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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:



Biosensors for point-of-care applications

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Chongli Yuan
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering/Biomedical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

The large number of people affected by infectious diseases in the developing world puts an enormous burden on the health system. Infected patients, which now have global access to therapies, require constant disease management and regular visits to clinics. This burden creates a great challenge in low-resource areas with a limited number of trained medical personnel and constrained diagnostic and monitoring methods. A consequence of such limited resources and restricted monitoring of therapy is the development of drug resistance, a major hurdle to patient care worldwide. A point-of-care tool that enables rapid detection of drug resistance mutations is of pressing need to meet the increasing health-care demand in developing countries. This application thus aims to develop a cellphone-based detection device for drug resistance.


Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment (CMUXE) - Undergraduate research opportunities

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Nuclear Engineering
Professor: Ahmed Hassanein
Desired experience:   Minimum GPA 3.5
Number of positions: 3-4

The Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment (CMUXE) is looking for undergraduate research students for the following areas:

1. Ion beams and plasma interaction with materials for various applications
2. Magnetic and Inertial Nuclear Fusion
3. Laser-produced plasma (LPP) and Discharge-produced plasma (DPP)
4. Nanostructuring of material by ion and laser beams
5. High energy density physics applications
6. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
7. Plasma for biomedical applications
8. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography
9. Computational physics for nuclear fusion, lithography, and other applications

Research of undergraduate students at CMUXE during previous SURF programs has resulted in students acquiring new knowledge in different areas and led to several joint publications, participation in national and international conferences, seminars, and provided experience in collaborative international research.

Several undergraduate and graduate students working in CMUXE have won national and international awards and have presented their work in several countries including Australia, China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Russia.

Position is open to undergraduates in all engineering and science disciplines. High level commitment and participation in group meetings are compulsory. Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the center website below for further information.


DNA Nanotechnology

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Jong Hyun Choi
Number of positions: 1

Besides being the genetic material for various forms of life, DNA also has emerged as a promising engineering material for nanotechnology. Based on its excellent ability to recognize its complementary sequence, the binding of DNA can be programmed by sequence design. This idea gave birth to the field of structural DNA nanotechnology. This project will focus on designing and constructing self-assembled synthetic DNA nanostructures (such as DNA origami) as well as understanding their thermodynamic, kinetic, and mechanical properties.


Dual-tuned traps for common-mode current suppression in multi-nuclear MRI hardware cabling

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Electronics, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Joseph Rispoli
Preferred major(s): Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   CAD modeling, proficiency with hand tools and soldering, and a general understanding of AC circuits
Number of positions: 1

The research is important for conducting multi-nuclear magnetic resonance imaging experiments on humans, e.g., obtaining sodium MRI visualizations of the brain in addition to typical hydrogen-based MRI. The goal is to produce a prototype device that may be reproduced and used in multiple experiments, publish a paper demonstrating the results, and the design potentially may be adopted at other medical research sites.

The student would be tasked to design a removable cable trap to suppress common mode currents at two different radio frequencies. Common mode currents are those induced on the outside of a coaxial cable's shield, are not part of the desired MRI signal, and in some situations have caused injury to MRI subjects who were mistakenly in contact with the cable while scanning.

Execution of the project will require prototyping of a simple electrical circuit, and as such will require some work with wire, cable, electrical components, and soldering. However the greater challenge may be the mechanical design of the circuit, given the geometry will affect the operation and the device must easily be clipped on and off cables.

The student is expected to lead this project, under the guidance of a graduate student and faculty member. The student is also expected to prepare a poster presentation on the results, and author a research paper if the desired results are achieved.


Fluid Dynamics of Bacterial Aggregation and Formation of Biofilm Streamers

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Arezoo Ardekani
Number of positions: 1

Bacteria primarily live within microscopic colonies embedded inside a self-secreted matrix of polymers and proteins. These microbial biofilms form on natural and man-made surfaces and interfaces and play important roles in various health and environmental issues. Previous experimental studies have indicated the significance of bacterial motility mechanisms in the colonization process and the subsequent biofilm formation. In particular, flagellar mediated swimming is crucial in approaching the surface and initiating the adhesion process. Understanding the swimming strategy of bacteria in confined geometries is shown to be a decisive factor in identifying the adhesion rate and elucidating the subsequent colonization process. However, majority of studies focused on the swimming behavior of motile cells in complex fluids have been conducted assuming the cells’ habitat to be an unbounded domain and thus, the boundary induced effects, such as surface trapping and wall accumulation, are poorly understood. The student will investigate the motion of microorganisms in complex fluids near boundaries.


