Research Projects

This is a list of research projects that may have opportunities for undergraduate students. You can browse all the projects, or view only projects in the following categories:



Bio/Pharmaceutical Lyophilization

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Industrial Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Alina Alexeenko
Preferred major(s): AAE, ME, CE, BME, Physics
Desired experience:   Fluid dynamics coursework, programming experience.
Number of positions: 2

Freeze-drying, also called lyophilization, is widely used in manufacturing of injectable pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotech products, food and probiotic cultures. The research involves first-principles modeling of fluid dynamics and heat transfer in industrial lyophilizers and validation of models by comparison with experimental data collected in lab and pilot production settings. The summer undergraduate researcher will be involved in developing computational models and analyzing experimental data.


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: 3-5

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

1. Materials modification and nanostructuring by energetic ion beams
2. Nanostructuring by ultrafast lasers
3. High energy density physics in ultrafast laser laboratory
4. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
5. Experimental and computational studies of non-thermal plasmas for biological applications
6. Computational modeling of physics processes for various plasma applications; in laser, discharge, and fusion devices

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.

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


Characterization of Fiber Reinforced Composite Materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Sangid Michael
Preferred major(s): AAE, ME, MSE, IE, ChE, CE, NE, CS
Desired experience:   Preferably junior standing
Number of positions: 2

We are looking for motivated, hard-working undergraduate students interested in experimental composite materials research. This position is on a team investigating fiber orientation and length measurements in thermoplastic composites. These long fiber composites have a direct application to replace steel and aluminum structural alloys in the aerospace and automotive industries. Our team is comprised of Pacific Northwest National Lab, Autodesk, Plasticomp, Magna, Toyota, University of Illinois, and Purdue. Applicants will work under the mentorship of a graduate student and faculty member. The position includes hands on specimen preparation, in the form of extracting and polishing samples for fiber orientation measurements and melting samples and isolating the pertinent fibers for length measurements.


Crystal Engineering of Organic Crystals

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial & Physical Pharmacy
Professor: Tonglei Li
Preferred major(s): chemistry, chemical engineering
Number of positions: 1

Crystallization of organic materials plays a central role in drug development. Mechanistic understanding of nucleation and crystal growth remains primitive and scantily developed despite decades of investigation. Of the same organic molecule, distinct crystal structures can be routinely formed. The intricacy of the so-called polymorphism largely originates from the rich and unpredictable supramolecular tessellations supported by intermolecular interactions. The subtleties in strength and directionality of the interactions are controlled by structural diversity and conformational flexibility of molecule. In fact, it is these molecular interactions that make organic crystal structures fascinating as it is unlikely to predict crystal structures of a given organic molecule a priori.

In this project, the student will learn how to grow drug crystals, characterize them, and connect the structural outcome with crystallization conditions. It is expected that the student will conduct both experimental and computational studies in order to understand formation mechanisms of drug crystals.

More information:


Lattice-Boltzmann Simulations of Complex Fluids

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: John Abraham
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   GPA of 3.98 or higher
Number of positions: 1

In this project, you will assist in the development of novel lattice Boltzmann methods for the simulations of complex fluids such as multiphase flows (solid/liquid/gas) with and without turbulence, microflows, and nanoflows.


Oil-in-water Emulsion Flows through Confined Channels

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Arezoo Ardekani
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics
Desired experience:   Fluid dynamics, Programming experience
Number of positions: 1

The main goal of this project is to characterize transport of monodisperse and poly-disperse oil-in-water emulsions through confined channels by utilizing LAMMPS. A mesoscopic method called dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) will be used to capture the interaction of the droplets with hydrophilic and hydrophobic boundaries of the channel. We will quantify the transport properties of the emulsion for different scenarios, by varying the droplet size, surface properties of the channel, and addition of surfactants. Surfactant molecules are amphiphilic molecules, containing a hydrophobic tail and a hydrophilic head.


Realistic Simulation of Jet Engine Noise using Petaflop Computing

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical
School/Dept.: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Gregory Blaisdell
Preferred major(s): AAE, ME, MATH
Desired experience:   Fluid mechanics (AAE 333 or ME 309), Compressible flow (AAE 334, or AAE 514 or ME 510), computer programming, signal processing (AAE 301 or similar)
Number of positions: 1

We are currently developing a scalable parallel large eddy simulation code that can realistically simulate high Reynolds number jet flows from complex nozzle geometries. The motivation behind the project is to gain insight into the noise generation mechanisms in a turbulent jet, which is crucial for designing noise reduction solutions such as chevrons and other mixing devices. Such high-fidelity simulations generate hundreds of gigabytes of flow-field and acoustics information. As a result, it becomes a significant challenge to extract meaningful information that will improve our understanding of the relationship between the turbulent jet flow and the far-reaching noise it generates. The SURF student will assist us in this effort by using a set of tools developed by a previous SURF student in 2014 to help characterize jet noise sources.

A popular model postulates that two distinct noise sources are active in a turbulent jet. One is the large coherent turbulent structures that radiate noise at shallow angles relative to the jet axis, and the second is the fine-scale turbulence that is more dominant in the sideline directions [1,2]. In 2014 a previous SURF student implemented several statistical tools that process the near- and far-field simulation data by computing correlations that are used for examining the source characteristics. These include auto-correlations and cross-correlations of the far-field pressure measurements, as well as correlations between turbulent fluctuations inside the jet and the far-field pressure. The analysis tools also include the ability to decompose the flow field into frequency bands so that the dynamics of high and low frequency portions can be studied.

The project for 2015 will involve applying these tools to simulation datasets and studying in detail how the high and low frequency portions of the acoustic field are correlated to various parts of the turbulent jet. In particular, the student will examine acoustic waves generated near the end of the potential core that move upstream in a subsonic jet to see if they interact with the nozzle boundary layer to produce vortices in the jet shear layer. In addition, acoustic waves moving away from the jet will be used to determine where in the jet the waves originated.

The SURF candidate is expected to have an interest in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), as well as computer programming. They do not have to have had prior experience with Fortran, but they must have experience using a computer programming language and be willing to learn Fortran. A strong background in mathematics is also needed. Experience with signal processing would be helpful. The student will spend some time on the basics of Fortran. This will be followed with an overview of the jet simulation code. Then the student will learn how to use the analysis programs developed last year. In addition, the student will learn to use the flow visualization software Tecplot. The student will then apply the codes to saved jet simulation flow fields to split the flow into particular frequency bands and examine how the sound in those frequency bands is correlated with various parts of the jet.

[1] Tam, C. K. (1995). Supersonic jet noise. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 27(1), 17-43.
[2] Tam, C. K., Viswanathan, K., Ahuja, K. K., & Panda, J. (2008). The sources of jet noise: experimental evidence. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 615, 253-292.


VACCINE-Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Innovative Technology/Design
School/Dept.: ECE
Professor: David Ebert
Preferred major(s): Computer Engineering, Computer Science, other Engineering majors with programming experience
Desired experience:   Programming experience in C++, others as described below
Number of positions: 5

We are currently searching for students with strong programming and math backgrounds to work on a variety of projects at the Visual Analytics branch (VACCINE) of the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence in Command, Control and Interoperability. Students will each be assigned individual projects focusing on developing novel data analysis and exploration techniques using interactive techniques. Students should be well versed in C++ upon entering the SURF program, and will be expected to learn skills in R, OpenGL, and/or a variety of other libraries over the course of the summer.

Ongoing project plans will include research that combines soil, weather and crop data from sensing technology to provide critical crop answers for California wine growers and producers, programming for criminal incident report analysis, incorporating local statistics into volume rendering on the GPGPU, healthcare data analysis, and analyzing customizable topics and anomalies that occur in real-time via social media networks Twitter and Facebook. If you have CUDA programming experience or an intense interest to learn it, please indicate this on your application form. We also plan to have a project that will assist first responders in accident extrication procedures.

The ideal candidate will have good working knowledge of modern web development technologies, including client-side technologies such as HTML5, SVG, JavaScript, AJAX, and DOM, as well as server side components such as PHP, Tomcat, MySQL, etc. Experience in visualization or computer graphics is a plus. The project will likely be based on the D3 ( web-based visualization toolkit; prior experience using D3 or other visualization APIs for the web is particularly welcome.

Of the past undergraduate students that have worked in the center, five of their research projects have led to joint publications in our laboratory and at many of our areas' top venues. Sample projects include visual analytics for law enforcement data, health care data and sports data. Students will be assigned individual projects based on the center's needs which will be determined at a later date. To learn more about the VACCINE Center go to the website provided below.

More information:


nanoHUB Research in Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Other
Professor: NCN Faculty
Preferred major(s): Electrical, Computer, Materials, or Mechanical Engineering; Physics; Computer Science
Desired experience:   Serious interest in and enjoyment of programming, programming skills in any language, physics coursework.
Number of positions: 15-20

Join the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) team and help build the growing set of resources being used in all Top 50 Colleges of Engineering (US News & World Report rankings) and by over 300,000 annual users in 172 countries. nanoHUB provides over 340 simulation tools that users run from a web browser in a scientific computing cloud. You will work with one of the NCN collaborative investigators, such as Professors Gerhard Klimeck, Ale Strachan, or Peter Bermel.

SURF students learn the Rappture ( toolkit that makes it quick and easy to develop powerful, interactive, web-based applications. These skills are utilized by working with nanotechnologists to put their applications and supporting information on As part of our team, you will be engaged in the National Science Foundation-funded effort that is connecting theory, experiment and computation in a way that makes a difference for the future of nanotechnology and the future of scientific communities. Other undergraduate researchers before you have each been able to literally impact thousands of nanoHUB users (for an example, see; join their legacy and create something that will build your own skills and will help others.