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Research Projects

Projects are posted below; new projects will continue to be posted through February. To learn more about the type of research conducted by undergraduates, view the 2017 Research Symposium Abstracts.

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:


A light-weight silicon pixel detector for the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider

Research categories:  Electronics, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Physics & Astronomy
Professor: Andreas Jung
Preferred major(s): Physics (minor or experience in Electrical and/or Mechanical Engineering)
Desired experience:   Experience with labview is of advantage as well as a general understanding of at least one programming language. Existing experience with analysis of data and interpretation, e.g. linear regression / trend analysis.

The Large Hadron Collider will be upgraded to provided a unprecedented number of hadronic interactions, which will be used to search for any deviation from the standard model theory of particle physics. In order to withstand the large number of hadronic interaction also the CMS detector needs to be upgraded. The proposed summer research project contributes to the upgrade of the forward pixel detector in the very heart of the CMS detector.

Candidates join my lab/group working on data taking and testing of silicon detector prototypes and their support prototypes in our local two-phase CO2 cold box setup. The project includes data taking, preparation & hands-on assembly of prototypes, as well as data analysis. There is also possibilities to carry out the thermal finite element analysis needed to simulate the thermal behavior of our prototypes. Experience with labview is of advantage as well as a general understanding of at least one programming language. Most important is being enthusiastic for the research project.


Assessing Nutrient Usage during Harmful Algal Blooms

Research categories:  Chemical, Environmental Science, Life Science
School/Dept.: COS
Professor: Greg Michalski
Preferred major(s): Chemistry, Biology, natural resources
Desired experience:   basic chemistry/biology lab experience

Harmful algal blooms are a serious environmental, economic, and human health issue. They occur when cyanobacteria undergo rapid growth when nutrient availability and physical conditions coincide. There rapid growth and decay can release toxic compounds that is harmful to organism including humans. The project will probe the mechanism of N uptake versus N fixation using isotope techniques. The student will collect field samples, conduct incubation experiments, and analyze chemical and isotopic tracers.


Characterization of Bubble Detachment Process

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Jun Chen
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Good GPA in Mechanical Engineering; Strong interest in fluids research and hands-on experimental work; Basics of programming (C, Matlab, or Python).

Understanding the bubble detachment is crucial for studying cavitation and other engineering applications. Our research focuses on the quantitative characterization of this fast-varying process in lab experiments. The scope of this SURF project ranges from design and assembly of the experimental set up, taking high-speed photos, and applying particle image velocimetry to measure the detailed flow field at different phases. The student will gain first-hand multidisciplinary research experience by working with a group of faculty and graduate students.


Characterization of strain localization and associated failure of structural materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, MSE, ME, CS

The research we do is building relationships between the material's microstructure and the subsequent performance of the material, in terms of fatigue, fracture, creep, delamination, corrosion, plasticity, etc. The majority of our group’s work has been on advanced alloys and composites. Both material systems have direct applications in Aerospace Engineering, as we work closely with these industries. We are looking for a motivated, hard-working student interested in research within the field of experimental mechanics of materials. The in situ experiments include advanced materials testing, using state-of-the-art 3d strain mapping. We deposit self-assembled sub-micron particles on the material’s surface and track their displacement as we deform the specimen. Coupled with characterization of the materials microstructure, we can obtain strain localization as a precursor to failure. Specific projects look at increasing the structural integrity of additive manufactured materials and increasing fidelity of lifing analysis to introduce new light weight materials into applications.


Code Optimization and GUI Development for DHM-WM Hydrologic Model

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Environmental Science
School/Dept.: ABE
Professor: Margaret Gitau
Preferred major(s): Computer Engineering, Computer Science
Desired experience:   Python, GUI design, programing, and testing

The hydrologic model DHM-WM was developed to provide spatial information on hydrologic components for determining critical pollutant source areas. The spatial details provided by the model will help in the development of precise and cost-effective watershed management solutions. A great advantage of DHM-WM is in its simplicity and the small number of parameters that require calibration. However, depending on watershed configuration and computational capacity, DHM-WM can take about 1.5 hours per simulation year this being largely due to the use of ArcGIS functions in Python scripts and the sequential algorithm used in the programing. The goal of this project is to enhance DHM-WM to enable its use by a broad range of users. Specifically to: 1) improve DHM-WM’s computational efficiency by modifying the algorithms and optimizing its code; and, 2) to provide a GUI to facilitate model use.


Continuous Analysis of Many CAMeras (CAM2)

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Yung-Hsiang Lu
Preferred major(s): ECE, CS
Desired experience:   ECE 264 or CS 240

This project develops the technologies to analyze real-time images and video streams from hundreds of cameras. The purpose is to detect anomaly (such as traffic accident) or emergency (such as a natural disaster). The participating students will learn computer vision, machine learning, computer system management.

More information:


Designing and testing vagal nerve stimulation with magnetic resonance imaging

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Zhongming Liu
Preferred major(s): Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, or Biological Sciences
Desired experience:   As in the project description, a student may work on medical device design or animal experimentation. Medical Device The responsibility is designing mechanical apparatus or electric circuits in an MRI-integrated neural stimulator. A strong candidate should have strong background or interest in analog/digital circuit design and analysis, device fabrication and testing. A student in electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering is of particular interest. Animal Experimentation The responsibility is to perform animal experiments with cutting-edging neurotechnologies including 7-Tesla small-animal MRI, multi-channel in vivo electrophysiology, simultaneous neural stimulation, recording, and imaging. The student will be trained for animal handling, injection, and surgery. A student in biological sciences or biomedical engineering is of particular interest.

Vagal nerve stimulation is a potential way to treat various diseases and promote learning. For example, electrical stimulation to the vagus may put inflammation under control, or allow animals to learn how to walk out of a maze.

The laboratory of integrated brain imaging, along with several other labs at Purdue, is designing and optimizing new stimulators for vagal nerve stimulation, and using magnetic resonance imaging to test the designed stimulators in live rodents. This research is expected to lay the technical and physiological foundation to translation of vagal nerve stimulation to humans.

Depending on her or his background, the student can participate in either device design or animal experimentation. The student is expected to also engage in collaborative research across multiple laboratories.


Developing Cost-Effective Thermoelectric Materials for Civil Infrastructure Applications

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Luna Lu

The objective of this funding request is to support one (1) undergraduate student participating in Dr. Lu’s research in developing cost effective thermoelectric (TE) materials during Summer 2017. TE materials offer great promise for energy efficient power generation in civil infrastructures, such as waste heat recovery from HVAC systems and building envelopes etc. However, current applications are significantly limited by the high cost and toxicity of existing TE materials.

The recruited undergraduate students will work directly with a PhD student and supervised by Dr. Lu. The candidate will benefit from working in an interdisciplinary research group and will be exposed to state-of-art nanofabrication and analytical tools. The specific responsibilities include synthesizing and characterization of nanomaterials and devices.

The applicant should have technical background in materials science and engineering, civil engineering, chemistry, chemical engineering or a related area. The applicant should be highly motivated, able to work in team, and have good oral and written communication skills.


Developing impurity free route to synthesize semiconducting nanoparticles for thin-film photovoltaic applications

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Rakesh Agrawal
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering

Solution processing of thin films is required for low cast fabrication of semiconducting devices which includes thermoelectric and photovoltaics devices. Solution processing will allow us to use roll-to-roll printing process for these materials which will increase not only the throughput of production but also the material utilization, which will result in cost reduction of final product. One of the ways to achieve this kind of processing involves synthesis of nanoparticles and then dispersion of those in various solvents making an ink for coating.

This Project will involve development of a new impurity free route for synthesis of semiconducting nanomaterials like Copper Indium Sulfide (CIS), Copper Indium Gallium Sulfide (CIGS) for photovoltaic applications. Current processes of synthesizing these nanoparticles have some issues associated with it which impacts the efficiencies of photovoltaic devices. So these issues will be address while developing a new route to achieve high efficiency devices.

Student working on this project will mainly focus on various reaction parameters and chemistries affecting the nanoparticle properties. He/she will be able to learn and use various material and optoelectronic characterization techniques during this project. He/she will also assist in fabricating entire photovoltaic device which ultimately will be used in measuring the performance of synthesized nanoparticles.


Effects of Aging Treatment on the Microstructure, Surface and Mechanical Properties of Food and Pharmaceutical Relevant Materials

Research categories:  Agricultural, Environmental Science, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: ABE
Professor: Teresa Carvajal
Preferred major(s): ABE, MSE, ChE, ME
Desired experience:   Physical Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Material properties such as Mechanical Stress and Response of Materials, Mohr's circles, Organic Chemistry, Polymers Statistics. Overall, very motivated student eager to innovate.

Characterization of the physicochemical, surface and mechanical properties in a wide range of soft materials (food and pharmaceuticals) will be conducted. Of interest, the environmental conditions during manufacturing and storage that could change the properties of materials leading to potential detrimental changes on the performance and quality in the food or pharmaceutical product. The study is directed to the question of what stimulates aging on the microstructures, which might contribute to stability and performance during processing. The microstructure-level controlling surface interactions will be also addressed by using various analytical tools. The bulk properties such as powder flow behavior will be characterized such that structure-property-processing relationships can be established.


Enhancing Transgene Expression and Retention by Co-delivery of DNA Vectors with Modified Histones

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Chongli Yuan
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering/Biochemistry

Conventional transgene delivery/therapy approaches currently lack the safety, efficiency and durability required for many research, industrial and/or clinical applications. Understanding how to create and maintain active gene expression will have broad-ranging impacts by facilitating transgene delivery and tailored expression in plants and animals.

The participating student with make recombinant histone proteins with defined modifications and examine their respective contributions in affect transgene expression efficiency both in short- and long term.


Estimating watershed residence times in artificially-drained landscapes and relation to nutrient concentrations

Research categories:  Environmental Science
School/Dept.: Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)
Professor: Lisa Welp
Preferred major(s): EAPS, Chemistry, Natural Resources
Desired experience:   Basic chemistry lab skills, willingness to work outdoors occasionally, and experience with R stats programing language and/or ArcGIS or desire to learn

Nutrient runoff from agricultural lands leads to Harmful Algae Blooms and eutrophication in freshwater ecosystems including the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Best Management Practices (BMPs) implemented over the last few decades aim to reduce nutrient transport to streams and rivers. Evaluations of their effectiveness have found mixed results in reducing nutrient concentrations. This could indicate that BMPs are ineffective in certain areas, or simply that the residence time of water and nutrients in the watersheds are long and the effect of BMPs won't be seen for decades. Watershed discharge is a combination of recent precipitation, soil water on the order of a year old, and decades-to-centuries old ground water, and the proportions vary with hydrology and land management resulting in a spectrum of nutrient dynamics within the same land use classification. We aim to investigate the variability in residence times of local watersheds using stable isotope tracers and radon measurements and examine the relationships with nutrient concentration variability. This work will leverage 4 years of existing water stable isotope data and 8 years of nutrient concentrations from citizen scientist collections of streams during Wabash Sampling Blitz organized by the non-profit Wabash River Enhancement Corporation (WREC). We hypothesize that isotope variability in individual watersheds is correlated with residence times.

The scope of this project proposes to analyze the Spring 2018 and Fall 2018 sampling Blitzes for stable isotopes to further constrain the isotopic variability of individual watersheds. Samples will be analyzed for δ18O and δD in the Welp lab using an LGR Triple Isotope Liquid Water Analyzer. An undergraduate student will work under the direction of Prof. Welp, technical staff, and a PhD student to analyze samples and work on statistical analysis of the expanded multi-year data record to analyze watershed isotope and nutrient variability. We will identify watersheds that exhibit particularly large and small isotopic variability and perform additional sampling visits during the summer of 2018. In cooperation with Prof. Marty Frisbee's hydrology lab, we will test streams for radon concentrations to confirm presence/absence of strong groundwater influence. Some groundwater aquifers in the area that recharged before widespread agricultural fertilization have low inorganic N concentrations, but others (typically shallower with younger mean ages) have higher concentrations of N. We will use the Blitz data and these additional observations to examine patterns in varying influence of surface and ground water discharge and sources of N to local waterways.

For more information, contact


Evaluation of the 1:2:1 Curriculum Project

Research categories:  Educational Research/Social Science, Other
School/Dept.: Chemistry and Engineering Education
Professor: George Bodner
Preferred major(s): chemistry or biochemistry

We are trying to understand the impact of a total revision of the chemistry courses taken by biology majors. Does it improve performance, attitude, retention or transfer of knowledge? Does it help students link more like a practicing biologist/chemist?


