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:

Computer Engineering and Computer Science


A Multi-Objective Optimization Approach for Generating Complex Networks

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Mario Ventresca
Preferred major(s): CS, CE, EE, IE, STATS, Math
Desired experience:   Basic coding skills (R -preferred, Matlab, etc.), basic courses in probability and statistics, proficiency in English speaking and writing, experience in algorithm design and analysis is highly desirable.
Number of positions: 1-2

Complex networks are often used to model a wide range of systems in nature and society from biological to social networks. One area of importance is the ability to model network formation, which has lead to the development of many different algorithms (network generators) capable of synthesizing networks with very specific structural characteristics (e.g., degree distribution, average path length). However, existing generators are not capable of synthesizing networks with strong resemblance to those observed in the real world. In our recent work we created a new class of network generators, called Action-based Network Generators that have shown the ability to produce complex structure of networks exhibiting different properties. This SURF project will involve rigorous testing of the action-based network generator. The student, together with a PhD student, will be involved in running simulation experiments on real world networks, generalizing the generator for different types of networks and trying different computational techniques to obtain the optimal generator. This will also involve analyzing the simulation data to interpret results and further improve the algorithms. Finally, the project also provides the student with an opportunity to publish work as paper.


Continuous Analysis of Many CAMeras

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Yung-Hsiang Lu
Preferred major(s): ECE, CS
Desired experience:   two programming courses
Number of positions: 3

Streaming data, especially video, requires heavy computation. Any system to analyze such data must be scalable and efficient with minimal latency. We are building a system that allows researchers to test their video analysis methods at unprecedented scale by running on thousands of cameras simultaneously and then displays their results. This system is operational since July 2014 and has more than 200 registered users.

More information:


Cyber security for Internet of Things (IoT)

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Saurabh Bagchi
Preferred major(s): ECE / CS
Desired experience:   C programming – it will be great if the student has done programming for microcontrollers, but that is not expected
Number of positions: 1

Embedded systems are those small computers on which modern life is built and they are now popularly referred to as fueling the Internet of Things (IoT). They control our cars, traffic lights, doors, locks, refrigerator; they enable the internet. Nearly everywhere you look there is an embedded system under the covers making our lives better. These systems face many of the same cyber threats as desktop computers and servers. They also face some specialized threats because of the wide geographical spread of these devices, ubiquitous connectivity, and unattended operation. Many techniques that have been proposed to improve the security of desktops and servers, such as, memory privileges, automated software diversity, stack canaries, etc. do not work well for embedded systems. Some of these techniques do not work because embedded systems often lack hardware to support them, such as, MMU, MPU, Write XOR Execute. Others have unacceptable impact on the non-functional constraints of embedded systems, such as: Memory, Processing power, Power, Cost, and Deterministic Performance.

We are developing techniques to make embedded systems more resilient to cyber-attacks, and protect the vital functions they perform. We are adapting existing techniques and developing new techniques that work within the hardware and non-functional constraints of embedded systems.
Students working on this project will have the opportunity to:
• Learn and apply the latest cyber-security defense techniques.
• Gain experience developing software for modern embedded systems.
• Work with and be closely mentored by a multi-disciplinary team of cyber-security, dependable systems, and embedded systems experts.


Development of a new NanoHUB Tool: Coarse graining of Crystalline Nano-Cellulose.

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Materials, Mechanical, Civil, Aero, Industrial, etc. ), Physics or Chemistry
Desired experience:   Required: Some Programming (the student will learn how to program in NanoHUB), Desired: - Some basic Mechanics (e.g., strength of materials) - Modeling (atomistic, mechanics)
Number of positions: 1

The purpose of this project is to provide numerical tools for understanding the mechanical properties of Crystalline Nano-cellulose (CNC) at different length scale. Due to defects formation at mesoscale, mechanical properties of nano-materials could decrease dramatically and influence the overall performance of materials. Although there are sufficient and advanced numerical packages for modeling materials at nano-scale and macro-scale, having an efficient and reliable numerical method for meso-scale is still challenging. Here we develop a coarse graining modeling tools which provides insight for CNCs interaction, defects formation and mechanical properties at meso-scale. Students working in this project not only learn some important concepts in engineering, but also learn how develop a tool and work with advanced numerical packages.


Earth History Visualization

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: EAPS
Professor: James Ogg
Preferred major(s): Computer Engineering, Computer Science or Earth-Atmos-Planetary Science
Desired experience:   The main special skill is ability to focus on developing and achieving goals. If software/web development, then Java, JavaScript and/or Python; or ability to rapidly learn these. If database development, then any introductory geology course, Excel, Adobe Illustrator and ability to locate published materials.
Number of positions: 2

This SURF team will focus on making our planet's history easily accessible to both public and scientific audiences. In particular, we are building on the past Purdue-developed "TimeScale Creator" visualization system for Earth history ( This application creates charts of any portion of the geologic time scale with a choice of bio-, magneto-, chemo-, and other events in Earth history. This exciting set of projects has worked directly with international geologists, and our products are serving as THE global reference for authoritative information on our planet's fascinating and complex history. The experts provide the information, and we strive to make it easy to use by the global audience with various innovative methods.
All accomplishments are put onto the public websites and free downloads for use by a global audience of geologists, earth-science students and the general public.


Hierarchical Microstructure Descriptions of Materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): CS, AAE, ME, MSE, ECE, IE
Desired experience:   Computer programming - We ask that a student be willing to program in Matlab and Python. iOS application development would also be a plus.
Number of positions: 1

Within our research group, we often use many advanced characterization techniques to probe the unique structure of materials. For instance, we identify a region of interest on the material and conduct separate analyses to quantify grain structure, residual stresses, phases, defect content, and chemical gradients. These distinct datasets need to be aligned and placed on the same grid. Afterwards, we deform the material and quantify the evolution of the microstructure attributes. This provides large amounts of data that needs to be stored and recalled to extract materials science in physically meaningful ways. We are looking for a student interested in programming and creating general tools that help with data structure.


In Situ Strain Mapping Experiments

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, MSE, or ME
Number of positions: 2

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.


NeuroPhotonics: High speed calcium imaging of dendritic spine in behaving mouse brain

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Innovative Technology/Design, Life Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: ECE
Professor: Meng Cui
Preferred major(s): ECE, Physics
Desired experience:   Labview and FPGA programming
Number of positions: 1

There is a ongoing project in our lab to develop an ultrahigh speed imaging system to perform large scale high resolution imaging of dendritic spines of neurons in behaving mouse brain. This development is crucial to push the envelope of neuroscience research.

Students with engineering or physics background are needed. In particular, skills in labview and FPGA programming will be very helpful to this project.


Simulation of Hydrostatic Pumps for High Pressure Applications

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Ag & Bio Eng. / Mech. Eng.
Professor: Andrea Vacca
Preferred major(s): AA / ECE / ME / ABE
Desired experience:   programming expertise; knowledge of Phyton
Number of positions: 1

Within this project, an advance simulation tool for high pressure pumps, based on the external gear design principle will be created.
The numerical model will focus on the study of the flow dynamics aspects related to the displacing action realized by the unit. The model will take advantage of already existing tools for the generation of the necessary input data related to the geometry.
The simulation will be based on simplified CFD approaches related to the modeling of the flow, considering also aspects related to fluid cavitation.
The model will be implemented in Python.
The activity will also include a validation of the simulation model, based on experimental data available for both standard and novel designs of external gear pumps.


Tracking down performance bugs in Android Wear

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: ECE
Professor: Felix Lin
Preferred major(s): Computer Engineering/Science
Desired experience:   Passion to hack and to build software.
Number of positions: 1

The undergraduate will deal with system software of some cutting-edge wearable devices.

A newcomer to the mobile ecosystem, wearable is expected to deliver low UI latency with high efficiency. However, our pilot study of Android Wear shows that responsiveness and efficiency suffer from excessive CPU idle episodes that prevail in short user interactions; these idle episodes are rooted in a variety of improper/dated app and OS designs.

We plan to thoroughly characterize the performance issues and implement solutions.

More information:


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:


Web Programming

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science
School/Dept.: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor: Yung-Hsiang Lu
Preferred major(s): ECE, CS
Desired experience:   Two programming courses
Number of positions: 2

This project builds a web-based tool for programming assignments. Computer programming has become very complex and many tools are available. However, using these tools requires knowledge and skills beyond the background of many students. This project creates a web tool that analyzes students' computer programs and help students learn better. The system is operational since September 2015 and is conducting alpha testing now.

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

Advances in nanoscale science and engineering promise to provide solutions to some of the Engineering Grand Challenges of the 21st century. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) has several undergraduate research positions available in exciting interdisciplinary research projects that use computational simulations to solve engineering problems in areas such as nanoelectronics, predictive materials simulations, materials characterization, nanophotonics, and the mechanical behavior of materials. The projects cover a wide range of applications, including development of systems with increased efficiencies for energy storage or energy conversion, development of next-generation electronic devices, improved manufacturing processes for pharmaceuticals and other materials, and the prediction and design of new materials with specific properties. Descriptions of the available research projects, requirements, and faculty advisors are posted on the website provided under 'More Information' below.

We are looking for students with a strong background in engineering or physics who can also code in at least one language, such as C or MATLAB. Selected students will work with a graduate student mentor and faculty advisor to create or improve a simulation tool that will be deployed on

nanoHUB is arguably the world’s largest nanoscale science and engineering user facility, with over 300,000 annual users. nanoHUB’s simulation tools run in a scientific computing cloud via a web browser, and are used by researchers and educators world wide. As part of our team, you will be engaged in a 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. At the end of the summer, successful students will publish a simulation tool on nanoHUB, where it can impact thousands of nanoHUB users.

In addition to the regular SURF workshops and seminars, NCN provides some additional activities and training for our cohort of summer students. More information, including examples of previous student projects, is available on the NCN SURF page:

In your SURF application, be sure to list the specific NCN project that you are interested in, along with your qualifications for that project. Students are matched to NCN projects based on their interests, qualifications, and available openings on projects.