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:

Chemical

 

Impact of mass flow rate monitoring and control in continuous tablet manufacturing

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Gintaras Reklaitis
Preferred major(s): chemical engineering
Desired experience:   completion of ChE 37700, ChE 32000
Number of positions: 1

The pharmaceutical tablet manufacturing process involves particulate handling and processing. Measurement and control of particulate material properties and the process variables of the constituent unit operations in continuous flow is a challenge for the effective implementation of real time product release. The tablet hardness and weight have to be maintained at the desired throughput and it is essential to determine the appropriate hopper levels at steady state to ensure seamless operation. The aim of the project is to study the effect of hopper level on the quality of the tablets and the effect on different process variables of the tablet press. The undergraduate student in this project will learn techniques used in the characterization of particulate material and tablets in the continuous tableting line.
Suggested Reading
[1] Ierapetritou M, Muzzio F, Reklaitis G. “Perspectives on the continuous manufacturing of powder-based pharmaceutical processes”, AIChE Journal, 62:1846-1862 (2016)

[2] Lee S. L., O’Connor T. F., Yang X., Cruz C. N., Chatterjee S., Madurawee R. D., Moore C. M. V., Yu L. X. “Modernizing Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: from Batch to Continuous Production”. J Pharm Innov. 2015

 

2D nanostructures for energy application

Research categories:  Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Chemistry
Professor: Libai Huang
Preferred major(s): Chemistry, Chemical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Energy transport will be studied across multiple length and time scales to in 2D semiconductors for solar energy applications. Exciton populations and dynamics following photoexcitation will be investigated using time-resolved spectroscopy.

The main goal of the SURF project will be on using 2D nanostructures as light absorbers for solar energy conversion devices such as solar cells. These 2D nanostructures are extremely efficient light absorbers and emitters. The student will carry out optical spectroscopy and microscopy measurements to study the electronic and optical properties of these materials. The student will also analyze data and present results at group meetings.

 

Additive manufacture of oral drug products

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Gintaras Reklaitis
Preferred major(s): chemical engineering
Desired experience:   CHE 37700, ChE 32000 or equivalents
Number of positions: 1

Project Description
In the past decade, changes in domestic/global market growth, desire for new drug therapies (with faster time to market), and pressure to minimize drug cost in healthcare expenditure have prompted revision of operational strategies/technologies in the pharmaceutical industry. Concomitant with improvement to current technologies, there has been interest in development of novel methods for drug product manufacture; additive manufacturing (of which 3-dimensional printing is a subset), has received considerable attention, due in part to the precision afforded the user by the process’s incremental production method. In our lab we have ongoing work which furthers the development of process modeling and monitoring capabilities for a dropwise pharmaceutical manufacturing technology capable of processing non-colloidal suspensions. The interested student would be engaged at drug product manufacture and in the characterization of the resulting dosages. Specifically this would involve printing and characterization of drug products from 4 new “micronized” active pharmaceutical drug powders.
Suggested Reading:
Icten, E., A. Giridhar, L.S. Taylor, Z.K. Nagy and G.V. Reklaitis, “Dropwise Additive Manufacturing of Pharmaceutical Products for Melt-Based Dosage Forms”, J Pharm Sci. Vol. 104-5, 1641-1649 (2015)

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

More information: http://www.lyohub.org

 

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.

 

Methods to Control the Atomic Arrangement of Zeolite Catalysts

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Rajamani Gounder
Preferred major(s): Chemical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Zeolite catalysts have innovated catalytic technologies in the energy and chemical industries and in automotive pollution control, because of their diverse crystal structures and compositions. In this project, we will develop new methods to control the atomic arrangement of catalytic active sites in zeolites, which will open new opportunities for innovation in these industries. The undergraduate student on this project will learn techniques to synthesize and characterize catalysts with different atomic arrangements.

 

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).

 

Sensor Network for a Continuous Pharmaceutical Tableting Line

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Chemical Engineering
Professor: Gintaras Reklaitis
Desired experience:   ChE 37700, ChE 32000 or equivalent
Number of positions: 1

Project Description
Continuous manufacturing and on-line process monitoring have the potential to improve product quality in the Pharmaceutical Industry [1]. In 2002 the FDA initiated Quality-by-Design (QbD) through Process Analytical Technology (PAT) tools. The goal of PAT is to augment the understanding and control the manufacturing process [2,3]. Through the implementation of QbD and PAT, the companies have to demonstrate understanding of how the operating conditions, process design and raw material variability affect the product quality [4].
On-line measurement of process conditions plays a significant role in continuous manufacturing implementation and its understanding. However, every measurement is subject to error. Therefore, having measurement redundancy and selecting the appropriate Critical Quality Attributes (CQAs) to measure are crucial steps in developing an effective system for process monitoring. It is by implementing appropriate sensors that we can obtain a better estimate of the actual state of the process. The objective of this project is to test different sensor network configuration and investigate the effect of each measurement in improving the values of process variables of our continuous tableting line.
References
[1] Ierapetritou M, Muzzio F, Reklaitis G. “Perspectives on the continuous manufacturing of powder-based pharmaceutical processes”, AIChE Journal, 62:1846-1862 (2016)
[2] US Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for Industry, Q8 Pharmaceutical Development; Food and Drug Administration, 2006
[3] Lee S. L., O’Connor T. F., Yang X., Cruz C. N., Chatterjee S., Madurawee R. D., Moore C. M. V., Yu L. X. Modernizing Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: from Batch to Continuous Production. J Pharm Innov. 2015
[4] Rogers, A. J.; Hashemi, A.; Ierapetritou, M. Modeling of Particulate Processes for the Continuous Manufacture of Solid-Based Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms. Processes. 2013, 1, 67-127.

 

Synthesis, Characterization, and Reactivity of Low-Valent Uranium Species

Research categories:  Chemical
School/Dept.: Department of Chemistry
Professor: Suzanne Bart
Preferred major(s): Chemistry
Desired experience:   General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry lab courses completed
Number of positions: 1

Understanding of the fundamental chemistry of transition metal alkyl species has contributed greatly to the advancement of pharmaceuticals, materials, and fine chemicals. Comparatively we know much less about the types of reactions of which the f-block elements, more specifically uranium, are capable. The principal investigator’s laboratory is working to understand the synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of reduced uranium complexes for small molecule activation. Our initial findings have led us to understand the great chemical potential of uranium(III) and uranium(IV) alkyls and taught us how to effectively work with this electron rich metal, avoiding decomposition and disproportionation observed by others. Future work, proposed here, explores the hypothesis that low-valent uranium alkyls are useful synthons for elusive uranium targets. Experiments will be carried out to 1) obtain a family of uranium(III) alkyls with a variety of ancillary ligands, 2) understand under what conditions uranium can undergo two electron processes, similar to late transition metals, including reductive elimination, oxidative addition, and migratory insertion, 3) explore the utility of uranium alkyls for multiple bond formation. The work proposed here includes synthetic methods, spectroscopic analysis, and computational approaches to fully understand the reactivity of these compounds.

Although an underutilized element, uranium has many positive traits that make it suitable for metal mediated transformations. The principle investigator’s laboratory is studying how to control chemical reactivity at low- and mid-valent uranium centers in solution. These studies encompass understanding the stability and reactivity of organouranium species to determine their potential for new transformations. Efforts towards understanding how to make uranium perform two electron processes are also underway. Characterization of our uranium complexes through spectroscopic and computational methods will provide insight into uranium-element bonding. Uranium has been demonstrated to perform reactions unparalleled by transition metals, and there is no doubt that more exciting processes mediated by uranium will be uncovered.