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:



2D nanostructures for energy application

Research categories:  Chemical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Chemistry
Professor: Libai Huang
Preferred major(s): Chemistry, Chemical Engineering
Number of positions: 1

Energy transport will be studied across multiple length and time scales to in 2D semiconductors for solar energy applications. Exciton populations and dynamics following photoexcitation will be investigated using time-resolved spectroscopy.

The main goal of the SURF project will be on using 2D nanostructures as light absorbers for solar energy conversion devices such as solar cells. These 2D nanostructures are extremely efficient light absorbers and emitters. The student will carry out optical spectroscopy and microscopy measurements to study the electronic and optical properties of these materials. The student will also analyze data and present results at group meetings.


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

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Nuclear Engineering
Professor: Ahmed Hassanein
Desired experience:   Minimum GPA 3.5
Number of positions: 3-4

The Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment (CMUXE) is looking for undergraduate research students for the following areas:

1. Ion beams and plasma interaction with materials for various applications
2. Magnetic and Inertial Nuclear Fusion
3. Laser-produced plasma (LPP) and Discharge-produced plasma (DPP)
4. Nanostructuring of material by ion and laser beams
5. High energy density physics applications
6. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
7. Plasma for biomedical applications
8. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography
9. Computational physics for nuclear fusion, lithography, and other applications

Research of undergraduate students at CMUXE during previous SURF programs has resulted in students acquiring new knowledge in different areas and led to several joint publications, participation in national and international conferences, seminars, and provided experience in collaborative international research.

Several undergraduate and graduate students working in CMUXE have won national and international awards and have presented their work in several countries including Australia, China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Russia.

Position is open to undergraduates in all engineering and science disciplines. High level commitment and participation in group meetings are compulsory. Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the center website below for further information.


DNA Nanotechnology

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Jong Hyun Choi
Number of positions: 1

Besides being the genetic material for various forms of life, DNA also has emerged as a promising engineering material for nanotechnology. Based on its excellent ability to recognize its complementary sequence, the binding of DNA can be programmed by sequence design. This idea gave birth to the field of structural DNA nanotechnology. This project will focus on designing and constructing self-assembled synthetic DNA nanostructures (such as DNA origami) as well as understanding their thermodynamic, kinetic, and mechanical properties.


Irradiation Effects on Material Structure, Properties, and Functionality

Research categories:  Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Other
School/Dept.: Nuclear Engineering
Professor: Janelle Wharry
Preferred major(s): Nuclear Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering
Desired experience:   Introductory course in Materials Science & Engineering (e.g. Callister book level).
Number of positions: 1-2

Our research group studies how irradiation alters the structure, properties, and functionality (i.e. performance) of a wide variety of materials, especially those metals and alloys used in nuclear energy systems. This project will specifically focus on nanoscale clusters of solute atoms, which are embedded in metallic alloys. Irradiation introduces significant instabilities to these nanoclusters, and the students will be tasked with understanding these instabilities. Work will involve both hands-on experiments on a variety of state-of-the-art materials characterization tools and microscopes, as well as data processing, analysis, and computational model-building.


Lyophilization Research

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Bioscience/Biomedical, Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Life Science, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Alina Alexeenko
Preferred major(s): Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and other Engineering majors; Math/CS, Physics
Number of positions: 1-2

Freeze-drying, also called lyophilization, is widely used in manufacturing of injectable pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biotech products, chemical reagents, food and probiotic cultures. The research during the summer undergraduate project will involve experimental studies of novel lyoprotectants and/or computational modeling of heat and mass transfer in R&D lyophilizes. The summer undergraduate researcher will be involved in developing research methods as well as collecting and analyzing data.

More information:


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.

More information:


Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) / nanoHUB

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; Chemistry; Physics; Computer Science
Desired experience:   Serious interest in and enjoyment of programming; programming skills in any language. Physics coursework.
Number of positions: 16-20

NCN is looking for a diverse group of enthusiastic and qualified students with a strong background in engineering, chemistry or physics who can also code in at least one language (such as C or MATLAB) to work on research projects that involve computational simulations. Selected students will typically work with a graduate student mentor and faculty advisor to create or improve a simulation tool that will be deployed on nanoHUB. To learn about this year’s research projects along with their preferred majors and requirements, please go to website noted below.

If you are interested in working on a nanoHUB project in SURF, you will need to follow the instructions below and be sure you talk about specific NCN projects directly on your SURF application, in the text box for projects that most interest you.

1) Carefully read the NCN project descriptions (website available below) and select which project(s) you are most interested in and qualified for. It pays to do a little homework to prepare your application.
2) Select the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) / nanoHUB as one of your top choices.
3) In the text box that asks about your “understanding of your role in a project that you have identified”, you may discuss up to three NCN projects that most interest you. For each NCN project, be sure to tell us why you are interested in the project and how you meet the required skill and coursework requirements.

Faculty advisors for summer 2017 include: Arezoo Ardekani, Peter Bermel, Ilias Bilionis, Marcial Gonzalez, Marisol Koslowski, Peilin Liao, Guang Lin, Lyudmila Slipchenko, Alejandro Strachan, Janelle Wharry, and Pablo Zavattieri. These faculty represent a wide range of departments: ECE, ME, Civil E, MSE, Nuclear E, Chemistry and Math, and projects may be multidisciplinary.

Examples of previous student work can be found here:


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).