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:



Developing the high-speed noninvasive thermometry of reactive flows based on coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Innovative Technology/Design, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: ME
Professor: Mikhail Slipchenko
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Aerospace, Physics, Chemistry
Desired experience:   Physics and mathematics courses
Number of positions: 1

Acquiring the temperature information at high-speed on the order of 100s kHz is critical to understand the energy release and coupling to acoustic modes in hypersonic reacting flows. The undergraduate research assistant will be involved in development of the state-of-the-art laser system under supervision of the graduate research assistant and research faculty involving hands-on experience with aligning optical systems and generating complicated time sequences to operate the high-speed camera acquisition system. The undergraduate research assistant will gain unique experience in optics as well as participate in data acquisition and data analysis with potential high impact publication as the results. Such lab experience will help to establish research interest and motivate undergraduate research assistant to continue academic carrier.


Extraterrestrial Habitat Engineering

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: ME and CE
Professor: Shirley Dyke
Preferred major(s): CE, ME, AAE or Planetary Science
Number of positions: 1-2

There is growing interest from Space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency in establishing permanent human settlements outside Earth. However, even a very cursory inspection of the proposals uncovers fatal flaws in their conceptual design. The buildings may not be able to support the load demands, which should include potential impact from meteorites and/or the seismic motions induced by such an impact, and perhaps most importantly, the materials used as cover for radiation protection may be radioactive themselves. Ongoing research interest focuses on mitigating astronauts' health and performance in space exploration and has neglected the largely unexplored needs regarding the habitat and infrastructure required on extraterrestrial bodies. Their design and sustainability represents a multidisciplinary engineering and scientific challenge for humanity. In a context of extreme environments, it is especially important to design buildings whether for habitation, laboratory or manufacturing, that are capable of responding to prevailing conditions not only as a protective measure, but also to enable future generations to thrive under such conditions.

Participating undergraduate researchers would be tasked to design and develop the following areas:
- design and build a prototype habitat for a permanent human settlement on the Moon as a preliminary proof of concept.
- develop concept experiments to assess critical issues such as the challenge of pressurizing rock openings or for a cavern to survive a meteorite impact.

Construction, assembly and experimentation will be done in the laboratory, using Purdue's expertise in the emerging field of real-time hybrid simulation (RTHS). RTHS uses sub-structuring, feedback control and real-time parallel computing to break a complex system into several computational and physical subsystems, realistically allowing testing of systems that are too large to fit in a laboratory.

We are looking for students to play key roles in this project, under the guidance of a graduate student and faculty members. The students are also expected to prepare a poster presentation on the results, and author a research paper if the desired results are achieved.


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.


Laboratory characterization of unsteady boundary layer turbulence and flow structure

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Mechanical Systems, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: Civil Engineering
Professor: Cary Troy
Preferred major(s): Civil, mechanical, or aerospace engineering
Desired experience:   Should have taken a first course in fluid mechanics; Matlab experience is necessary; and experience on the water is desirable but not required. Students who are good working with their hands, tools, and the machine shop are also very welcome to our lab.
Number of positions: 1

The objective of this project is to produce and analyze preliminary data associated with unsteady, oscillatory boundary layers. Unsteady boundary layers are ubiquitous in the environment, including tidal flows, water waves, and the atmospheric boundary layer. They are also important in a variety of engineered flows over surfaces. The successful student applicant will be in charge of designing, setting up, carrying out, and analyzing experiments in two of our large-scale water flow facilities: (1) a 10m long research flume; (2) a 50m long wave basin, which is a brand new Purdue facility that has not been used. Students will perform measurements on turbulence and velocity structure using a range of state-of-the-art instruments, including acoustic doppler current profilers.


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:


Wearable sensing for advancing human performance in surgery

Research categories:  Industrial Engineering, Other
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Denny Yu
Preferred major(s): IE
Desired experience:   Strong ability to work in clinician-engineer teams is required. Proficiency in Matlab and statistics. Occasional travel may be needed.
Number of positions: 1-2

Research will be focused on developing and applying sensors and sensor analytics to better understand surgeon performance in the operating room and in simulation. Available projects included the following domains: robotic surgery, veterinary care, and/or trauma teams.


Wideband GNSS Reflectometry Instrument Design and Signal Processing for Airborne Remote Sensing of Ocean Winds.

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Electronics, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: AAE
Professor: James Garrison
Preferred major(s): Electrical Engineering, Physics
Desired experience:   Linear Systems, Signal processing, computer programming (C, Python, MATLAB). Some experience building computers or electronics is desirable. A basic understanding of electromagnetism is also desirable.
Number of positions: 1

This research project will involve the assembly and test a remote sensing instrument to make measurements of the ocean wind field from the NOAA “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft. The fundamental operating principle of this new instrument is “reflectometry”, which is based upon observing changes in the structure of a radio frequency signal reflected from the ocean surface. These changes are related to the air-sea interaction process on the ocean surface and can be used to estimate the wind speed through empirical models. Transmissions from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), (e.g. GPS, Galileo, Glonass or Compass) are ideal signal sources for reflectometry, due to their use of a “pseudorandom noise” (RRN) code.

NASA will be launching the CYGNSS satellite constellation in November to globally monitor the tropical ocean and observe the formation of severe storms. CYGNSS will use a first generation GNSS-R instrument. This summer research project will produce a next-generation prototype taking advantage of the wider bandwidth of the Galileo E5 signal (~90 MHz vs. 2 MHz) for higher resolution measurements of the reflected signal.

In addition to hardware assembly and testing in the laboratory, this research project will also require the development of signal processing algorithms to extract essential information from the scattered signal. A “software defined radio” approach will be used, in which the full spectrum of the reflected signal is recorded and post-processed using software to implement the complete signal processing chain.

The goal of this summer research project is to deliver a working instrument, post processing software, and documentation to NOAA for flight on the hurricane aircraft during the 2017 hurricane season. There are two objectives of this experiment. The first is to demonstrate the feasibility of wideband E5 reflectometry measurements. The second objective is to collect the highest quality GNSS reflectometry data, under a wide variety of extreme meteorological conditions, to improve the empirical models that will be used for processing CYGNSS data and generating hurricane forecasts.

Students interested in this project should have good programming skills and some experience with C, Python and MATLAB. They should also have a strong background in basic signal processing. Experience with building computers or other electronic equipment will also be an advantage.

More information: