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:

Mechanical Systems


Assembly and Test of Ocean Winds Remote Sensing Instrument for the Hurricane Hunter Aircraft

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Electronics, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): AAE, ECE
Desired experience:   Good programming skills are essential to this project. Embedded programming and FPGA experience are strongly desired, though not required. Experience with electronic hardware, either academically or through extracurricular activities (e.g. amateur radio, robotic competitions, etc.) is also strongly desired. The project will require precise documentation, so good English writing skills are also a necessity.
Number of positions: 3

This project will involve the development and testing of improved software for an experimental remote sensing instrument designed to measure ocean wind speed and roughness in tropical cyclones. This instrument has flown on the NOAA “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft during the last season. It will be returned to Purdue to be updated, and improved based upon our experience with its performance during these flights. Using a fraction of the power, and requiring a far simple calibration process than the existing airborne radar systems, this new technology has the potential to contribute to our understanding of tropical storm development and to improve our hurricane forecast capabilities. In addition, the data may be used to calibrate a NASA satellite mission, CYGNSS, scheduled for a 2016 launch, that will utilize a similar measurement principle.


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.


Biomanufacturing via 3D Inkjet Printing

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Bumsoo Han
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

This project aims to develop scalable three-dimensional (3D) fabrication methods of functional biomaterials via inkjet printing. Although numerous novel biomaterials are recently developed, their fabrication methods are still limited to batch processes, which are very difficult to scale up for rapid fabrication and precise control of their structures at multiple scales. In order to address this challenge, we are studying the fluid mechanics and polymerization kinetics of polymer materials during inkjet printing processes. Students are expected to perform independent experiments or assist graduate students/postdocs to perform experiments. Specifically, characterize both mechanical and thermal properties of polymers, analyze fluid mechanics during injection, and determine the optimal operating conditions.


Biomechanics of Collective Cell Migration

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Bumsoo Han
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering
Desired experience:   ME or BME Junior with course work related to solid, fluid or bio-mechanics. Experience with wet lab is preferred but not required.
Number of positions: 1

Cell migration is a key cellular behavior during many important physiological and pathological processes such as wound healing and cancer metastasis. During this process, cells are thought to communicate with each other and often migrate as a group rather than individuals. This kind of behavior is called "collective cell migration." Particularly, experimental study to understand mechanical interactions among the cells and between the cells and the matrix are primary focus of this project. Students are expected to perform independently and/or assist graduate students to perform experimental research including time-lapse microscopy, digital image analysis, and biomechanics analysis.


Design and development of a low pressure drop and low flow rate airflow sensor

Research categories:  Agricultural, Electronics, Environmental Science, Industrial Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Professor: Jiqin (Jee-Chin) Ni
Preferred major(s): Agricultural, mechanical, or electronic engineering
Desired experience:   Laboratory and hands-on experience on mechanical and basic electronic work.
Number of positions: 1

Measuring low rate of airflow with low pressure drop is important for some high quality research projects. However, commercially available sensors for these measurements are either expensive or not highly accurate. This project will involve designing an innovative airflow sensor that is suitable for low pressure drop (e.g., <50 Pa) and low flow rate (e.g., <50 mL per hour) airflow sensor. The principle of the sensor can be mechanical, electronic, or combination of the both. A workable prototype sensor based on the new design will also be built. The sensor will provide output signals that can be acquired to a computer for on-line and continuous airflow monitoring. The successful design can be disclosed as an invention to Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.


Development of Critical Technologies to Support the Construction of the Zucrow’s Turbine Rig

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Guillermo Paniagua
Preferred major(s): ME or Aerospace
Desired experience:   Passionate about mechanical design, breakthrough ideas, propulsion
Number of positions: 3

The Zucrow Turbine wind tunnel under development is a world-unique transient wind tunnel, that allows an independent change of the Mach and Reynolds number, as well as the temperature ratio of the flow to the model. This transient facility offers high fidelity heat flux measurements, with test durations from 100 ms to 200 seconds. The test-section inlet temperature can range between 80 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, while the pressure can range from 4 to 73 PSI. The Reynolds number would range between 50,000 to 4,000,000, while the pressure ratio can be independently adjusted, allowing testing at low subsonic regimes and high supersonic conditions (Mach 3.5).

We are seeking undergraduate students to join our team and work in the following areas:
- High fidelity instrumentation to measure flow temperature, pressure, massflow, heat flux, efficiency
- Control of the wind tunnel testing sequence
- Power absorption devices of the rotating module
- CFD analysis of the tunnel components


Enabling Ultra-High Diesel Engine Efficiencies Through Flexible Valve Actuation

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Greg Shaver
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Thermodynamics, measurement systems; if possible: IC engines, control systems
Number of positions: 2

The Purdue team is focused on improving the efficiency of diesel engines through flexibility in the valvetrain. As one example, cylinder deactivation allows increases in efficiency, and exhaust gas aftertreatment effectiveness, via reduction in airflow and pumping penalty when 2, 3, or 4 of 6 cylinder are deactivated (both fueling and cylinder valve motions are deactivated). The Purdue team utilizes both simulations and a unique multi-cylinder engine system to study this and other strategies. The project includes funding from, and interaction with, both Cummins and Eaton.

More information:


Experimental Characterization and Modeling of Energy Efficient Fluid Supply Systems

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: ABE / ME
Professor: Andrea Vacca
Preferred major(s): ME - AAE - ABE
Desired experience:   Required class: fluid mechanics Preferred course work: hydraulic systems - fluid power Preferred programming skills: labview - simulink or amesim
Number of positions: 1

This project will consider a particular design of a fluid supply system (for a high pressure application or for a low-pressure automotive application), and will focus on its characterization on following aspect: energy efficiency (evaluation of source of power loss) and noise emission (evaluation of noise radiated by the system).

