2022 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:


Medical Science and Technology (9)

 

Blood sample preparation for HIV diagnostics in a smartphone-based microfluidic device 

Professor:
Jacqueline Linnes
Preferred major(s):
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Engineering - multiple concentrations
  • Microbiology
Desired experience:
3d printing and prototyping, medical technology

HIV/AIDS effects millions of people all over the world. The antiretroviral therapy used to treat HIV is effective, but HIV first must be diagnosed and then monitored to measure the treatment effectiveness to eliminate transmission to others and increase a patient’s quality of life. The Linnes Lab uses state of the art microfluidic technologies to prevent, detect, and understand the pathogenesis of diseases, such as HIV. This undergraduate summer research project will focus on developing new technology for HIV diagnostics that will also aid in diagnostics research of other bloodborne illnesses. The student will learn about biological sample preparation, nucleic acid amplification methods, microfluidic device design, fabrication, and testing, and rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printing and laser cutting. The researcher will develop a new tool for sample preparation of the blood that minimizes the number of user steps to integrate into an easy-to-use point-of-care diagnostic tool for people living with HIV to monitor their viral load within the convenience and privacy of their homes. The new tool design specifications include that it must be compatible with the smartphone imaging platform, microfluidic chip, and the HIV assay to diagnose the disease with high sensitivity and specificity.

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

 

Development of a 3D Model to Evaluate Reactivation from Dormancy 

Professor:
Luis Solorio
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction

Breast cancer is the number one diagnosed cancer among women and affects over a quarter of a million people annually. The five-year survival rate is exceptional if the disease remains local, however, once breast cancer has metastasized, patient survival rates drop precipitously. There is a critical need to better understand the events required for breast cancer metastasis and how these events culminate in systemic tumor growth. During breast cancer metastasis, the composition and structure of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the metastatic niche are dramatically altered before the arrival of colonizing cells. As such, the ECM is emerging as a potential therapeutic target for disrupting the metastatic process. Our goal is to determine how changes in the ECM are permissive to metastasis and to manipulate these events in order to inhibit metastatic disease. Our recent studies have demonstrated that Fibronectin (FN) is upregulated in the lungs before the arrival of metastatic cancer cells, and clinical evidence has shown that increased FN is predictive of decreased patient survival. Despite these findings, there remain fundamental gaps in determining how matrix remodeling events that occur during metastasis can dictate the cancer cell fate. In particular, the architecture of the FN matrix can induce phenotypic changes of invading cancer cells that can make the cells less sensitive to drug treatment. Additionally, changes in the local tissue architecture can direct a cell to enter a growth cycle or a dormant phenotype, which can diminish the clinical efficacy of ECM-targeted therapeutics.
Our group has recently observed that tumor-derived metastatic cancer cells express elevated levels of FN, but unlike fibroblasts and other stromal cells, the tumor cells do not deposit FN as a fibrillar matrix. Instead, tumor cells secrete FN in a soluble form which must be converted into insoluble fibrils through a cell-mediated event, exposing cryptic binding domains and transitioning the protein into a bioactive state. Our studies suggest that the assembly of fibrillar FN is dependent on a functional relationship between tumor cells and fibroblasts. Interestingly, we have demonstrated that the FN matrix produced and assembled by resident lung fibroblasts during pre-metastatic niche formation results in a highly aligned and organized FN matrix. However, the matrix formed by fibroblasts utilizing FN produced by tumor cells is less organized and more dispersed, which can significantly alter how forces are transmitted to local cells. To study the impact of FN architecture on the metastatic process independent of the confounding influence of other cell populations, our group has developed an advanced 3D cell culture platform that allows us to create a bioactive fibrillar FN network without the need for cell-mediated assembly. Utilizing this platform, we can tune the alignment of the resultant 3D fibrillar FN network to interrogate the role of the matrix on cell fate decisions. Based on our strong preliminary results, we hypothesize that dynamic changes in the FN network architecture will alter both biochemical and mechanical signaling within the niche, influencing the cell phenotype and dormancy and ultimately altering the cell sensitivity to drugs.

Through this project, we seek to evaluate the effect of FN architecture on dormancy. We will use genetic depletion strategies along with a rigorous panel of markers to determine the effect of matrix architecture on the entrance to or exit from dormancy.

More information: https://soloriolab.wixsite.com/tmet

 

Drop-on-demand printing of soft biomaterials  

Professor:
Bumsoo Han
Preferred major(s):
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:
Course work of solid or fluid mechanics are required. Experience in LabVIEW, CAD software and Matlab are preferred. Cell biology background is plus but not required.

This project aims to develop drop-on-demand (aka inkjet) printing technology of soft biomaterials including cell-laden hydrogel and RNA containing materials. Specifically, the undergraduate student will formulate and characterize the mechanical and rheological properties of polymeric inks to print and cure for advanced tissue constructs or drug delivery systems.

More information: http://biotransportgroup.org

 

Drug screening for improved functional recovery from zebrafish spinal cord injury 

Professor:
Daniel Suter
Preferred major(s):
  • Biology
  • Cell Molecular and Developmental Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Neurobiology and Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
Desired experience:
Cell Biology, Neurobiology, fine motor skills, working with zebrafish

Spinal cord injury is a significant human health problem affecting about 300,000 people in the US. Better treatment options are needed to overcome the limited regeneration potential of the human spinal cord. Zebrafish larvae are an emerging model system for drug screening for several reasons including large number of embryos per breeding, genetics, and availability of behavioral assays for drug testing. Our lab is conducting a large scale drug screen with an FDA-approved library to identify novel compounds that enhance functional recovery following injury as assessed by a swimming assay. The student will be involved with fish breeding, spinal cord injury, drug treatment, and behavioral assay. We hope that this work will identify new compounds with translational potential.

More information: https://suterlab.bio.purdue.edu

 

Human Factors: Enhancing Performance of Nurses and Surgeons  

Professor:
Denny Yu
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:
Human Factors, Machine Learning, Sensors, Programming

High physical and cognitive workload among surgeons and nurses are becoming more common. The purpose of this project is to examine the contributors to these and develop technology to understand and enhance their performance.

The SURF student will participate in data collection in the operating room at Indiana University School of Medicine, data analysis and interpretation, and write his/her results for a journal publication. The student will regularly communicate his/her progress and results with faculty, graduate mentors, and surgeon collaborators.
More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/YuGroup

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

 

Leveraging the Power of Social Networks to Eradicate Epidemics 

Professor:
Philip E. Paré
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction

Since the popularization of handheld communication devices and social media applications, opinion dynamics and social networks have played a more critical role in politics, economics, and public health issues. In particular, opinion polarization on vaccination has tolled thousands of lives in the recent pandemic. Consider the following question: "If you could only convince three nodes in a social network to get vaccinated, which nodes should you choose?"

This project will guide students to answer this resource allocation problem through analyzing the spread transmission network and the dynamic opinion network. The project will be composed of four parts:
1. Constructing epidemic spread simulators.
2. Designing a control strategy for epidemic mitigation.
3. Developing mathematical proofs which guarantee the algorithm's performance.
4. Applying the strategy to real networks generated from online COVID data as a case study.
Students who participated in the project will learn the basics of the epidemic modeling paradigm, network science, control theory, and Python/MATLAB programming skills.

 

Molecular microscopy to inform the design of medications 

Professor:
Garth Simpson
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction

As illustrated with the COVID vaccines, storage and stability of medications can limit widespread availability. We are developing innovative chemical imaging tools with ultrafast pulsed lasers capable of mapping transformations within medical formulations to model and inform stability and bioavailability. Depending on the interests of the students, project scope can range from: i) bench-science in sample preparation and characterization, ii) instrument design and optical path alignment, iii) data acquisition and image analysis algorithm development, iv) partnership with collaborators in the pharmaceutical industry. We have a vibrant and diverse cohort of current researchers dedicated to fostering a supportive and collaborative research environment for all.

More information: http://www.chem.purdue.edu/simpson/

 

Non-Invasive Physiological Signals that Indicate Severity of Parkinsons Disease 

Professor:
Anne Sereno
Preferred major(s):
  • Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:
Human Subject Data Collection Experience Statistics Signal Processing

The goal is to collect data non-invasively from physiological signals that can be used as indicators of disorders in the motor cortex in subjects. Additionally, we hope to relate any abnormalities in these signals back to past behaviours and experiences such as demographics (e.g. age and gender), medication and head injuries (TBI). The aim for the summer is to create and test methods for obtaining a reliable, non-invasive measure of galvanic skin response from patients as well as to obtain patient test data from Parkinson's Disease at IU Health Physicians Neurology clinic in Indianapolis.

These methods will first replicate and then test conditions important for measuring motor function and size effects. Findings will be used as pilot data for possible future research.

 

Stem cell immunoengineering for targeted cancer therapy 

Professor:
Xiaoping Bao
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biological Engineering - multiple concentrations
  • Biochemistry
  • any related major
Desired experience:
Previous experience with cell culture and molecular biology is a bonus, but NOT required.

Cancer is a major threat for humans worldwide, with over 18 million new cases and 9.6 million cancer-related deaths in 2019. Although most common cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, unsatisfactory cure rates require new therapeutic approaches. Recently, adoptive cellular immunotherapies with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) engineered T and natural killer (NK) cells have shown impressive clinical responses in patients with various blood and solid cancers. However, current clinical practices are limited by the need of large numbers of healthy immune cells, resistance to gene editing, lack of in vivo persistence, and a burdensome manufacturing strategy that requires donor cell extraction, modulation, expansion, and re-introduction per each patient. The ability to generate universally histocompatible and
genetically-enhanced immune cells from continuously renewable human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines offers the potential to develop a true off-the-shelf cellular immunotherapy. While functional CAR-T and NK cells have been successfully derived from hPSCs, a significant gap remains in the scalability, time-consuming (5 or more weeks), purity and robustness of the differentiation methods due to the cumbersome use of serum, and/or feeder cells, which will incur potential risk for contamination and may cause batch-dependency in the treatment. This project thus aims to develop a novel, chemically-defined platform for robust production of CAR-T and CAR-NK cells from hPSCs.

More information: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ChE/people/ptProfile?resource_id=210038