Research Projects

Projects for 2017 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 2016 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:

Aerospace Engineering


Advanced characterization of persistent slip bands in fatigued Ni-based superalloys

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: MSE
Professor: Michael Titus
Preferred major(s): MSE
Desired experience:   Basic knowledge of: crystallography, dislocations, fatigue in metals, electron microscopy (not required, but appreciated)
Number of positions: 1

The student will use scanning electron microscopy in combination with electron channeling contrast imaging to characterize dislocations and persistent slip bands in fatigued Ni-based superalloys. The student will gain hands on experience using state-of-the art electron microscopy equipment. No prior experience is necessary but is appreciated.


Cylindrical shells based phase transforming cellular materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Civil, ME, AAE Engineering
Desired experience:   Mechanics of Materials and Structures, CAD, Matlab/Phyton/C (some coding required)
Number of positions: 1

Active materials like shape memory, ferroelectric and magnetostrictive alloys obtain their characteristic properties due to phase transformations. In these materials, phase transformations occur by changing the packing arrangement of the atoms in a process that resembles multistable mechanisms switching between stable configurations. A similar behavior has been observed in folded proteins in which a change in configuration (e.g. from folded to unfolded) provides the mechanism through which biological materials obtain remarkable properties such as combinations of strength and toughness, superelasticity and shock energy dissipation, among others. Phase transformations can be extended to cellular materials by introducing materials whose unit cells have multiple stable configurations. Each stable configuration of the unit cell corresponds to a phase, and transitions between these phases are interpreted as phase transformations for the material. It has been demonstrated that phase transforming cellular materials (PXCMs) offer innovative advantages for energy dissipation without relying in the inelastic behavior of its base material making PXCMs attractive for many applications like: automobiles, protective gear, or buildings.

In this project we propose to develop a new type of PXCMs based on cylindrical shells. The new PXCMs will be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) modeling software and fabricated using a 3D printer in combination with other fabrication techniques. Compression and tension tests will be conducted on testing machines to evaluate the performance of these new PXCMs. The test results will then be analyzed using scripts in any number of computer languages (e.g. MATLAB, Python, or C).


Developing the high-speed noninvasive thermometry of reactive flows based on coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Mikhail Slipchenko
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, Physics, Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Acquiring the temperature information at high-speed on the order of 100s kHz is critical to understand the energy release and coupling to acoustic modes in hypersonic reacting flows. The undergraduate research assistant will be involved in development of the state-of-the-art laser system under supervision of the graduate research assistant and research faculty involving hands-on experience with aligning optical systems and generating complicated time sequences to operate the high-speed camera acquisition system. The undergraduate research assistant will gain unique experience in optics as well as participate in data acquisition and data analysis with potential high impact publication as the results. Such lab experience will help to establish research interest and motivate undergraduate research assistant to continue academic carrier.


Extraterrestrial Habitat Engineering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: ME and CE
Professor: Shirley Dyke
Preferred major(s): CE, ME, AAE or Planetary Science
Number of positions: 1-2

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 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:
- design and build a prototype habitat for a permanent human settlement on the Moon as a preliminary proof of concept.
- develop concept experiments to assess critical issues such as the challenge of pressurizing rock openings or for a cavern to survive a meteorite impact.

Construction, assembly and experimentation will be done in the laboratory, using Purdue's expertise in the emerging field of real-time hybrid simulation (RTHS). RTHS uses sub-structuring, feedback control and real-time parallel computing to break a complex system into several computational and physical subsystems, realistically allowing testing of systems that are too large to fit in a laboratory.

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.


Heterogeneous Deformation and Strain Localization as a Precursor to Failure in Aerospace Materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, MSE, ME, CS
Number of positions: 1

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.


Internal gear pumps: advanced modeling and experimental validation

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Ag & Bio Eng. / Mech. Eng.
Professor: Andrea Vacca
Preferred major(s): AA / ECE / ME / ABE
Desired experience:   Fluid mechanics (required). Hydraulic control systems (preferred). Knowledge of C++ ; LabVIEW, CAD modeling
Number of positions: 1

The Purdue's Maha Fluid Power Research Center is the largest academic research lab in fluid power in the nation. During the last years, the research center is particularly dedicated in advancing the technology of positive displacement pumps, to achieve units more compact and energy efficient. This project particularly aims at improving the performance of Gerotor units. Gerotor units are particularly successive in automotive (as transmission or fuel injection pumps) and in fluid power (charge pumps). In this project, the student will join a team of graduate students to assist the development of CFD based fluid structure interaction models for the simulation of the gerotor units. During Summer 2016, a novel test rig will be developed at Purdue for the model validation. The student will also contribute developing the test rig and its data acquisition system.


Laser Diagnostics Applied to Reacting Fluid Flows for Propulsion Devices

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Terry Meyer
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, or Chemical Engineering; Physics; Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics, chemistry, and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Propulsion, transportation, and energy systems rely on the turbulent mixing and efficient chemical reaction of fuels and oxidizers. Such reactions can take place in the liquid, gas, or solid phases and are investigated using sophisticated imaging and spectroscopic techniques. The undergraduate research assistant will work with graduate students and research faculty to assemble and operate flow hardware, align and test optical diagnostic instrumentation, and help collect and analyze data acquired using such techniques. The flows are designed to simulate conditions that are present in a variety of practical devices. The student will gain valuable hands-on experience and theoretical background that will be of use in a variety of fields related to mechanical, aerospace, and chemical engineering, as well as gain insight into potential areas of research for graduate study.


Lyophilization Research

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Life Science, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Alina Alexeenko
Preferred major(s): Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and other Engineering majors; Math/CS, Physics
Number of positions: 1-2

Freeze-drying, also called lyophilization, is widely used in manufacturing of injectable pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotech products, chemical reagents, food and probiotic cultures. The research during the summer undergraduate project will involve experimental studies of novel lyoprotectants and/or computational modeling of heat and mass transfer in R&D lyophilizes. The summer undergraduate researcher will be involved in developing research methods as well as collecting and analyzing data.

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Purdue AirSense: Creating a State-of-the-Art Air Pollution Monitoring Network for Purdue

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Educational Research/Social Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Industrial Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Life Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Brandon Boor
Preferred major(s): Any engineering, science or human health major.
Desired experience:   Motivation to learn about, and solve, environmental, climate, and human health issues facing our planet. Past experience: working in the lab, analytical chemistry, programming (Matlab, Python, Java, LabVIEW, HTML), electronics/circuits, sensors.
Number of positions: 1-2

Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the world and responsible for 7 million deaths each year. Poor air quality is a serious issue in rapidly growing megacities and inside the homes of nearly 3 billion people that rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating. Join our team and help create a new, multidisciplinary air quality monitoring network for Purdue - Purdue AirSense. You will have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art air quality instrumentation and emerging sensor technologies to monitor O3, CO, NOx, and tiny airborne particulate matter across the campus. We are creating a central site to track these pollutants in real-time on the roof-top of Hampton Hall, as well as a website to stream the data to the entire Purdue community for free. 4-5 students will be recruited to work as a team on this project, which is led by Profs. Brandon Boor (CE) & Greg Michalski (EAPS).


Structural Stability of Cylindrical Steel Storage Tanks

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Sukru Guzey
Preferred major(s): Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering
Desired experience:   Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Structural Analysis
Number of positions: 1

Cylindrical steel storage tanks are essential parts of infrastructure and industrial facilities used to store liquids and granular bulk solids. 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. Failure of a tank may cause catastrophic consequences.

The internal hydrostatic pressure due to the stored liquid results in tensile circumferential stress in the steel plates forming the shell. Because the resultant circumferential stress is tension and not compression, the yielding and tensile rupture criteria are the main concern. Analysis and design principles to account tensile stresses due to hydrostatic pressure is well established (Azzuni and Guzey 2015).

