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:



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:


The Urban-Ag Divide: The role of social learning in water resource protection behaviors

Research categories:  Agricultural, Environmental Science, Other
School/Dept.: Forestry and Natural Resources
Professor: Linda Prokopy
Desired experience:   Personable, high attention to detail, willingness to work with diverse stakeholders, interest in water quality issues and environmental education, desire to work with the public and conduct research.
Number of positions: 1

In this project, we seek to test out a new watershed/water pollution mitigation education strategy. One of the things we repeatedly hear when we talk to farmers is that they’re not the only ones to blame for water quality issues so they shouldn’t be the only ones expected to change their behaviors. We’re wondering if this is limiting willingness to voluntarily adopt practices.

In response to this, we are experimenting with something we’re calling “reciprocal tours” where we take farmers out to see things that cities and urban dwellers are doing and we take urban dwellers out to see what farmers are doing to help mitigate water pollution. This summer, we will be conducting a pilot study of this approach in Tippecanoe County where both farmers and cities have adopted water quality mitigation practices.

We are seeking a student to coordinate demonstration tours in Lafayette, IN and the surrounding agricultural area. Coordination includes finding urban and farmer tour participants, coordinating transportation to and from tours, organizing focus group location and food, and working with cities, farmers, and staff from the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation to identify appropriate sites and develop speaking points and education material about various conservation practice. In addition, this student will help develop, administer, and analyze evaluation materials.


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: