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:



Control Algorithm Research and Development to support virtual prototyping of pumps and motors

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems, Other
School/Dept.: Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering
Professor: Monika Ivantysynova
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Desired experience:   Matlab, C programming, Controls
Number of positions: 1

The project presents an undergraduate engineering student with interest in controls, programming, or fluid power to expand their experience in modeling real engineering systems. This project is a crucial part of a much larger effort of modeling swashplate type axial piston positive displacement pumps and motors. The student will have a chance to apply engineering and programming skills in a real life model being considered the world's benchmark in axial piston pump modeling.

The model of the pump requires the pump to be loaded in a way to represent the system the pump is used as a supply for. The SURF project will optimize/improve the current PID controller found within the code to automatically search out the correct values of external loads in order to set the correct operating condition commanded by the model's user.

This research will include programming in c++, using GitHub to collaborate with the team of PhD researchers, using Matlab to organize simulations and post process results.
The prospective student should consider themselves adapt with computers and knowledge of programming and PID controllers. Any lack of these skills can easily be overcome with a healthy eagerness to learn.


Development of Phase Transforming Cellular Materials (Design and 3D Printing)

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Civil and Construction, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Pablo Zavattieri
Preferred major(s): Engineering (Aero, Civil, Mechanical)
Desired experience:   - Mechanics (mechanics of materials, strength of materials) - Background on CAD software, - Some programming experience would be desired
Number of positions: 1

Phase transforming cellular materials (PXCMs) are a new type of energy-absorbing material which can resist high impact loads without experiencing irreversible deformation. PXCMs exhibit the same level of energy dissipation as traditional cellular materials but are capable of returning to their original shape. This new type of material could be utilized in many applications: automobiles, protective gear, or buildings.
PXCMs consist of periodic unit cells. Each unit cell includes several sinusoidal beams and stiffened beams. A unit cell has multiple stable configurations and each stable configuration is associated with a unique stable material phase. Under an impact load, the progressive phase transformation of each unit cell in a PXCM results in energy dissipation.
PXCMs have exhibited excellent performance resisting loads in one direction. However, it is desirable to develop and test PXCMs that are capable of resisting loads from multiple (and even arbitrary) directions. The objective of this project is to fabricate and test new 3D PXCM models. Those models will be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) modeling software and fabricated using a 3D printer. Compression and tension tests will be conducted on testing machines to evaluate the performance of these 3D printed PXCMs. The test results will then be analyzed using scripts in any number of computer languages (e.g. MATLAB, Python, or C).


Turbulence characterization in the bottom boundary layer of Lake Michigan

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Other
School/Dept.: School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Cary Troy
Preferred major(s): Civil or mechanical engineering
Desired experience:   Student must be proficient in use of Matlab, and should have taken a first course in fluid mechanics or hydraulics. Experience with water (lakes, rivers, oceans) is also helpful, as are courses in basic statistics.
Number of positions: 1

This project aims to characterize near-bottom turbulence in the deep waters of Lake Michigan, for the purpose of better understanding the impact of invasive mussels in the lake. Turbulence remains one of the most challenging topics in fluid mechanics, particularly in the deeper waters of large lakes. The student researcher will analyze a set of velocity, temperature, and fluorescence data collected in Lake Michigan for the purpose of estimating turbulence quantities, including turbulent kinetic energy, shear velocity, Reynolds Stress, and turbulent kinetic energy dissipation. The student will work closely with graduate student researchers and the summer project may involve additional field work.


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

Advances in nanoscale science and engineering promise to provide solutions to some of the Engineering Grand Challenges of the 21st century. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) has several undergraduate research positions available in exciting interdisciplinary research projects that use computational simulations to solve engineering problems in areas such as nanoelectronics, predictive materials simulations, materials characterization, nanophotonics, and the mechanical behavior of materials. The projects cover a wide range of applications, including development of systems with increased efficiencies for energy storage or energy conversion, development of next-generation electronic devices, improved manufacturing processes for pharmaceuticals and other materials, and the prediction and design of new materials with specific properties. Descriptions of the available research projects, requirements, and faculty advisors are posted on the website provided under 'More Information' below.

We are looking for students with a strong background in engineering or physics who can also code in at least one language, such as C or MATLAB. Selected students will work with a graduate student mentor and faculty advisor to create or improve a simulation tool that will be deployed on

nanoHUB is arguably the world’s largest nanoscale science and engineering user facility, with over 300,000 annual users. nanoHUB’s simulation tools run in a scientific computing cloud via a web browser, and are used by researchers and educators world wide. As part of our team, you will be engaged in a 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. At the end of the summer, successful students will publish a simulation tool on nanoHUB, where it can impact thousands of nanoHUB users.

In addition to the regular SURF workshops and seminars, NCN provides some additional activities and training for our cohort of summer students. More information, including examples of previous student projects, is available on the NCN SURF page:

In your SURF application, be sure to list the specific NCN project that you are interested in, along with your qualifications for that project. Students are matched to NCN projects based on their interests, qualifications, and available openings on projects.