SROP/SURE Projects in MSE:


Directions: Below are listed the most recent descriptions of 2017 SURE and SROP projects available in Materials Science and Engineering. Please consider this list carefully before applying to the SURE or SROP program.







Please see the College of Engineering SURE/SROP website for more information: 


Available Projects: 


MSE Project 1:

Title: Materials Science in Four Dimensions

Faculty:  Ashwin Shahani ()

Prerequisites: The student has taken Thermodynamics (or an equivalend course.)



Crystal growth is of fundamental importance and practical relevance to a broad spectrum of scientists and engineers.  Various interfacial morphologies with pronounced orientational order have been observed, e.g., dendritic (tree-like) and faceted, depending on the physical properties of the material.  The inherent complexity of such structures, including their morphological evolution, remain unexplained by existing models. Thus, there is ample potential for the SURE/SROP student to better understand the underlying growth dynamics using state-of-the-art characterization methods.  The student will be actively involved in the preparation of samples, the characterization of nano- and meso-scale architectures, and the analysis of the Big Data obtained.  The student will be directly mentored by the Principal Investigator (Prof. Shahani) on all aspects of the proposed research. 


MSE Project 2:

Title:  Computer modeling of novel materials for energy applications

Faculty mentor: Don Siegel (

Prerequisites: Introductory chemistry, computer science, physics, and materials science. Interest in computation is also helpful.



This SURE/SROP project will apply state-of-the-art computational modeling to predict and understand the properties of new materials for various energy-related applications.  Specific areas include: (i) high-capacity energy storage materials for applications in transportation (fuel cell and battery electric vehicles) and renewable energy generation (wind and solar); (ii) Materials for CO2 capture; (iii) Lightweight structural alloys.  We use state of the art high-performance (parallel) computers and algorithms to model the atomic scale properties that determine the performance of novel energy storage materials. The SURE/SROP student will develop a detailed understanding of a particular energy-related application. They will also gain expertise with the importance & capabilities of computer modeling in modern materials science research.


MSE Project 3:

Title:   Gallium Nanoparticle Plasmonics

Faculty:  Rachel Goldman ()

Prerequisites:  A strong interest in experimental science and/or engineering is required. Completion of Introductory Chemistry and Physics Labs is preferred but not required.



Metal nanoparticle arrays often exhibit collective electron oscillations (plasmon resonances) which are promising for enhanced light emission, efficient solar energy harvesting, ultra-sensitive biosensing, and optical cloaking.  To date, materials research and device fabrication have focused nearly exclusively on silver and gold nanoparticle dispersions in two dimensions; these arrays exhibit plasmon resonances limited to visible wavelengths.  Recently, we demonstrated a novel method to assemble high-quality gallium nanoparticle arrays with surface plasmon resonances tunable from the infrared to visible wavelength range.  In this summer project, we explore the influence of gallium nanoparticle arrays on the properties of compound semiconductor solar cells, using a combination of electromagnetic simulations, molecular-beam epitaxy, atomic-force microscopy, and optical spectroscopy.


MSE Project 4:

Title: "Quantitative Characterization of Microstructural Evolution and Mechanical Behavior in Light Alloys”

Faculty:  John Allison - )

Prerequisites: Undergraduate education in Materials Science and Engineering, successful completion of a materials science and engineering laboratory course is preferred, strong interest in metals.



The goal of this project is to develop a quantitative understanding of microstructural evolution and the impact of microstructure on mechanical properties of advanced lightweight metals.  Such quantitative knowledge is essential for development of integrated computational materials engineering tools.   Materials of interest are advanced alloys of aluminum, magnesium and titanium. The summer researcher will utilize advanced characterization tools to quantify the effects of deformation and heat treatment on microstructure and tensile properties. The student will gain experience in physical metallurgy, mechanical behavior and microstructural characterization.


MSE Project 5 :

Title: Simulation of Nanostructure and Defects in Two-Dimensional Materials

Faculty:  Katsuyo Thornton  -


While graphene is the best-known 2D material, it is limited in device application due to its high conductivity. More recent research has focused on 2D semiconducting materials, which can be manipulated to block or permit current flow. These research activities have been primarily based on experimental explorations due to a gap in the fundamental understanding in what determines their structures and properties. This project aims to help fill this gap by developing a model for the growth of these systems based on the phase field crystal modeling approach. This approach allows researchers to study materials involving tiny structures as small as atoms.  Simulations will be used to examine the structure of these materials and associated defects at the atomic level. 


In addition, there will likely other research opportunities, including microstructural evolution in solid oxide fuel cell electrodes and effects of microstructures on charge/discharge behavior in batteries.


Programming experience in MATLAB, Fortran, C++ or another language is advantageous but not required. 





MACRO Project 1

Title:  Silsesquioxanes as Components in Hybrid Photovoltaics

Faculty:  Richard M. Laine -

Description:  Silsesquioxanes are polyhedral structures that consist of an inner silica cage to which are appended functional organic groups.  Selected structures are shown below.  The iodo T8 compound provides access to a wide variety of materials and especially to polymers (not shown). All of these materials seem to show 3-D conjugation in the excited state even in polymer chains…suggesting semiconducting behavior rather than the behavior expected for an insulating cage.  The project will involve synthesis and/or characterization of the properties of these materials.


MACRO Project 2

Title:   3D Cell Cultures for Drug Discovery

Faculty:  Nicholas Kotov -

Precise design of three-dimensional structures is essential for controlling nutrient diffusion, interstitial fluid and blood flow, and cell growth, function, and differentiation. This project will focus on the preparation of 3D cell culture scaffolds with accurately controlled 3D geometry and surface topography. This project will utilize the combination of two new scaffold engineering approaches tools: inverted colloidal crystal (ICC) geometry, and layer-by-layer surface modification. The topology of the scaffold will be closely packed spherical cavities arranged in a hexagonal crystal lattice. This ICC arrangement optimizes the effects of 3D architecture and nanoscale topography to provide a favorable environment for cell growth. Specifically, the highly ordered structure of ICC offers a uniform cellular environment for differentiation and growth, as well as one of the highest porosities and surface areas for cell growth attachment. Additionally, the pore diameter can be precisely controlled within from 100 nm to 500 microns, which opens unique possibilities for optimization of 3D cell environment.
Scaffolds will need to be constructed in well plates using the combination of self-assembly of colloidal crystals and microfabrication techniques.

MACRO Project 3

Title:   Ultrastrong Nanocomposites from Natural Renewable Fibers

Faculty:  Nicholas Kotov -

It is well known that single wall nanoscale cellulose  is exceptionally strong as individual fibers. However, this strength is confined to very small dimensions of single strands. It is exceptionally challenging to create nanocomposites from them due to their intrinsic ability to aggregate and poor connectivity with the matrix. The project will be focused of making the composites from nanocellulose using layer-by-layer assembly and other techniques.  Design and construction of a new computer-controlled hardware robotic station to automatically deposit cellulose nanofibers as an ultrastrong composite is envisioned.  mechanical testing of the produced fibers will also be a part of the work.

MACRO Project 4

Title:   Preparation of Transparent Ultrastrong Materials for Military Applications

Faculty:  Nicholas Kotov -

The major focus of this project is the preparation of transparent armor, which  is one of the central priorities for the US Army, Air Force and Navy.  We shall use different commercial off-the-shelf materials and nanocomposites developed in this laboratory to produce a new generation of transparent armors.


MACRO Project 5

Title:   Energy Applications of Nanomaterials

Faculty:  Nicholas Kotov -


This project is focused on the preparation of new types of batteries from nanocomposites. Cathode, anode and ion-conductive separators are of interest for this study.  Preparation of these materials, their testing and design of the hardware for their production in a mass scale will be a subject of the work.