2023 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:

Fabrication and Robotics (4)


Design of Multi-type Locomotive Robot for Planetary Exploration 

Ran Dai
Preferred major(s):
  • Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

The initiative of human exploration missions across the solar system, beginning with the return of humans to the Moon, followed by the journey to deliver astronauts to Mars, brings challenges and needs of advanced technologies to enable successful operations on a planetary surface. To assist human activities under extreme environments, it is essential to develop a versatile exploration system that can be self-adapted and deployed in a wide range of environments, especially for locations inaccessible to traditional rovers.

Existing exploration vehicles deployed on the Lunar or Martian surface are rover type vehicles that have limited access to operating surfaces, which excludes extreme environments such as cliffs, steep craters, highlands rocks, and caves. The rovers have to circumvent these areas due to limited capability and safety concerns. A revolutionary concept that breaks the capability limitations of existing robotic systems is desired to enable integrated functions of multi-type surface exploration. To achieve this goal, this project is to develop a multi-type locomotive robot that can adapt its structure and functionality according to operating surface types/features. The robot is expected to have the capability of rolling on wheels, jumping, and crawling.

Students enrolled in the project is expected to design the mechanism of multi-type locomotive robot to have the functionalities of rolling, jumping, and crawling. In addition, students are expected to manufacture and test the design using lab provided hardware and instruments.

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


Nanoscale 3D printing 

Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s):
  • Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:
junior or senior standing, CAD, Matlab or Python, minimum GPA > 3.5

The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important for many applications including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering. This project deals with development and testing of a setup for building 3D structures using a femtosecond pulsed laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is used to fabricate such structures in which a polymer is exposed to laser and at the point of the exposure the polymer changes its structure. Moving the laser in a predefined path results in the desired shape and the structures. The setup incorporates the steps from designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. Possible improvements to the process by the undergraduate researcher include control algorithms, better CAD models, and better manufacturing strategies.

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


Optimization of magnetically responsive membranes for tissue testing. Collaborative project: Adrian Buganza Tepole (PI), Andres Arrieta (PI), Craig Goergen (PI) 

Adrian Buganza Tepole
Preferred major(s):
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
Desired experience:
Desirable experience: Material characterization, prior experimental work on polymers

There is a need for testing tissues in vivo to enable the development of better diagnostic tools and treatments. Actuating on tissues under homeostatic conditions (i.e., under biologically functional conditions) is challenging due to the complex boundary conditions introduced by any device interacting with the tissue. Therefore, biological tissue testing is mostly conducted ex-vivo, implying the loss of homeostasis and capturing of less relevant material properties. An alternative approach is to develop membranes responsive to remote stimulus such as magnetic fields.
This project aims to determine the microstructure design of polymer membranes with magnetically responsive particles to actuate on biological tissues under biologically relevant conditions. Specifically, this implies optimizing the material microstructure by orienting magnetically-responsive particles across the cross-section of the membrane.

Specific tasks & deliverables
1. To familiarize with the fabrication process of polymeric membranes embedding magnetically responsive particles.
2. To fabricate and conduct mechanical tests of magnetically responsive membranes.
3. To test the adhesion properties of the developed membranes to animal skin.
4. To conduct actuation tests of membrane+skin (bilayer) patches under magnetic fields as a function of particle orientation.
5. Documentation of the fabrication process, adhesion tests, and magnetic actuation results. Production of a final report, compatible with further presentation as a poster or student paper.

Special project outcomes
1. Familiarization with fabrication of magnetically-responsive materials.
2. Replicate material testing protocols for the adhesion and in-plane stretching response of polymeric membranes.
3. Familiarization with magnetic actuation of bilayer membranes.
4. Familiarization with testing of biological tissues.

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


Tactile-based reactive control for robotic manipulation 

Yu She
Preferred major(s):
  • No Major Restriction
Desired experience:
one or more training/experience from the following areas: robotics, robotic manipulation, motion planning, computer vision, tactile sensing, control

The goal of this project is to develop perception, control, and planning algorithms for robotic manipulation for pick-and-place tasks. The robotic system includes a UR5, a robotiq gripper, a vision-based fingertip tactile sensor (i.e., GelSight sensor), as well as a depth camera (e.g., Kinect or RealSense). First, it is expected to develop computer vision algorithms to use the depth camera to identify interested objects in a given environment. Second, motion planning algorithms are expected to be developed for the UR5 to move the robotic arm from the home position to the location of the object that is estimated by the depth camera. Third, a gripping controller is expected to be developed for the Robotiq gripper, which will leverage the tactile feedback from the GelSight sensor for robust grasping of the deformable objects, and placing the objects in another location.

More information: www.purduemars.com