Examining Diverse Students' Experiences in Engineering and the Influence on Student Pathways

Research categories:  Educational Research/Social Science
School/Dept.: Engineering Education
Professor: Allison Godwin
Preferred major(s): Any Engineering, STEM, or Social Science
Desired experience:   Prior experience in descriptive statistics; qualitative data analysis, especially interpretive methods; or educational research preferred.

Attracting and retaining diverse engineering students is an important research focus in engineering education research. Prior literature suggests that diversity in approaches, problem solving, and ways of thinking improve innovation in engineering design more reliably than does diversity along the lines of age, race, gender, etc. However, the process of enculturating students into engineering through engineering curriculum often creates homogeneity in students’ approaches to problems, ways of thinking, and attitudes. This research project using both quantitative (i.e., national survey data of thousands of engineering students) and qualitative (i.e., interviews with students about their experiences and career plans) data to understand how students choose engineering and how their demographic (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, first-generation status, etc.) and latent diversity (e.g., attitudes, beliefs, personality, etc.) influence their pathways through engineering. The goal of this research is to develop a STEM workforce rich in talent and capable of adapting to the changing STEM landscape. Successful students will learn skills in quantitative data analysis using appropriate statistical tests, qualitative data analysis including coding of transcripts, and general research skills in asking research questions and synthesizing literature.


Experimental Characterization and Thermal Modeling of Dynamic Heat Loads on Microscale Two-Phase Cooling Systems

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Electronics, Innovative Technology/Design, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Justin Weibel
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Chemical, or Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Students interested in thermal fluids are encouraged to apply. Course work in fluid mechanics and heat transfer is highly recommended. A basic understanding of MATLAB programming is preferred.

High-performance electronic devices generate large amounts of waste heat and rely on effective cooling systems to dissipate these heat loads and maintain safe operating temperatures. Microscale two-phase cooling strategies that allow liquid coolant to boil during the heat removal process offers a promising solution. However, dynamic operation of the electronic devices can trigger two-phase flow instabilities that compromise the cooling performance; these instabilities and their effect on device operation are not well understood. In this project, a SURF student will work with a PhD student in the Cooling Technologies Research Center ( Opportunities are available for students with interests in modeling and/or experimental work. Microscale two-phase flow experiments will be used investigate the effects of various dynamic heating profiles on the flow behavior, using high-speed visualizations and other measurement techniques. Experimental data will be used to model the effect of cooling performance on electronic devices.


Experimental Optics of Quantum Emitters

Research categories:  Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Zubin Jacob
Preferred major(s): Physics or Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:   One course on electromagnetic waves. Experimental experience in machining, optics, instrument control, microcontroller programming, instrument-matlab interfaces etc. is very useful.

This project deals with understanding optical properties of quantum emitters. The undergraduate student will work in the Birck Nanotechnology Center Experimental laboratory in Quantum Optics. This work can lead to novel light sources with quantum properties beyond traditional lasers. It is expected that the student will have considerable interest in daily experimental work in understanding lenses, mirrors, aligning lasers, machine-shop 3D printing etc. etc. The interested student will work with a team of motivated PhD students and post-doctoral scholars for a productive summer. More details can be found at


Extraterrestrial Habitat Engineering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering
Professor: Shirley Dyke
Preferred major(s): ME, AAE, CE or Planetary Science
Desired experience:   Students interested in this project should have good programming skills and some experience in MATLAB and Simulink.

There is growing interest from Space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency in establishing permanent human settlements outside Earth. However, even a very cursory inspection of the proposals uncovers fatal flaws in their conceptual design. The buildings may not be able to support the load demands, which should include potential impact from meteorites and/or the seismic motions induced by such an impact, and perhaps most importantly, the materials used as cover for radiation protection may be radioactive themselves. Ongoing research interest focuses on mitigating astronauts' health and performance in space exploration and has neglected the largely unexplored needs regarding the habitat and infrastructure required on extraterrestrial bodies. Their design and sustainability represents a multidisciplinary engineering and scientific grand challenge for humanity. In a context of extreme environments, it is especially important to design buildings whether for habitation, laboratory or manufacturing, that are capable of responding to prevailing conditions not only as a protective measure, but also to enable future generations to thrive under such conditions.

Participating undergraduate researchers would be tasked to design and develop the following areas:
• a system resilience framework for analyzing, exploring and comparing the behavior and growth of various extraterrestrial habitat system designs subjected to working and extreme conditions
• an experimental platform to investigate the geological formation of sublunarean structures (lava tubes, as potential places for future habitats) and study the effect of different mechanical and geometrical parameters on the formation of the tubes in lunar conditions

We are looking for students to play key roles in this project, under the guidance of a graduate student and faculty members. The students are also expected to prepare a poster presentation on the results, and author a research paper if the desired results are achieved.

More information:


Hololens Augmented Reality based Ultrasound Imaging

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Juan Wachs
Preferred major(s): CS, ECE, ME, IE
Desired experience:   Very good programming skills. Experience in computer graphics and vision is an advantage.

The project consists of using an ultrasound on a patient simulator and observe the medical imaging on an augmented reality headset (Hololens). This information will be used for teleconsultation.


How strongly do oysters stick?

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Life Science, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: Chemistry
Professor: Jonathan Wilker

Up through the 18th century intertidal oyster reefs provided a major determinant of sea life along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Billions of shellfish aggregated into reef structures tens of meters deep and several square kilometers in area. In doing so, oysters created habitat for other species, filtered large volumes of water, and protected the coast from storms. Since the late 1800s overfishing, pollution, and disease have reduced stocks substantially. During this time oyster harvests from once-bountiful locations such as the Chesapeake Bay have declined by 98% or more. A great deal of effort is currently being invested to reintroduce oysters to their earlier habitats.

Despite the vital role played by oysters in maintaining robust coastal ecosystems, we know few details about the chemistry of how these shellfish build reefs. Furthermore, we do not even have any data telling us how strongly the animals can attach.

Work this summer will include development of a method for determining the strengths with which oysters bond to surfaces. At the end of this summer we will both have the method in hand as well as adhesion data.


