Research Projects

Projects 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 2018 Research Symposium Abstracts.

2019 projects will continue to be posted through January!

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:

Mechanical Systems


Design and Analysis of Novel Approaches for Packaging of Li-Ion Batteries for Automotive Applications

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: School of Mechanical Engineeing
Professor: Thomas Siegmund
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering

E-mobility is a key driver of future transportation systems. E-vehicles rely on energy storage in batteries, and such batteries packages need to be integrated into the overall vehicle structure under consideration of structural and thermal design considerations. This research project will advance novel solutions to do so. The SURF student will work on CAD model design, simulations and experiments on simulated Li-ion battery packages for mechanical and thermal safety.


Indoor Air Pollution Research: From Nano to Bio

Research categories:  Agricultural, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Life Science, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Brandon Boor
Preferred major(s): Students from all majors are welcome to apply.
Desired experience:   Interest in studying contaminant transport in the environment, human health, air pollution, HVAC and building systems, microbiology, nanotechnology, and atmospheric science. Experience working in a laboratory setting with analytical equipment and coding with MATLAB, Python, and/or R. Passionate about applying engineering fundamentals to solve real-world problems.

Airborne particulate matter, or aerosols, represent a fascinating mixture of tiny, suspended liquid and solid particles that can span in size from a single nanometer to tens of micrometers. Human exposure to aerosols of indoor and outdoor origin is responsible for adverse health effects, including mortality and morbidity due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The majority of our respiratory encounters with aerosols occurs indoors, where we spend 90% of our time. Through the SURF program, you will work on several ongoing research projects exploring the dynamics of nanoaerosols and bioaerosols in buildings and their HVAC systems.

Nanoaerosols are particles smaller than 100 nm in size. With each breath of indoor air, we inhale several million nanoaerosols. These nano-sized particles penetrate deep into our respiratory systems and can translocate to the brain via the olfactory bulb. These tiny particles are especially toxic to the human body and have been associated with various deleterious toxicological outcomes, such as oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in lung cells. Bioaerosols represent a diverse mixture of microbes (bacteria, fungi) and allergens (pollen, mite feces). Exposure to bioaerosols plays a significant role in both the development of, and protection against, asthma, hay fever, and allergies.

Your role will be to conduct measurements of nanoaerosols and bioaerosols in laboratory experiments at the Purdue Herrick Laboratories, as well as participate in a field campaign at Indiana University - Bloomington in collaboration with an atmospheric chemistry research group. You will learn how to use state-of-the-art air quality instrumentation and perform data processing and analysis in MATLAB.

More information:


Low-cost user-friendly biosensors for animal health

Research categories:  Agricultural, Bioscience/Biomedical, Electronics, Innovative Technology/Design, Life Science, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Professor: Mohit Verma
Preferred major(s): Biomedical engineering, biological engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or other relevant fields
Desired experience:   To be successful at this position, you should have a GPA>3.5, prior experience working in a wet lab (ideally experience with bacterial culture and DNA amplification), experience building electromechanical devices, and the ability to work in a team.

Infectious diseases are a leading cause of economic burden on food production from animals. For example, bovine respiratory diseases lead to a loss of ~$480/animal. Current methods for tackling these diseases includes the administration of antibiotics by trial-and-error. This approach leads to failure of treatment in up to one-third of the cases. In addition, it also leads to a proliferation of antibiotic resistance in pathogens.

Our research project focuses on developing a low-cost user-friendly biosensor based on paper that can detect which pathogen is causing the disease and whether it exhibits antibiotic resistance. Such a biosensor would provide a readout to the farmer or the veterinary physician and suggest which antibiotics are likely to be successful.

The SURF student will have three objectives: i) design primers for detecting pathogens associated with bovine respiratory diseases, ii) build a device for processing the sample and extracting DNA that can be amplified by the biosensor, and iii) build a device for detecting colorimetric/fluorometric output from the biosensor.

More information:


Micro/nano Scale 3D Laser Printing

Research categories:  Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Materials Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:   Junior or Senior standing, GPA>3.6

The ability to create 3D structures in the micro and nanoscale is important in many fields including electronics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering and is an emerging area of research and development. This project deals with the development and testing of a setup for building microscopic 3D structures with the help of a femtosecond laser. A method known as two photon polymerization is typically used to fabricate such structures in which a polymer is exposed to laser and at the point of the exposure the polymer changes its structure. Moving the laser in a predefined path helps in getting the desired shape and the structures are then built in a layer by layer fashion. The setup incorporates all the steps from a designing a CAD model file to slicing the model in layers to generating the motion path of the laser needed for fabricating the structure. In order to make a solid and stable structure, investigation of better materials and optimization of the process parameters is needed. Besides, possible improvements to the control algorithms used in the setup can be done to increase the efficiency of the process and build the structures faster.


Monitoring Bacterial Contamination in Biologics

Research categories:  Agricultural, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Arezoo Ardekani
Preferred major(s): Biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, biological engineering

Biologics comprised 22% of major pharma companies in 2013 and is expended to grow to 32% of sales in 2023. Biologics are large complex molecules that are created by microorganisms and mammalian cells. They are polypeptides or proteins such as monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, fusion proteins used in vaccines, cell therapies, gene therapies, etc. Impurities such as aggregates, cell debris, bacterial and viral contamination can negatively impact the manufacturing process. In this project, we will focus on developing methods for monitoring bacterial contamination.


Sensing the Human Factors in Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Denny Yu
Preferred major(s): Industrial Engineering, other
Desired experience:   Human Factors, Matlab, Machine Learning, Healthcare, Medical Device Design

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among surgeons are becoming more common. The purpose of this project is to use sensors to measure ergonomic risks and assess interventions to surgeons during laparoscopic and robotic surgery. This work will leverage sensing technology (e.g., motion tracking, pressure map, electromyography) to monitor surgeons’ ergonomics to ultimately develop recommendations on minimizing MSDs and how to better design an operating room.

The SURF student will participate in data collection in the operating room at Indiana University School of Medicine, data analysis and interpretation, and write his/her results for a journal publication. The student will regularly communicate his/her progress and results with faculty, graduate mentors, and surgeon collaborators.


ThermoConc as a Building Envelope for Electricity Generation and Space Heating and Cooling

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Ming Qu
Preferred major(s): Material engineering or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   1. Good skills with experiments and data acquisition; 2. Good writing and presentation skills; 3. Solid background in thermoelectric theory.

NSF research project aims to create a new strategy to reduce building energy consumption while enhancing thermal comfort by using thermoelectric concrete envelope to heat or cool indoor space without the need of additional power source. The student will help to characterize the new TE Concrete and evaluate the performance of ThermoConc both theoretically and practically.