External wind pressure is also a load effect for the design of cylindrical storage tanks. When a tank is empty, it is vulnerable to buckling due to external wind pressure. This buckling failure mode is addressed by increasing the overall stiffness of the structure by adding stiffener rings to the shell. However, current design specifications in North America and Europe are overly conservative for the sizing of the stiffener rings (Godoy, 2016). The current design rules for sizing the top stiffener ring is based on intuition and experience. Although some researchers suggested some analytical justifications (Adams, 1975), these justifications are based on a number of assumptions which are based on the yielding criteria of the stiffener ring and not the buckling criteria.

In this study we shall investigate analytical, semi-analytical and computational procedures to obtain a more robust and resilient design of cylindrical storage tanks due to external wind loading. We shall use classical thin shell theory to obtain an upper bound buckling capacity of cylindrical tanks under wind loading. We shall use Raleigh-Ritz methods to obtain a simple semi-analytical buckling expressions. In addition, we shall investigate the storage tanks using finite element analysis with the use of geometrically nonlinear analysis including imperfections (GNIA). With the GNIA we shall establish a lower bound buckling capacity of these tanks. Finally, we shall compare our results with the available experimental physical testing of the cylindrical tanks and suggest a new design procedure. 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.

Azzuni, E. and S. Guzey (2015). "Comparison of the shell design methods for cylindrical liquid storage tanks." Engineering Structures 101: 621-630.
L. A. Godoy (2016). "Buckling of vertical oil storage steel tanks: Review of static buckling studies." Thin-Walled Structures, 103: 1-21.
J. H. Adams (1975). "A study of wind girder requirements for large API 650 floating roof tanks." Refining, 40th mid-year meeting, American Petroleum Institute, 16-75.


Wideband GNSS Reflectometry Instrument Design and Signal Processing for Airborne Remote Sensing of Ocean Winds.

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): Electrical Engineering, Physics
Desired experience:   Linear Systems, Signal processing, computer programming (C, Python, MATLAB). Some experience building computers or electronics is desirable. A basic understanding of electromagnetism is also desirable.
Number of positions: 1

This research project will involve the assembly and test a remote sensing instrument to make measurements of the ocean wind field from the NOAA “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft. The fundamental operating principle of this new instrument is “reflectometry”, which is based upon observing changes in the structure of a radio frequency signal reflected from the ocean surface. These changes are related to the air-sea interaction process on the ocean surface and can be used to estimate the wind speed through empirical models. Transmissions from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), (e.g. GPS, Galileo, Glonass or Compass) are ideal signal sources for reflectometry, due to their use of a “pseudorandom noise” (RRN) code.

NASA will be launching the CYGNSS satellite constellation in November to globally monitor the tropical ocean and observe the formation of severe storms. CYGNSS will use a first generation GNSS-R instrument. This summer research project will produce a next-generation prototype taking advantage of the wider bandwidth of the Galileo E5 signal (~90 MHz vs. 2 MHz) for higher resolution measurements of the reflected signal.

In addition to hardware assembly and testing in the laboratory, this research project will also require the development of signal processing algorithms to extract essential information from the scattered signal. A “software defined radio” approach will be used, in which the full spectrum of the reflected signal is recorded and post-processed using software to implement the complete signal processing chain.

The goal of this summer research project is to deliver a working instrument, post processing software, and documentation to NOAA for flight on the hurricane aircraft during the 2017 hurricane season. There are two objectives of this experiment. The first is to demonstrate the feasibility of wideband E5 reflectometry measurements. The second objective is to collect the highest quality GNSS reflectometry data, under a wide variety of extreme meteorological conditions, to improve the empirical models that will be used for processing CYGNSS data and generating hurricane forecasts.

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.

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