Increasing Engine Thrust via Boundary-Layer Ingestion: Experiments in the High Contraction Tunnel

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Steven Schneider
Preferred major(s): AAE
Desired experience:   Experimental experience. Coursework in aerodynamics and boundary layers. Ability to take the initiative, schedule time well, and work with one advisor at a distance (Bevilaqua) and one advisor who is on travel a lot (Schneider).

A well-established method for increasing the thrust per horsepower of aircraft engines is to increase their bypass ratio, which puts the engine power into a larger mass flow of air at a lower velocity. Recently, there has been renewed interest at NASA and the major aircraft and engine companies in similarly increasing the thrust per horsepower of jet engines by ingesting the aircraft’s boundary layer. The purpose of this SURF project will be to compare these two approaches by measuring the thrust and power of two propulsion systems, one ingesting the boundary layer from a model aircraft fuselage and another ingesting free stream air. The experiment will be conducted in the low turbulence wind tunnel at the Purdue Aerospace Research Laboratories (AERO on campus maps, at the airport), which will be modified for this purpose as part of the project. The ideal candidate will have some experience designing model electric aircraft or drones, as well as a familiarity with control volume analysis of jet flows. This research project has been designed and will be performed under the guidance of Dr. Paul Bevilaqua, a Purdue graduate and retired Chief Engineer of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. Prof. Steve Schneider will assist as needed, with some help from Schneider's graduate students.


Interconnecting Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Computer Science
Professor: Aniket Kate
Preferred major(s): CS, CE
Desired experience:   Cryptography, Distributed Systems, Security/Privacy

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum have emerged as a paradigm shift for the way payment systems work today. Cryptocurrencies rely on the blockchain, a technology that has been proven useful in a vast number of applications other than monetary transactions. Many companies today are tailoring the blockchain technology to their business logic and successfully developing applications for credit settlement networks, supply chain, IoT and beyond. However, these separate efforts are leading to incompatible individual systems. This contrasts with our highly interconnected world and it is inevitable to see that soon these blockchains will need to operate with each other, effectively forming a network of blockchains where transactions can flow through a sequence of blockchains, similar how the network of networks (i.e., the Internet) works today. In this project, we will design and evaluate the tools required to move money the same way as the information moves today, therefore enabling the Internet of Value.


Metal Nanofoam Fabrication and Characterization

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Materials Engineering
Professor: David Bahr
Preferred major(s): MSE
Desired experience:   Minimum 1 year chemistry. Prefer some experience with microscopy or materials testing.

Metallic nanofoam structures (with ligament and pore diameters on the order of 100 - 400 nm) have been formed using templates formed from electrospinning. Starting with a polymer precursor, we oxidize and then reduce a non-woven fibrous mat to create a 3D metal foam. Metal foams have extremely high strength to weight ratios, we aim to increase this by creating core-shell foams (where we deposit additional metals onto the ligaments). The student on this project will be responsible for materials processing, carrying out electron microscopy to characterize the structures, electroplating the foams, and quantifying the structure of the foam. The work will be primarily experimental, and requires a working knowledge of chemistry and materials characterization tools.


Micro/nano scale 3D laser printing

Research categories:  Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Junior or Senior standing, GPA > 3.5

The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important in many fields including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering and is an emerging area of research and development. This project deals with the development and testing of a setup for building microscopic 3D structures with the help of a femtosecond laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is typically 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 helps in getting the desired shape and the structures are then built in a layer by layer fashion. The setup incorporates all the steps from a designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. In order to make a solid and stable structure, investigation of better materials and optimization of the process parameters is needed. Besides, possible improvements to the control algorithms used in the setup can be done to increase the efficiency of the process and build the structures faster.


Modeling and Measuring Lead in Residential Hot Water Heaters and Drinking Water

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Other
School/Dept.: Environmental and Ecological Engineering and Civil Engineering
Professor: Inez Hua
Preferred major(s): Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Civil Engineering with Environmental Engineering concentration
Desired experience:   Prefer student who has had previous experience in a 'wet' lab, and studying engineering applications of chemistry. Prefer student with strong academic preparation (course work) in chemistry and environmental engineering.

In recent years, the presence of lead (Pb) in US drinking water supplies has emerged as a critical human health issue. This is due to the fact that a significant portion of pipes in the distribution system and fittings within premise plumbing contain lead which can then be released into the drinking water supply. To limit lead exposure, the US EPA set a 15 μg/L action limit for lead for drinking water through the Lead and Copper rule in 19911. Over the last 20 years, two major incidents in Flint, Michigan beginning in 2014 and Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2004 have magnified this issue as lead concentrations in these cities drinking waters began to exceed regulatory limits. Lead concentrations increased in these waters due to changes in the water supply or how the water was disinfected (moving from free chlorine to chloramine use). In Indiana, similar issues regarding lead contamination are of concern since approx. 8% of large drinking water distribution networks in the state contain lead pipes4. In fact, this percentage may be even greater when considering smaller distribution networks as well. To address this problem, certain Indiana municipalities reported that lead contamination is minimized due to their high hardness waters which induce pipe scaling whereas other municipalities have corrosion inhibitors. While this may solve some of the problems, it is clear that a greater understanding is needed to evaluate how lead enters drinking waters in the distribution system and subsequently reaches tap water supplies. One major unexplored area includes our understanding of how lead is affected within residential water heating systems, which are typically found in residential buildings to supply heated water to its residents. An undergraduate researcher will work on batch and flow-through experiments to characterize lead chemistry in systems that model residential homes.


Multiphase Fluid Flows in Tight Spaces

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Ivan Christov
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Computational Science
Desired experience:   1. Thorough understanding of undergraduate fluid mechanics. 2. Programming experience with high-level language such as Python or MATLAB. 3. Experience with shell/command-line environments in Linux/Unix; specifically, remote login, file transfers, etc. 4. Experience researching difficult questions whose answers are not found in a textbook. 5. Desire to learn about new fluid mechanics phenomena and expand computational skillset.

Multiphase flows are fluid flows involving multiple fluids, multiple phases of the same fluid, and any situation in which the dynamics of an interface between dissimilar fluids must be understood. Examples include water displacing hydrocarbons in secondary oil recovery, a mixtures of particle-laden fluids being injected into a hydraulically fractured reservoirs ("fracking"), introduction of air into the lungs of pre-maturely born infants to re-open their liquid-filled lungs and airways, and a whole host of other physico-chemical processes in biological and industrial applications.

The goal of this SURF project will be to study, using computational tools such as ANSYS Workbench and/or the OpenFOAM platform, how multiphase flows behave in tight spaces. To accomplish this goal, the SURF student will work with a PhD student. Specifically the dynamics of interfaces between different phases and/or fluids will be studied through numerical simulation, and the effect of the flow passage geometry will be addressed. Some questions that we seek to address are whether/how geometric variations can stabilize or destabilize an interface and whether/how geometry affects the final distribution of particles in particle-laden multiphase flow passing through a constriction/expansion. Applications of these effects to biological and industrial flows will be explored quantitatively and qualitatively.

More information:


Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) / nanoHUB

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Other
Professor: NCN Faculty
Preferred major(s): Electrical, Computer, Materials, Chemical or Mechanical Engineering; Chemistry; Physics; Computer Science; Math
Desired experience:   Serious interest in and enjoyment of programming; programming skills in any language. Physics coursework.

NCN is looking for a diverse group of enthusiastic and qualified students with a strong background in engineering, chemistry or physics who can also code in at least one language (such as Python, C or MATLAB) to work on research projects that involve computational simulations. Selected students will typically work with a graduate student mentor and faculty advisor to create or improve a simulation tool that will be deployed on nanoHUB. Faculty advisors come from a wide range of departments: ECE, ME, Civil E, ChemE, MSE, Nuclear E, Chemistry and Math, and projects may be multidisciplinary. To learn about this year’s research projects along with their preferred majors and requirements, please go to the website noted below.

If you are interested in working on a nanoHUB project in SURF, you will need to follow the instructions below. Be sure you talk about specific NCN projects directly on your SURF application, using the text box for projects that most interest you.

1) Carefully read the NCN project descriptions (website available below) and select which project(s) you are most interested in and qualified for. It pays to do a little homework to prepare your application.

2) Select the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) / nanoHUB as one of your top choices.

3) In the text box for Essay #2, where you describe your specific research interests, qualifications, and relevant experience, you may discuss up to three NCN projects that most interest you. Please rank your NCN project choices in order of interest. For each project, specify the last name of the faculty advisor, the project, why you are interested in the project, and how you meet the required skill and coursework requirements.

For more information and examples of previous research projects and student work, click on the link below.


Neural coding of an auditory pitch illusion

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Mark Sayles
Preferred major(s): Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience
Desired experience:   MATLAB experience would be helpful but not required Experience handling small animals would be helpful but not required Interest in music would be a bonus!

Vocal communication, musical melody recognition, and the perceptual organization of our acoustic environment into meaningful “auditory objects” relies on the accurate neural coding of pitch. Despite many neurophysiological studies characterizing the neural representation of pitch-evoking sounds in the auditory periphery, there is no single unifying theory to explain all (or even most) pitch phenomena.

Most pitch-evoking sounds used in neurophysiological studies have been those which produce a very strong salient pitch percept when presented to one ear alone (monaurally). However, there is an additional class of pitch-evoking sounds, for which a pitch emerges only when sound is presented to both ears (binaurally). When listening to either ear alone, the sound has no pitch, and is simply broadband noise. These “binaural pitch” phenomena can be considered an “auditory illusion,” somewhat akin to the visual illusion of “magic eye” images.

We propose that binaural pitch phenomena offer an important clue regarding the neural basis of pitch in general. It is likely that all pitch phenomena involve the neural circuitry for binaural hearing. In the brainstem neurophysiology laboratory we have a unique capability to record from binaurally sensitive brainstem neurons. This project will involve characterizing the neural representation of binaural pitch in the patterns of spikes from brainstem neurons in anesthetized mammals. Students will perform in-vivo neurophysiological experiments to record spikes from single neurons, and analyze data using MATLAB. This project will be particularly appealing for students with an interest in the relationship between neuroscience, music and mathematics.


Neural mechanisms of hearing in noisy environments

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Life Science
School/Dept.: BME/SLHS
Professor: Mark Sayles
Preferred major(s): Biology, Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:   MATLAB would be a bonus, but is not required. Animal research experience would be a bonus, but is not required.

Listening in noisy environments can be challenging. The mammalian auditory system uses neural mechanisms involving tightly synchronized activity between the two ears to detect micro-second differences in timing between the two ears which can be used to boost the signal-to-noise ratio of auditory representations in the brain ("binaural hearing"). People with even mild hearing loss appear unable to take full advantage of these neural mechanisms, and therefore suffer disproportionately in noisy places. The reasons for this are unknown.

We hypothesize that normal binaural hearing requires a specific pattern of cochlear inputs to binaural brainstem neurons, and that hearing loss alters this pattern - resulting in an inability to use binaural information to de-noise important sounds such as speech. In this project, students will record activity from binaural neurons in the brainstem of small mammals (some with normal hearing, and some with hearing impairment), and quantify the ability of those neurons to de-noise acoustic signals presented in background noise. This will involve animal work. Experience with MATLAB would be beneficial, but is not required.


Preparative and Imaging Mass Spectrometry

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemistry
Professor: Julia Laskin
Preferred major(s): Chemistry or Chemical Engineering
Desired experience:   Analytical chemistry with labs, physical chemistry with labs

Two projects are available in my laboratory. The first project is focused on the development of preparative mass spectrometry as a tool for the controlled synthesis of layered thin films and doping 3D materials with cluster ions. This project addresses fundamental challenges related to the development of new materials for energy conversion and storage. the second project is focused on the development of mass spectrometry imaging for quantitative mapping of numerous compounds in biological samples.


Production of essential aromatic amino acids from cyanobacteria

Research categories:  Chemical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: John Morgan
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering
Desired experience:   CHE 205, CHE 348

The amino acids phenylalanine and tryptophan are valuable as feed additives. Currently they are produced from microbial fermentations from sugar. We are examining their direct photosynthetic production in cyanobacteria. Previously, our group has generated cyanobacterial strains that produce the amino acids. This project is do find the growth conditions that are optimal for maximizing amino acid production. The student will grow the cyanobacteria, measure the production of amino acids, and mathematically model to determine optimal conditions for high productivity.


Purdue AirSense: An Air Pollution Sensing Network for West Lafayette

Research categories:  Agricultural, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Brandon Boor
Preferred major(s): The position is open to students from all STEM disciplines.
Desired experience:   Proficient in Python, Java, MATLAB; experience with Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the world and responsible for 7 million deaths each year. We are presently developing a new air pollution sensing network for the Purdue campus to monitor and analyze air pollutants in real-time. We are recruiting an undergraduate student to assist with the development of our Raspberry Pi-based air quality sensor module. You will be responsible for integrating the Raspberry Pi with air quality sensors, developing laboratory calibration protocols, building an environmental enclosure for the sensors, creating modules on our website for real-time data analysis and visualization, and maintaining state-of-the-art aerosol instrumentation at our central air quality monitoring site at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE).


Remote sensing of soil moisture using P-band Signals of Opportunity: Model development and experimental validation.

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): ECE, Physics, Geophysics, With appropriate coursework: AAE, ABE, Civil, Geomatics,
Desired experience:   Signal processing; Programming: C, Python, MATLAB; Electronic hardware experience preferred; Drivers license and access to car required.

Root Zone Soil Moisture (RZSM), defined as the water profile in the top meter of soil where most plant absorption occurs, is an important environmental variable for understanding the global water cycle, forecasting droughts and floods, and agricultural management. No existing satellite remote sensing instrument can measure RZSM. Sensing below the top few centimeters of soil requires the use of microwave frequencies below 500 MHz, a frequency range known as “P-band”. A P-band microwave radiometer would require an aperture diameter larger than 10 meters. Launching such a satellite into orbit will present big and expensive technical challenge, certainly not feasible for a low-cost small satellite mission. This range for frequencies is also heavily utilized for UHF/VHF communications, presenting an enormous amount of radio frequency interference (RFI). Competition for access to this spectrum also makes it difficult to obtain the required license to use active radar for scientific use.

Signals of opportunity (SoOp) are being studied as alternatives to active radars or passive radiometry. SoOp re-utilizes existing powerful communication satellite transmissions as “free” sources of illumination, measuring the change in the signal after reflecting from soil surface. In this manner, SoOp methods actually make use of the very same transmissions that would cause interference in traditional microwave remote sensing. Communication signal processing methods are used in SoOp, enabling high quality measurements to be obtained with smaller, lower gain, antennas.

Under NASA funding, Purdue and the Goddard Space Flight Center have developed an airborne prototype P-band remote sensing instrument to demonstrate the feasibility of a future satellite version. Complementing this technology development, a field campaign in the Purdue Agricultural research fields is being planned. This campaign will make reflected signal measurements from towers installed over instrumented fields. Measurements will be obtained over bare soil first, and then throughout the corn or soybean growth cycle. Complementing these remote sensing measurements, a comprehensive set of ground-truth data will also be collected for use in developing models and verifying their performance.

Work under this project will involve installing microwave electronic equipment in the field, writing software for signal and data processing, and making field measurements of soil moisture and vegetation properties.

Students interested in this project should have good programming skills and some experience with C, python and MATLAB. They should also have a strong background in basic signal processing. Experience with building computers or other electronic equipment will also be an advantage. Preference will be given to students who have an interest in applying their skills to solving problems in the Earth sciences, environment, or agriculture.

NOTE: The project will involve regular travel to and from the local research field, so students should have a drivers license and reliable access to a car.


Restructuring computer systems software for the IoT era

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: ECE
Professor: Felix Lin
Preferred major(s): Any -- as long as you are interested in computing
Desired experience:   Strong passion in programming and hacking

While the mobile computers are still flourishing, we are quickly embracing a variety of new computing platforms, such as wearable devices, IoT, and augmentation reality headsets. These platforms challenge multiple fundamental assumptions made by today’s system software. In this project, you will involve in redefining the operating systems (OS) for these computing platforms so they can be smarter, faster and cooler.

This project will give you a lot of fun in hacking of OS, hypervisor, and various modern hardware.


Role of Microbial Motility in Degradation of Dispersed Oil

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Life Science, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Arezoo Ardekani
Preferred major(s): Biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, biology, environmental engineering
Desired experience:   bacteria/cell culture laboratory and/or transport phenomena and/or microfluidic experiments

Microbial biodegradation processes play an important role in reducing the harmful
effects of a marine oil spill. The fate and transport of spilled hydrocarbons in the ocean depends on a combination of nonlinear effects such as environmental factors, ocean flows, chemical and physical properties of the crude oil, and the distribution of the oil-degrading microbial community. The over-arching goal of this research project is to quantify the role of motility of marine bacteria in the initial stage in biodegradation of oil through experiments and/or computational modeling.


Seismic Design of Aboveground Storage Tanks

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Sukru Guzey
Preferred major(s): Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Statics (CE 297 or similar), Dynamics (CE 298 or similar), Mechanics of Materials (Strength of materials) (CE 270 or similar)

Cylindrical steel storage tanks are essential parts of infrastructure and industrial facilities used to store liquids. There are millions of welded steel tanks in the world storing flammable and or hazardous liquids in the petroleum, petrochemical, chemical and food industries across the world. Mechanical integrity and safe operation of these tanks very important because failure or loss of containment of such tanks may have catastrophic consequences to the human life and the environment. There are many procedures given in design standards to withstand the possible load effects, such as the hydrostatic pressure of the stored liquid, the external wind pressure, internal and external pressures due to process, and seismic events.

Investigators have a relatively well understanding on the load effects due to the hydrostatic, wind, and external/internal pressures due to process during normal operating levels. However, behavior of large, aboveground, steel, welded, liquid storage tanks under the presence of seismic loads introduce several critical failure criteria to the structure not exhibited during normal operating levels. Although many researchers investigated the liquid containers under dynamic excitations, the research on this subject still active. The bottleneck of this research topic is the intricate interplay between the flexible thin-walled tank wall and bottom, liquid inside the container, and the reinforced concrete or soil foundation supporting the container. Although, are many relatively recent research efforts, there is still a gap to find a viable solution to this problem.

To address this gap, the aim of this work is to perform a study on seismic design of aboveground storage tanks. Dr. Guzey with a team of one doctoral student and one undergraduate SURF student, shall perform analytical and numerical studies to study the behavior of liquid containers under dynamics excitations. We shall conduct numerical experiments using different levels of complexity and fidelity of multi-physics of these containers and compare the results to available analytical solutions, physical tests and current design standards. The undergraduate SURF student will work under the mentorship of Dr. Guzey and a graduate student. The SURF student compile a literature review, perform numerical simulations using FEA computer program ABAQUS, and write scientific research papers and conference presentations.


