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:



Assessing Mineral-Organic Matter Interactions in Soil using Pyrolysis Mass Spectrometry

Research categories:  Agricultural, Environmental Science
School/Dept.: Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Professor: Timothy Filley
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering, Agronomy, EAPS, Biology
Desired experience:   Chemistry, Soil Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry
Number of positions: 1-2

This project is part of the National Science Foundation funded Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory (IML-CZO). This particular subproject is an effort to identify some of the fundamental controls in the fate of plant, microbial, and incompletely burned (i.e. black carbon) in shallow (0-10cm) and deep (to 10 m depth) soils. The student will investigate how strong soil aggregate and mineral binding removes organic matter from being accessible to microbial decay creating stabilized soil carbon structures. The student will work with a graduate student and Prof. Filley as they apply molecular forensic tools such as pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry. The student will exposed to concepts in mineral chemistry, soil science, isotope biogeochemistry, and mass spectrometry. The student will join four other undergraduates engaged on various aspects of the IML-CZO work and will also take part in a multi university meeting among the IML-CZO participants (Univ. of Illinois, Purdue Univ., Northwestern Univ., Indiana Univ., Univ. of Tennessee) and field sampling campaign.


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.


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).


The Role of Small Heat Shock Protein (HSP) in Postmortem Protein Degradation of Muscles

Research categories:  Agricultural, Life Science
School/Dept.: Animal Sciences
Professor: Brad Kim
Preferred major(s): Animal Sciences/Food Science/ABE/Biochemistry or closely related
Desired experience:   Basic chemistry/previous lab work experience
Number of positions: 1

Providing consistently high quality and wholesome meat products to consumers is crucial to the continued success of the US meat industry. The purpose of this research is to determine the role of small heat shock protein (HSP) in postmortem protein degradation of muscles. Anti-apoptotic functions of HSP have been well identified, but its potential impact on endogenous proteolytic enzyme activity is largely unknown. This study will determine the involvement of HSP in postmortem protein degradation of beef and/or pork muscles. Student will have hands-on experience by performing assays to observe and quantifying the presence of small heat shock proteins present in samples, and interpreting results. Student will assist graduate students in any way needed, especially as is relevant to studies in small heat shock proteins.