoral positions at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and the University of Maryland, and a faculty position at Indiana University. He then joined Northwestern as a faculty member in 1987.
Burns works in dynamical systems and ergodic theory, centered on the study of the geodesic flow and manifolds with nonpositive curvature. Burns was named an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 1989.