Self-Learning Mobile Hydraulic Equipment

Research categories:  Agricultural, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Educational Research/Social Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Agricultural & Biological Engineering/Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Monika Ivantysynova
Desired experience:   Senior, MATLAB, statistics, Excel, proficiency in presentation skill, and a basic understanding of instrumentation. A knowledge in hydraulics is a plus.

Failures rarely occur at convenient times, especially on mobile equipment, such as excavators, tree skidders, agricultural tractors, mining equipment, airplanes, etc. Hydraulic failures in the field often cause costly repairs that also result in significant machine downtime. The failures can potentially be life-threatening. Manufacturers and equipment operators desire a solution to predict failures before they occur. This area of research is known as prognostics. The machine compares real-time data and stored data to determine the “health” of the hydraulic pumps and motors. The SURF student would assist the graduate student mentor in collecting machine data from mobile hydraulic machines and create an algorithm to determine the “healthy” state of the hydraulic pumps and motors. Data analysis, data clustering, and machine self-learning are topics that will be used in this research.

Please note: Research lab location is in Lafayette. Student is responsible for their own transportation.


Stochastic Storm Generation of Storms and Their Inner Structure

Research categories:  Agricultural, Civil and Construction, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Environmental Science
School/Dept.: Agricultural & Biological Engineering
Professor: Bernie Engel
Preferred major(s): Agricultural engineering, environmental engineering, computer science

Advanced field and watershed scale hydrologic models for engineering design, soil erosion, land use planning, and global-change research require detailed continuous temporal and spatial inputs of precipitation to execute the hydrologic processes integrated into their formulations. Accurate estimates of processes such as infiltration, runoff routing, and water quality algorithms need precipitation values on the order of minutes apart. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects 15-min time increment precipitation data in ~2000 locations. However, observed precipitation is yet rarely available in many sites and lack spatial coverage. In ongoing research, a stochastic storm generator developed at Purdue University allows generating storm characteristics such as inter-event time, duration, and volume, as well as within-storm intensities using the available 15-min resolution data. The current project proposes to extend the application of the current version of the storm generator from a single station to a more detailed network of meteorological stations. The final goal seeks to perform a test of available interpolation method between the statistical parameters defining the available locations so that time series of precipitation data in ungauged areas can be generated.


1. Collect short-time increment precipitation from NOAA and other sources. The SURF student will learn how to search available precipitation data available in the different agencies.
2. Organize and run a clean-up data analysis. The SURF student will deal with different files containing precipitation data and formats as well as its spatial representation by GIS tools.
3. Identify independent storms over the time period. The SURF student will be able to learn how to run Python, MATLAB, and R scripts and to understand the concepts defining independent rainfall events.
4. Fit storm characteristics (time between storms, duration, and volume) to a suitable storm distribution. The SURF student will be able to perform statistical distribution fitting and how to measure the goodness of fit of the available procedure in the storm generator.
5. Generate correlated storm characteristics by Monte Carlo numerical simulation implemented in a stochastic storm generator develop at the National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory (NSERL). The SURF student will experience the use of complex mathematical algorithms incorporated into the storm generator.
6. Characterize storm patterns of the observed storms.
7. Identify representative patterns of storms by cluster analysis over the storm patterns data. The SURF student will explore the concept of machine learning and cluster analysis.
8. Generate storms patterns by Monte Carlo numerical simulation also implemented in a stochastic storm generator develop at the NSERL. The SURF student will continue experiencing the use of complex mathematical algorithms incorporated into the storm generator.
9. Propose an interpolation method of the storm parameters between the stations previously analyzed. The SURF student will apply available spatial interpolation methods in precipitation statistical parameters.


Structure and Function of Signaling Proteins involved in Cancer and Heart Failure

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical
School/Dept.: Biological Sciences
Professor: John Tesmer
Preferred major(s): Biochemistry, Biology, or Chemistry
Desired experience:   Organic and Biochemistry lab experience preferred.

There are two possible projects:

1) Structure and function of P-Rex1, a driver of metastasis

P-Rex1 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for Rho GTPases. Rho GTPases are small G proteins which exist in inactive (GDP bound) or active (GTP bound) forms. They regulate cell migration, cell proliferation and transcription etc. Both Rho GTPases and P-Rex1 are over-expressed in different cancers and hence are important targets for chemotherapy. P-Rex1 is different from other RhoGEFs in that it is synergistically activated by the heterotrimeric G protein βγ subunits (Gβγ) and a phospholipid, PIP3. We are interested to find out how binding of Gβγ and PIP3 activate P-Rex1. Our strategy is to express and purify different P-Rex1 domains and the Rho GTPase Rac1 from E. coli and Gβγ from insect cells. We will then try to form stable complexes of Gβγ and IP4 with P-Rex1 and Rac1. This will be followed up by attempts to crystallize these complexes with the long term goal of obtaining an atomic structure.

The student will be involved in expression and purification of P-Rex1 and Rac1 proteins from E. coli. The protein purification methods involves different chromatography techniques, most common being affinity and size exclusion. This lab experience will help the student to understand how recombinant proteins are expressed and principles of protein purification and crystallization.
Overall picture of the project: The proteins purified by the student will be used for the structure determination of the complex which will give insight into how P-Rex1 is regulated.

2) Elucidation of the membrane binding mechanism of a receptor kinase

G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK) phosphorylates activated GPCRs on the cell surface. Different phosphorylation patterns of the receptor turn on distinct downstream pathways and lead to various functional outcomes. Therefore, GRK mediated receptor phosphorylation plays important roles in dictating the downstream pathway of receptor signaling. One critical step in the phosphorylation process is the association of GRKs with the cell membrane. Previous studies revealed that GRK5 contains specific binding sites for phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2). PIP2 anchors GRK5 to the membrane and facilitates its interaction with the receptor. The main goal of this project is to determine an atomic structure of GRK5 in complex with PIP2. Molecular details of how GRK5 orientates itself towards the cell membrane and how GRK5 changes its shape when in contact with PIP2 will help elucidate the molecular mechanism of GRK5 mediated receptor phosphorylation.

The SURF student will work with a postdoctoral fellow in the lab and learn protein purification and high-throughput crystal screening, and if sufficient progress is obtained crystal condition optimization and X-ray diffraction data collection.


