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:



3D Printed Nanostructures: Thermal and Thermoelectric Applications

Research categories:  Chemical, Electronics, Innovative Technology/Design, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Amy Marconnet
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Chemical, Materials, or Electrical Engineering
Desired experience:   Courses in chemistry, heat transfer, and fluid mechanics. Experience with programming arduino or raspberry pi type systems. Familiarity with CAD software and general computer programming skills.
Number of positions: 1 or 2

Nanostructured materials are enabling technological advances, but fabrication costs can mitigate performance improvements. Solution synthesis of nanoparticles is a low-cost, high-throughput method for generating nanostructures. Combined with inkjet and\or 3d printing technology these nanoinks can be formed into on demand devices. In this project, students will develop a technique for printing thermoelectric devices and metallic heater/electrode lines for thermal analyses.


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: 3-5

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

1. Materials modification and nanostructuring by energetic ion beams
2. Nanostructuring by ultrafast lasers
3. High energy density physics in ultrafast laser laboratory
4. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
5. Experimental and computational studies of non-thermal plasmas for biological applications
6. Computational modeling of physics processes for various plasma applications; in laser, discharge, and fusion devices

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.

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.


Combustion at Small Scales

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Li Qiao
Preferred major(s): Aerospace or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   Prior experience at Birck Nanotechnology Center is preferred but not required.
Number of positions: 1

A long-pursued goal, which is also a grand challenge, in nanoscience and nanotechnology is to create nanoscale devices, machines, and motors that can do useful work. Such tiny devices have applications in many fields. They might, for example, someday “transport medicine in the human body, conduct operations in cells, move cargo around microfluidic chips, or search for and destroy toxic organic molecules in polluted water streams”. No matter what jobs these nanomachines will be designed to do, they must be chemically propelled or powered. Various approaches have already been explored to generate power and mechanical work at the nanoscale level, e.g., novel devices made of carbon nanotubes or nanowires and mainly driven by an electrical source of energy.

Combustion, however, has never been considered as a potential means for powering nanoscale devices, even though it is still a dominant means for producing energy and power in our modern society. But the possibility that it soon will be considered in this direction is becoming surprisingly closer. This project explores the combustion behavior of nanoscale-tailored fuels and propellants. The SURF student will work closely with a PhD student to perform experiments on combustion behavior of fuels and propellants at small scales. The experiments will be performed at Birck Nanotechnology Center


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.


High-pressure Combustion

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Nanotechnology
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: Li Qiao
Preferred major(s): Aerospace or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   Prior experience working at Zucrow labs is preferred but not required.
Number of positions: 1

Practical engines such as liquid rockets, diesel engines and gas turbine engines all operate at high pressures. For example, the pressure in a rocket engine that uses liquid hydrogen and oxygen can be in excess of 100 atm. Diesel engines have high compression ratios resulting in a pressure of above 60 atm after ignition. Aircraft gas turbine engines typically operate at pressures of 30-40 atm. For lean-burn natural gas engines, the peak pressure in the cylinder chamber can be as high as 250-300 atm. Because combustion at high pressures is thermodynamically more efficient, future engines will likely operate at even higher pressures.

As a result of high pressure, the injected fuel is often at supercritical state during the injection, mixing, evaporation and combustion processes. Our fundamental understanding of these processes at near-critical and supercritical conditions, however, is far from complete. Modeling these processes through detailed numerical simulations has serious challenges due to the non-equilibrium and unsteady nature of the phenomena, lack of a physical interface at some conditions, as well as departure from ideal gas behavior resulting in thermodynamic nonidealities and transport anomalies.

The undergraduate student to be recruited from the SURF program will work closely with a PhD student on this research. His/her responsibilities will include measurement of key parameters of high-pressure flames using high-speed imaging techniques. Also theoretical analyses will be performed to understand the new physics of high-pressure combustion.


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; Computer Science
Desired experience:   Serious interest in and enjoyment of programming, programming skills in any language, physics coursework.
Number of positions: 15-20

Join the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) team and help build the growing set of resources being used in all Top 50 Colleges of Engineering (US News & World Report rankings) and by over 300,000 annual users in 172 countries. nanoHUB provides over 340 simulation tools that users run from a web browser in a scientific computing cloud. You will work with one of the NCN collaborative investigators, such as Professors Gerhard Klimeck, Ale Strachan, or Peter Bermel.

SURF students learn the Rappture ( toolkit that makes it quick and easy to develop powerful, interactive, web-based applications. These skills are utilized by working with nanotechnologists to put their applications and supporting information on As part of our team, you will be engaged in the 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 thousands of nanoHUB users (for an example, see; join their legacy and create something that will build your own skills and will help others.