The student will learn how to model and experimentally characterize fluid power systems.


Measuring the Thickness of Lubricating Oil Films

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering / Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Monika Ivantysynova
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture and Biological Engineering
Desired experience:   MATLAB, SolidWorks/CAD
Number of positions: 1

This project aims to understand the behavior of axial piston hydraulic units. The undergraduate researcher will assist in the design of a new test apparatus for the measurement of thin lubricating films of oil. These oil films are critical to the proper functioning of many hydraulic machines. New technologies allow direct measurement of the film thickness during machine operation. Models developed and refined using these measurements will lead to improved efficiency and reliability of axial piston pumps and motors.

The project is well suited to an undergraduate student interested in fluid power, tribology, instrumentation, and virtual prototyping. Previous experience or coursework with fluid power, fluid dynamics, tribology, MATLAB, and SolidWorks or another CAD software is desired but not required.


Mobile app development for portable research instrument

Research categories:  Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Euiwon Bae
Preferred major(s): Mechanical engineering computer science
Number of positions: 1

We are seeking undergraudate student who has basic skills and experience with mobile app development.

Some experience using camera API and image processing using is preferred


P-Band Satellite Remote Sensing Antenna

Research categories:  Agricultural, Aerospace Engineering, Electronics, Environmental Science, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): AAE,ECE,ME,Physics
Desired experience:   Basic understanding of electromagnetism is desired, but not required. Experience with electronic hardware, either academically or through extracurricular activities (e.g. amateur radio, robotic competitions, etc … ), is strongly desired. Experience with metal fabrication is also strongly required.
Number of positions: 2

This project will build an antenna for receiving satellite transmissions in P-band (225-390 MHz). We are using these signals as a source of illumination in a “bistatic” radar configuration, comparing the direct signal observed along a line-of-sight to the satellite, with the scattered signal reflected from the land surface. Theory suggests that we can use this comparison to estimate the water content within the top 1 m of the soil (called the Root-Zone Soil Moisture, RZSM). This is a very important quantity for understanding the transportation of water from the soil into plant roots, and this measurement has applications to monitoring agricultural production and climate change. The project will require the design of an antenna for a specific satellite frequency, based upon an amateur radio handbook. Mechanical design and fabrication is also very important as the antenna will be installed outdoors and must withstand extreme weather (rain, snow, ice), large temperature ranges, and exposure to wildlife.


Paper-based devices for global health diagnostics

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Biomedical Engineering
Professor: Jacqueline Linnes
Preferred major(s): Biomedical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Experience with course work related to fluid/bio-mechanics and/or wet lab is preferred but not required.
Number of positions: 1

The future of point of care testing will enable disease detection anywhere in the world, even in remote and low-resource settings. However, these sample-in answer-out tests will require simple operation and must be able to function without electricity. To address these challenges, we are using paper-based fluidic valves and rapid prototyping techniques such as laser cutting and microfluidic origami to develop portable, instrument-free, microfluidic devices. Students on this project will perform mentored, independent research focus on characterizing fluid mechanics during capillary action and will develop active and passive valves to direct fluid flow wicking through paper-based diagnostic devices.

More information:


Transverse Impact Testing of Body Armor

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Weinong Chen
Preferred major(s): School of Mechanical Engineering, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Desired experience:   An ideal candidate is one who: has experience with mechanical design and is interested in understanding high-rate deformation of materials and material systems. He/she must also be comfortable working in an environment that requires shooting body armor systems with projectiles that are commonly encountered by police officers in the line of duty. During the summer, the student will work closely with a graduate student who will be leading the experimentation. If interested, a brief tour of the facility can be given before agreeing to work on the project.
Number of positions: 2

The Dynamic Mechanics Research Laboratory is interested in investigating the effect of the rate of deformation on the properties of materials and structures. The goal of this project is to determine the effect of projectile/bullet impact onto woven armor systems, typically composed of either Kevlar or Dyneema.
As a SURF intern, your project is to assist and eventually lead a series of testing procedures aimed at describing the deformation and damage incurred in bullet-resistant body armor when impacted via ballistic projectiles. Basic understanding will be gained of high strain-rate (ballistic transverse impact), along with actual testing in this regime.


Variable Displacement Vane Pump Testing and Model Validation for Automatic Transmissions

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems
School/Dept.: Professor Agricultural & Biological Engineering/Mechanical Eng
Professor: Monika Ivantysynova
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering/ Agricultural and biological engineering
Desired experience:   Aptitude for hands-on testing and data acquisition as well as experience with MATLAB/Simulink
Number of positions: 1

One of the most popular transmissions used in the automotive industry is the hydraulic automatic transmission. These transmissions make use of multiple gears and clutches to achieve various gear ratios as the vehicle accelerates. The operation and control of these transmissions depends on a small pump that provides pressurized oil flow for lubrication of the gears, cooling the transmission, and actuating the clutches. Efforts to increase the overall efficiency of the vehicle has required automotive companies to research ways to reduce the transmission energy losses due to excess pump work through the use of variable displacement pumps. Purdue’s Maha Fluid Power Research Center specializes in high-efficiency hydraulic systems and the selected SURF student will work with a graduate mentor to investigate the control and efficiency of one of these variable displacement pumps. The student will also help build an experimental test rig and take measurements.