Supernova Forensics

Research categories:  Physical Science
School/Dept.: Physics and Astronomy
Professor: Danny Milisavljevic
Preferred major(s): Physics or Astronomy

I'm seeking a motivated and enthusiastic student to join my team of supernova sleuths investigating the catastrophic deaths of massive stars. Our comprehensive multi-wavelength, multi-phase approach of reverse engineering supernovae is unraveling the complicated final stages of stellar evolution, and providing exciting new ways to understand how stars explode and evolve into remnants that seed interstellar space with the raw materials needed for stars, planets -- and potentially life. The successful student will acquire an interdisciplinary, widely applicable skill set analyzing data obtained by premier space-borne and ground-based facilities (including the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the 6.5m Magellan and MMT telescopes) through research that will contribute towards the three-dimensional reconstruction of supernova explosions.

More information:


Surface Enhancement using Severe Plastic Deformation

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Innovative Technology/Design, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Materials Engineering
Professor: David Bahr
Preferred major(s): MSE, ME, or AAE
Desired experience:   Mechanical behavior courses, mechanical testing laboratory experience.

Modifying the surface of metals using shot peening, burnishing, and other plastic deformation processing is common in industry. However, we have limited ability to predict performance of how shot peened materials change properties due to complex interactions between residual stresses and microstructural changes. This project, tied to an industrial consortium, will focus on developing a combined model that predicts both recrystallization and residual stresses using a combination of experimental measurements and predictive computational models in common engineering alloys. The student will gain experience in preparing samples for metallographic inspection, performing hardness testing and optical microscopy, and using basic finite element simulations.


Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change

Research categories:  Environmental Science
School/Dept.: EAPS
Professor: Matthew Huber
Desired experience:   Quantitative skills, preferable with a background in physics and programming. Some knowledge of broader environmental issues important and atmospheric/ocean/hydrological systems desirable.

Various research projects are available on the Indo-Asian monsoon, the urban heat island effect, land-use change, human heat stress, and agricultural impacts of climate change. Research will involve computer modeling and data analysis. Familiarity with linux/unix and some program is required. Most projects will focus on tropical regions and developing nations.


The ecology of infectious disease in freshwater systems

Research categories:  Life Science
School/Dept.: Department of Biological Sciences
Professor: Catherine Searle
Preferred major(s): Biological sciences or similar field
Desired experience:   Basic laboratory techniques including pipetting, dilutions, and sterile technique are desired. A basic understanding of major ecological concepts is also desired (e.g., BIOL 28600).

The Searle lab primarily studies the ecology of infectious disease in freshwater systems. We aim to understand how changes to natural communities (e.g., the loss or gain of species) impact disease risk in these systems. During the summer, we will be performing multiple studies including 1. experiments to understand the effects of eutrophication on the susceptibility of zooplankton to disease, 2. surveys and experiments to quantify the effects of invasive zooplankton on epidemics in native species, and 3. field surveys of amphibian disease. The student will work closely with the Searle lab’s technician and/or graduate students to develop their own project within one of these research themes. Exact projects will be determined based on the interests of the student.


Thermal Conduction in Heterogeneous Media

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Chemical, or Materials Engineering
Desired experience:   Courses in heat transfer and/or fluid mechanics, experience in the machine shop, and experience with Matlab is advantageous

The operating temperature of commercial grade electronic chips used in laptops, modems/routers, gaming consoles, hand-held devices such as smartphones, tablets, and supercomputers can reach dangerous levels (>80 C) as computing tasks intensify. If unchecked, this can lead to material degradation and hamper the performance of the device. Thermal interface materials (TIMs) are used for efficient heat dissipation from junction to ambient in such devices as contact thermal resistances impede efficient heat conduction to the outer surface, to be dissipated to the surroundings. Examples of different types of TIMs are pastes/grease, gels, pads, metallic TIMs, phase change materials and thermal adhesive tapes. Thermal pastes contain high conductivity filler particles in a polymer matrix. Prior research has explored filler particle chemistry (e.g., ceramic, metal, carbon black), morphology, filler loading or volume fraction, state of dispersion and fabrication strategies (i.e., functionalization, particle alignment, self-assembly) to fully exploit the high conductivity property of the microscopic filler and the highest reported value is in the range of 5-10 W/m-K.

Industry grade thermal pastes generally contain high loading of particles in the polymer matrix. Beyond a certain loading known as the percolation threshold, thermal conductivity is known to increase and to evaluate this enhancement, an experimental study involving cylindrical particles-filled epoxy is proposed. Effective thermal conductivity of different types of particle arrangements, up to the percolation threshold, will be measured using an infrared (IR) microscope. Conduction patterns in the different arrangements will be assessed for better thermal management. For the purpose, a rig that can hold the particle-epoxy medium needs to be fabricated. Additionally, novel experimental rig designs may be required depending on the specific choice of materials for various arrangements of the particles within the epoxy.


Using Vesicular Dispersions for Stabilizing Suspensions of Dense Particles Against Sedimentation

Research categories:  Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: David Corti
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials
Desired experience:   Thermodynamics and Physical Chemistry

For many applications of colloidal dispersions or suspensions, such as inks and paints, the dispersed particles must remain suspended for long times, to maintain their expected performance. While this is often accomplished by preventing the agglomeration (sticking together) of the particles, which remain suspended by Brownian motion, the dense particles that are often used in some inks, may still settle rapidly even if they are prevented from agglomerating. We previously developed a general method for preventing dense particles from settling by using close-packed vesicular dispersions of the double-chain surfactant DDAB (didodecyldimethyl-ammonium bromide). In this project, the SURF student will help investigate the ability of DDAB vesicles prepared at different salt concentrations to stabilize high density particles. In addition, the student will help study the thermophysical properties and phase behavior of DDAB solutions as a function of the salt concentration. Working with a Ph.D. candidate, who specializes in this area, the student will learn various experimental techniques for characterizing colloidal and vesicular dispersions, including densitometry and polarizing light microscopy. The student should have a good understanding of basic Thermodynamics and physical chemistry.


Virtual Reality Robotic Model using Gaming Technologies

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Juan Wachs
Preferred major(s): ECE, CS
Desired experience:   Very good programming skills

The student will have to develop an environment that can be visualized with the VIBE wearable headset and in which he can control a virtual and real robot to grasp objects and move around the environment.