2021 Research Projects

Projects are posted below; new projects will continue to be posted. To learn more about the type of research conducted by undergraduates, view the 2021 Research Symposium Abstracts (PDF) and search the past SURF projects.

This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. Please note that it is not a complete list of every SURF project. Undergraduates will discover other projects when talking directly to Purdue faculty.

You can browse all the projects on the list or view only projects in the following categories:

Internet of Things (5)


Developing IoT sensors for real-time concrete strength monitoring  

Luna Lu
Preferred major(s):
civil engineering, electrical engineering
Desired experience:
MATLAB, IC circuit design

EMI technique is a nondestructive testing (NDT) method that makes use of the piezoelectric nature of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) sensor that vibrates and interacts with the host structure, thereby tuning the electrical characteristics of PZT through mechanical interaction. Inversion algorithm is then used to extract mechanical properties of host structure from using electrical characteristics of PZT sensor. EMI technique has been evolving for decades and demonstrated to be a good in-situ method to determine bulk concrete properties, e.g. Young’s modulus, in lieu of tedious molding and compression test. However, current EMI studies in modulus measurement are mostly established on the statistical relationship between EMI spectrum and conventional compression test, and the variation of sensors can lead to a bad repeatability.
In this work, a novel EMI method for concrete modulus measurement will be reported. This novel NDT method can extract the dynamic modulus of concrete cylinder using only one PZT sensor. The specific activities include: (a) embedding PZT sensor in cylinder mold; (b) casting concrete in mold; (c) measuring the electrical impedance spectrum of sensor; (d) reading the resonance frequencies of the spectrum in low frequency band and (e) calculating the modulus using resonance frequencies. The orientation of sensor, the sensing range and the repeatability between different sensors will be discussed in this project. The investigation of the nature of EMI sensor-structure interaction has a broad interest to NDT and piezoelectric material community.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/SMARTLab


Efficient and renewable water treatment 

David Warsinger
Preferred major(s):
Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Materials, Chemical, or Environmental Engineering
Desired experience:
Applicants should have an interest in thermodynamics, water treatment, and sustainability. Applicants with experience in some (not all) of the following are preferred: experimental design and prototyping, manufacturing, Python, LabView, EES, MATLAB, 3D CAD Software, & Adobe Illustrator. 2nd semester Sophomores, Juniors, and 1st semester Seniors are preferred.

Water and energy are tightly linked resources that must both become renewable for a successful future. However, today, water and energy resources are often in conflict with one another, especially related to impacts on electric grids. Further, advances in material science and artificial intelligence allow for new avenues to improve the widespread implementation of desalination and water purification technology. This project aims to explore nanofabricated membranes, artificial intelligence control algorithms, and thermodynamically optimized system designs. The student will be responsible for fabricating membranes, building hydraulic systems, modeling thermal fluid phenomenon, analyzing data, or implementing control strategies in novel system configurations.

More information: www.warsinger.com


Measuring wetland greenhouse gas emissions with environmental Internet of Things sensors. 

Jacob Hosen
Preferred major(s):
Biology, Natural Resources, Computer Science, and Environmental Engineering majors (interpreted broadly).
Desired experience:
Students with an interest in working with IoT technology, including sensors powered by Arduino processors, are encouraged to apply. Experience with environmental sensors and/or wetland field work is beneficial, but not required.

Wetlands in agricultural landscapes are important sites for maintaining water quality in streams, rivers, and reservoirs that are downstream of farmland. Despite these benefits, such wetlands can be a large source of potent greenhouse gasses—primarily methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Yet, data on the amount of greenhouse gasses produced by agricultural wetlands and the environmental factors that cause these differences are not widely available. For this project, we will leverage environmental internet of things (IoT) technology to deploy networks of gas sensors in agricultural wetlands. We will use these gas sensors to determine what local environmental factors (e.g., water inundation length, elevation, soil organic matter content) cause CH4 and N2O emissions to increase and decrease from wetland soils.

The student working on this project would be responsible for deploying gas sensors, which will involve fieldwork at wetlands located near Purdue. This student will also have the opportunity to analyze the data collected from these sensors with the assistance of faculty and graduate student mentors.

More information: http://www.ecosystemscience.io


Neural recording and stimulation using a wireless single-chip system 

Saeed Mohammadi
Preferred major(s):
Desired experience:
Some knowledge of pub design, circuits and biology

In this project, we aim to implement an implant that can record and stimulate neural activities of a live mouse brain. We will take advantage of wireless powering and wireless data transfer to miniaturize the neural implant, such that it does not require battery or wires. Students will help develop the Reader for testing and collecting data from in-vitro and in-vivo experiments.


SoCET: System on Chip Extension Technologies 

Mark Johnson
Preferred major(s):
Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science
Desired experience:
A wide range of circuit and software design skills are needed on this project. No one team member is expected to have this full set of skills, but to be able to contribute to some aspect of SoCET over the course of a summer, you will need skills or course work in at least the following areas. *Verilog/System Verilog coding skills for logic synthesis and test bench design, *Analog and digital integrated circuit design background including circuit simulation and layout, *testing of digital and analog circuits, *Microcontroller programming in C and assembly language, *Managing code repositories in git, *Compiler design, *Operating systems and especially Real Time Operating Systems.

The processors inside your cell-phone, automobile, television, etc. are some of the most complex and smallest devices created in human history, but with access to the right tools, design techniques, and fabrication facilities you can create new capabilities to be fabricated on silicon. Such processors are implemented in the form of a System-on-Chip (SoC). Design of SoC's and access to fabrication facilities are ordinarily extremely expensive and very restricted. However, thanks to industry and governmental support, interested undergraduates are able to join in the design, fabrication, and test of custom SoC's. The primary reason for the existence of the SoC team is to give students an integrated circuit design experience that as close as possible to what they would encounter in industry.

The technical objective of the SoC Team is to create and keep improving on an SoC design that we can then customize for special application and research needs. The team's major project is that of creating an SoC that is optimized for very small scale and low power machine learning applications, but there are numerous problems one can work on including modelling of a secure SoC architecture, design of chiplets, FPGA prototyping, extending a RISCV open source processor design, testing of recent chips designed by SoCET, analog circuit design, and using industry grade design verification techniques.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/SoC-Team