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:

Physical Science


Atomistic Simulations of Gold-Silicon Interface

Research categories:  Aerospace Engineering, Chemical, Civil and Construction, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Mechanical Systems, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor: Michael Sangid
Desired experience:   Junior standing and ability to develop computer codes.
Number of positions: 1

The size of electronic devices has been decreasing steadily over the years and it is expected to continue that trend, as there is significant interest in the development to microelectronics and nanoelectronics for applications in the biomedical, sensing, data storage and high-performance computing fields, among others. With the increasing miniaturization of electronics, it is important to consider any effects that might happen in the interfaces at the nanometer scale, as the behavior of materials at this length scales may differ markedly from the behavior at the macroscopic scale. This project studies the interactions occurring in the interface between gold and silicon, materials selected due to their excellent properties as conductor and semiconductor, respectively, and their popularity in electronic circuits. The behavior of gold and silicon is expected to differ from the properties observed in the bulk and at larger scales, so it is crucial to analyze and understand the mechanisms of this behavior for the design and manufacture of microelectronic devices utilizing these materials. The research will involve Molecular Dynamics modeling of the gold-silicon interface. Additionally, this project will be complemented by other research opportunities in our lab.


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

Research categories:  Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: NE and Center for Materials Under Extreme Environment
Professor: Sivanandan Harilal
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. Ion beam and ultrafast laser beam nanostructuring
2. Characterization of ultrafast laser ablation plumes
3. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
4. Computational modeling of laser and discharge produced plasma and fusion devices

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.


Constructing Large Scale Representative Social Networks

Research categories:  Bioscience/Biomedical, Computational/Mathematical, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Educational Research/Social Science, Industrial Engineering, Life Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial Engineering
Professor: Mario Ventresca
Desired experience:   At least one student with object-oriented programming, data structures, algorithm analysis, as well as familiarity with at least basic discrete mathematics, statistics and probability (graph theory, distributions, hypothesis testing, regression, etc). Experience using MPI/parallel computation would be highly advantageous, but not necessary. Familiarity with Linux and R would also be useful. A student with a background in epidemiology or applied mathematics would also be very strongly considered.
Number of positions: 1-2

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and LinkedIn are well known examples of cyber-social networks. However, social networks obviously exist outside of that domain and can represent the connections we make with the people around us. Unlike cyber-world social networks where the connections people make are fully known and observable, real-world networks must be inferred from limited statistical information as well as reasonable assumptions about human behavior. In both instances, a representative social network allows for the study of not only the network topological properties but also diffusive processes acting upon it, such as information spread, influence, disease, etc. There exists a gap in our ability to reconstruct real-world networks from partially observed, noisy and limited data.

This project will aid in developing efficient and scalable algorithms for constructing real-world social network representations at different scales and abstractions (up to global). An extensive literature review of existing capabilities and known social behaviors/mixing patterns will be conducted as part of the project, as will data acquisition and analysis.


Crystal Engineering of Organic Crystals

Research categories:  Chemical, Computational/Mathematical, Material Science and Engineering, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Industrial & Physical Pharmacy
Professor: Tonglei Li
Preferred major(s): chemistry, chemical engineering
Number of positions: 1 or 2

Crystallization of organic materials plays a central role in drug development. Mechanistic understanding of nucleation and crystal growth remains primitive and scantily developed despite decades of investigation. Of the same organic molecule, distinct crystal structures can be routinely formed. The intricacy of the so-called polymorphism largely originates from the rich and unpredictable supramolecular tessellations supported by intermolecular interactions. The subtleties in strength and directionality of the interactions are controlled by structural diversity and conformational flexibility of molecule. In fact, it is these molecular interactions that make organic crystal structures fascinating as it is unlikely to predict crystal structures of a given organic molecule a priori.

In this project, the student will learn how to grow drug crystals, characterize them, and connect the structural outcome with crystallization conditions. It is expected that the student will conduct both experimental and computational studies in order to understand formation mechanisms of drug crystals.

More information:


Development of a Nanomanufacturing Process

Research categories:  Electronics, Material Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering, Birck Nanotechnology Center
Professor: Xianfan Xu
Preferred major(s): Mechanical, Electrical Engineering or Physics.
Desired experience:   Senior standing (in Fall 14); Interested in experimental work; GPA > 3.5; US citizen/permanent resident preferred.
Number of positions: 2

This project is to participate research in the development of a laser-based nanomanufacturing technique. The SURF students will work with graduate students to investigate using laser processes to fabricate nanoscale patterns and nanoscale semiconductor materials such as nanowires. These materials will then be used for developing highly sensitive chemical and biological sensors.


Real-time Lake Michigan buoy research

Research categories:  Civil and Construction, Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science
School/Dept.: School of Civil Engineering
Professor: Cary Troy
Preferred major(s): CE, ECE, or ME
Desired experience:   Experience using Matlab is required; student should have some hands-on experience with tools; student should have strong written communication skills; student should like water (boat experience is a plus).
Number of positions: 1

The student will be working on a Lake Michigan buoy that transmits data in real-time on lake water temperatures and meteorological conditions. This buoy is an important source of information for boaters, anglers, and beachgoers along Lake Michigan's southern coast. In particular, the student will work on developing real-time visualizations of lake subsurface water temperatures on a buoy website. In addition, the student will utilize recently-collected buoy data to characterize lake water temperatures, their seasonal variability, and potentially their forecasted changes under various climate change scenarios.


Visualizing Mechanics - Developing Instructional Videos for Mechanics Education

Research categories:  Mechanical Systems, Physical Science
School/Dept.: Mechanical Engineering
Professor: Jeff Rhoads
Preferred major(s): Mechanical Engineering or a related field
Desired experience:   Knowledge of basic solid mechanics and dynamics is essential. Video production skills are a plus, as is a desire to appear on camera.
Number of positions: 2

This non-traditional research effort seeks to build upon prior efforts by the PI and his research group via the development of additional YouTube-style videos for his Visualizing Mechanics movie series. Specifically, students will be tasked with concept development, experimental design, video production, and post-processing. Students will work hand-in-hand with faculty members and other students to successfully achieve stated goals.