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:

Material Science and Engineering


Atomistic Simulations of Gold-Silicon Interface

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Desired experience:   Junior standing and ability to develop computer codes.
Number of positions: 1

The size of electronic devices has been decreasing steadily over the years and it is expected to continue that trend, as there is significant interest in the development to microelectronics and nanoelectronics for applications in the biomedical, sensing, data storage and high-performance computing fields, among others. With the increasing miniaturization of electronics, it is important to consider any effects that might happen in the interfaces at the nanometer scale, as the behavior of materials at this length scales may differ markedly from the behavior at the macroscopic scale. This project studies the interactions occurring in the interface between gold and silicon, materials selected due to their excellent properties as conductor and semiconductor, respectively, and their popularity in electronic circuits. The behavior of gold and silicon is expected to differ from the properties observed in the bulk and at larger scales, so it is crucial to analyze and understand the mechanisms of this behavior for the design and manufacture of microelectronic devices utilizing these materials. The research will involve Molecular Dynamics modeling of the gold-silicon interface. Additionally, this project will be complemented by other research opportunities in our lab.


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

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: NE and Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment
Professor: Sivanandan Harilal
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. Ion beam and ultrafast laser beam nanostructuring
2. Characterization of ultrafast laser ablation plumes
3. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
4. Computational modeling of laser and discharge produced plasma and fusion devices

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.


Characterizing fiber reinforced composite materials

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Preferred major(s): AAE, ME, or MSE
Desired experience:   Willingness to do hands-on work
Number of positions: 2

We are looking for a motivated, hard-working student 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. Applicants should be undergraduate students interesting in composite materials.


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 or 2

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.

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Development of Theranostic Drug Delivery Systems for Cancer Treatment

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

Drug delivery for cancer therapy is far from being satisfactory. A significant portion of potential drug compounds fail to enter the clinic because they cannot be formulated and delivered by existing approaches. Many clinically used formulations are poorly designed, bearing significant adverse effects and limiting treatment efficacy. Over the last few years, nanotechnology has been embraced for developing novel drug delivery systems to combat diseases such as cancer and infection. In our laboratory, we have been developing multicomponent nanocrystals to deliver cytotoxic agents along with bioimaging probes to treat and detect tumors. In this project, the delivery system will be fully tested in vitro and in vivo in order to understand the pharmacokinetic and biodistribution properties and to further improve the formulation design. In particular, the student will be learning and conducting cellular uptake experiment and help graduate students in their animal studies. It is expected that the student will gain a basic understanding of drug delivery for cancer and comprehend the current challenges in cancer therapy. The student will also learn the underlying design principles of our delivery system and, hopefully, provide meaningful suggestions for improvement.


Development of a Nanomanufacturing Process

Research categories:  Electronics, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering, Birck Nanotechnology Center
Professor: Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Electrical Engineering or Physics.
Desired experience:   Senior standing (in Fall 14); Interested in experimental work; GPA > 3.5; US citizen/permanent resident preferred.
Number of positions: 2

This project is to participate research in the development of a laser-based nanomanufacturing technique. The SURF students will work with graduate students to investigate using laser processes to fabricate nanoscale patterns and nanoscale semiconductor materials such as nanowires. These materials will then be used for developing highly sensitive chemical and biological sensors.


Evaluating the Performance of Concrete During Placement

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: Civil
Professor: Jason Weiss
Preferred major(s): Open
Desired experience:   Should be willing to go to field construction sites to help collect data.
Number of positions: 2

During the summer of 2014 Purdue will deploy a mobile testing laboratory that will monitor the construction of concrete projects throughout the state and midwestern region of the US. The goal of this project will be to use the new laboratory to document the concrete being placed, to place sensors in the concrete and to use data obtained from this testing to perform life-cycle predictions for the built infrastructure. Innovative new concretes and placement techniques will be compared with conventional systems to document how this may impact life-cycle costs. During this project the student will be expected to visit construction sites with the mobile lab team, to document construction with photos and videos, to perform physical testing and to use data in computational simulations.


Roll-to-Roll Robots

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Rebecca Kramer
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Desired skills include CAD design, control system design, machining, and a desire to learn.
Number of positions: 2

Our lab is focused on responsive materials and soft robotics. This field is limited by the small size of the substrates commonly used during the fabrication of a soft robot. We propose to develop a "roll-to-roll" system to provide semi-infinite substrates. The concept is to unspool a polymer film from one roll, over a processing bed, and onto another roll. This system must be mechanically compatible with several instruments in our laboratory, including a laser etching system, micron-scale 3D printer, and 3D optical microscope. The SURF students participating in this project will be responsible for designing, fabricating, and testing a prototype mechanism which we will use to perform proof-of-concept studies on the concept of "printed robots". This mechanism will be computer controlled, and will include position and torque control. Desired skills include CAD design, control system design, machining, and of course a desire to learn. We are looking for a small team of 2-3 students to work on this project. The team will work directly with Ph.D. students in the Fabrication Laboratory.


Understanding How Deicing Salts Interact with Concrete Paving Materials

Research categories:  Chemical, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering
School/Dept.: Civil
Professor: Jason Weiss
Preferred major(s): chemistry, civil engineering, material science, other
Number of positions: 2

Work at Purdue has focused on the development of improved models to predict the service life of concrete when the concrete is exposed to freezing and thawing and/or to the application of deicing salts. Specifically these models are a departure from the current US practice that specifies only air content. The model that is being developed is based on fluid saturation level, fluid composition, and fluid absorption rates. These models are leading to the development of alternative methods to improve freeze-thaw resistance such as the development of Soy-Based concrete sealants which have recently been patented. The student in this project will be expected to perform a series of carefully planned, innovative experiments that relate the salt chemistry with chemical reactions and pavement damage development. This work is currently being developed into a model for use on the national scale.


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; Chemistry
Desired experience:   Programming skills in any language are a plus.
Number of positions: 12

Join the team and help build the growing set of resources being used in all Top 50 Colleges of Engineering (US News & World Report rankings) and over 240,000 annual users in 172 countries. nanoHUB provides over 260 simulation tools that users run from a web browser in a scientific computing cloud. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) operates nanoHUB.

You will work with one of the nanoHUB investigators, including Professors Klimeck, Lundstrom, Alam, Datta, and Strachan and others.

You will learn the Rappture ( toolkit that makes it quick and easy to develop powerful, interactive, web-based applications. You will work with nanotechnologists to put their applications and supporting information on You will test new capabilities in nanoHUB cyberinfrastructure. And you will be part of 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. Other undergraduate researchers before you have each been able to literally impact over a thousand nanoHUB users (for an example, see; join their legacy and create something that will help your own skills and will help others.

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