Functional Brain Imaging of Traumatic Brain Injury

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Yunjie Tong
Preferred major(s): ECE, BME
Desired experience:   The student is required to have good analytical skills and familiar with Matlab or Python.
Number of positions: 1-2

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), even the mild one, has been demonstrated to have long term negative effects on the brain. The impact is even more devastating for the developing brain. Purdue Neurotrauma Group (PNG) has collected many brain imaging data (MRI) to assess brain function, perfusion, white matter integrity, structural and functional connectivity for the young football players with TBI or mild TBI. The undergraduate student in this project will work closely with Dr. Tong and PNG. He/she will analyze the brain imaging data (e.g. fMRI) based on the new hypothesis to deepen our understanding of TBI. The student is required to have good analytical skills and familiar with Matlab or python. The student will learn the skills in MRI data quality-control, data analyses, time series analysis.


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.

More information:


MRI-compatible neural stimulator and recorder

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics
School/Dept.: Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Zhongming Liu
Preferred major(s): Electrical and Computer Engineering, or Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:   Electronic circuit design and implementation, programming
Number of positions: 1-2

Tissue stimulation presents many challenges and thus a unique opportunity to develop an insight into how to interface electronics with the nervous system. This project will focus on creating a robust and dynamic user interface for a prototype stimulator in the Laboratory of Integrated Brain Imaging (LIBI). This interface will give researchers the ability to actively modify stimulation and recording parameters to meet their experimental needs. The skills required for this project include prior knowledge of microcontrollers, C programming language, and communication protocols such as UART and SPI. The student will additionally develop a deeper understanding of the stimulator and recorder hardware to better create the user interface and assure safe stimulation and recording in animal models. Specific applications will be brain stimulation and recording during concurrent magnetic resonance imaging.


Metabolic Engineering of Cyanobacteria for Chemical Production

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: John Morgan
Preferred major(s): Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, ABE
Desired experience:   Biochemistry
Number of positions: 1

Cyanobacteria are single celled organisms that utilize sunlight to drive the reduction of CO2 into all the organic chemicals necessary for life. Hence, they are a potential alternative to petroleum as source of chemicals. Compared to plants, these bacteria grow significantly faster, require low nutrient input and are easier to process than plants. Cyanobacteria are also readily genetically engineered with foreign DNA. The goal of this project is to insert a foreign pathway consisting of several genes into a cyanobacteria to manufacture a valuable chemical. The student will also analyze the effects of light and CO2 on the amount of chemical produced.


MicroRNA Involvement in Cancer

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Life Science
School/Dept.: Biological Sciences
Professor: Andrea Kasinski
Preferred major(s): Biology or Biochemistry
Desired experience:   Molecular biology background.
Number of positions: 1-2

Our lab works on non-coding RNAs, specifically microRNAs and their involvement in cancer. We work to identify novel RNAs, gain an understanding of their biogenesis and misrepresentation in cancer and then utilize this knowledge to develop RNA-based therapies. There are multiple potential summer projects in the lab. Please visit our lab website and contact Dr. Kasinski for more information.


Mobile Microrobotics

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: David Cappelleri
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering / Electrical & Computer Engineering
Desired experience:   Must be US citizen for this project. ME students should have programming and electronics experience.
Number of positions: 1

Mobile microrobots offer unprecedented capabilities for observing and interacting with the world that are not possible with conventional macro-scale systems. A critical issue in the design of mobile microrobots is the generation of wireless power and methods of converting that power into locomotion. We have successfully used externally applied magnetic fields for the power and actuation of individual magnetic mobile microrobots. We have also come up with novel tumbling microrobot designs to overcome the challenge of large surface forces at the micro-scale. In the case of multiple microrobots, all the robots in the workspace will be exposed to identical control signals. Thus, in order to achieve different behaviors from individual robots needed for advanced manufacturing tasks, there must be either significant variation in their design or in the magnetic control signals applied to each microrobot. Therefore, we are have also created a specialized control substrate for local targeting of the magnetic forces at a fine resolution to be able to independently control multiple microrobots at the same time.

In this project, the SURF student will work with graduate students and a post-doc to design and test new mobile microrobot designs with various in-house magnetic manipulation systems for advanced manufacturing and biomedical applications. The student should be proficient in C-based language programming, Matlab, image processing, hardware interfacing, and 3D printing.

More information:


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).