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:

Innovative Technology/Design


Developing the high-speed noninvasive thermometry of reactive flows based on coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Mikhail Slipchenko
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, Physics, Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Acquiring the temperature information at high-speed on the order of 100s kHz is critical to understand the energy release and coupling to acoustic modes in hypersonic reacting flows. The undergraduate research assistant will be involved in development of the state-of-the-art laser system under supervision of the graduate research assistant and research faculty involving hands-on experience with aligning optical systems and generating complicated time sequences to operate the high-speed camera acquisition system. The undergraduate research assistant will gain unique experience in optics as well as participate in data acquisition and data analysis with potential high impact publication as the results. Such lab experience will help to establish research interest and motivate undergraduate research assistant to continue academic carrier.


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.

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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).


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: 1-3

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: