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Research Programs for Undergraduates

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For U-M Students

Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE)

For U-M undergraduate students, SURE offers summer research internships to outstanding undergraduate students who have completed at least their first year by the time of the internship (rising first years through seniors). Participants have the opportunity to conduct 10-12 weeks of full-time summer research with some of the country’s leading faculty in a wide range of engineering disciplines. The program provides opportunities for students to assess their interests and potential in pursuing research at the Masters or PhD level in graduate school. All participants must apply online through the SURE website. Accepted applicants from the University of Michigan receive guidance from a faculty advisor in a College of Engineering research facility, a stipend of $6,000, attend regular meetings and seminars, and submit an abstract or other designated assignment to showcase their summer research experience. Learn more about SURE.

Please note:

  • Chemical Engineering does not require any additional documents other than a resume.
  • Chemical Engineering faculty each develop their own processes for selecting candidates to join their labs. As such, faculty may contact candidates as part of their decision-making process.

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) creates research partnerships between first and second year students, and faculty, research scientist, and staff from across the University of Michigan community. All schools and colleges are active participants in UROP,thereby providing a wealth of research topics from which a student can choose. Begun in 1988 with 14 student/faculty partnerships, today, approximately 1200 students and over 700 faculty researchers are engaged in research partnerships. Learn more about UROP.

For Undergrads At Other Universities

Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP)

For non-U-M undergraduate students, SROP offers summer research internships to outstanding undergraduate students who have entered or completed their junior year by the time of their internship. Participants have the opportunity to conduct seven to eight weeks of full-time summer research with some of the country’s leading faculty in a wide range of engineering disciplines. The program provides opportunities for students to assess their interests and potential in pursuing research at the PhD level in graduate school. All participants must apply online through the SROP website. Accepted applicants receive guidance by a faculty advisor in a College of Engineering research facility, a stipend of $4,500, room and some board, travel allowance, GRE Test Prep, weekly seminars and workshops, produce a short YouTube video of their summer research project and/or experience, and potential attendance at a Big Ten CIC Research Symposium. Learn more about SROP.

For department information, contact Ms. Susan Hamlin, ChE Graduate Program Assistant, at [email protected].

SURE/SROP Projects

The application deadline is January 28, 2024. We will contact you when the list has been updated with instructions for our internal ChE-specific selection process.

All participants must apply online through the SURE website.

Projects by Researcher

Mark Burns

Burns Project 1: Rapid Traumatic Brain Injury Detection through On-Chip Assay Development

Faculty mentor: Mark Burns, [email protected]

Project Description: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) stands as a major global health concern, marked by high morbidity and mortality rates, exacerbated by the absence of sensitive diagnostics and effective treatments. To address this gap, we propose an on-chip approach for the simultaneous measurement of multiple TBI biomarkers, exploring different design iterations for the variable-height device. Our innovative device comprises two main components: a micro-chamber for conducting bead-based Quantum Dot-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (QLISAs), and a variable-height microfluidic device featuring a
single channel that dynamically adjusts in height between the inlet and outlet. The student
will actively participate in all aspects of experiments, including performing the QLISA assay, collecting data using microscopes, and analyzing data through Python code. Daily interactions with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will provide guidance to students in their research pursuits. Furthermore, weekly individual and group meetings will establish a collaborative learning platform, encouraging active engagement in group discussions, and facilitating collective progress.

Research Mode: In person

Sharon Glotzer

More information about Professor Glotzer’s projects can be found at the Glotzer Research Group

Glotzer Project 1: Computational studies of self-assembly at the nanoscale

Faculty Mentor: Sharon Glotzer, [email protected]

Project Description: Assist in computational studies of molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations to explore fundamental properties of self-assembly at the nanoscale. Projects are varied and students will be matched with researchers based on skills, interests, and current timeline of the projects.  Simulations are run on high-performance computing clusters at UM and national resources such as NSF ACCESS. Students will learn to run simulations, analyze results, and use a formal framework for managing data.  Some knowledge of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics is helpful but not strictly required.

Research Mode: In person 

Glotzer Project 2: Developing tools in Python for simulations, analyses and data management of soft matter simulations

Faculty Mentor: Sharon Glotzer, [email protected]

Project Description: Assist in the development of open-source software packages for nanoparticle and soft matter simulations in use by many research groups inside and outside of the University of Michigan.  In this project, you will learn standard molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo particle simulation techniques and grow your professional software development skills. Software packages are written using Python, C++, so basic prior knowledge of at least one of these is required. Prior Python users will have the opportunity to learn C++ if they wish, and vice versa.

Research Mode: In person

Joerg Lahann

Lahann Project 1: Multicompartmental Polymer Nanoparticles via Electrohydrodynamic Co-jetting
Nanoparticles are an attractive technological platform for a multitude of biomedical applications including drug delivery, tissue engineering, biosensing, and diagnostics. In the Lahann lab we fabricate multicompartmental particles via a process known as electrohydrodynamic co-jetting; we can incorporate multiple functionalities into these particles in a combinatorial fashion, allowing for the ability to produce a wide array of particles with diverse capabilities. We are looking for motivated and diligent students who would learn a variety of skills and work on various aspects of our projects, including manufacturing particles and post-fabrication processing, including chemical modifications. We are also looking for students who are interested in the testing of such particles in human cell lines.
Research mode: In person

Lahann Project 2: Protein Nanoparticles for the Delivery of Gene Therapies and Small Molecule Therapeutics.
Current research in drug delivery attempts to address the delivery of multiple therapeutics with distinct pharmacokinetics, sustained release over a set period of time, and fabrication of novel nanoparticles as carriers for targeted delivery. Through electrohydrodynamic co-jetting, our group has thus far been able to display the fabrication of multi-compartmental, biodegradable protein nanoparticles capable of delivering both gene therapies. The undergraduate student will be involved in the manufacturing, as well as further processing, of the nanoparticles and the subsequent testing of their efficacy in vitro.
Research mode: In person

Lahann Project 3: Liquid Crystal Directed Nanofiber Growth via CVP for Biological and Materials Applications
Using the techniques of CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and CVP (chemical vapor polymerization) we have developed a method for generating nanofiber films which adopt properties sympathetically from a liquid crystal (LC) substrate. These fibers display wide range of properties based on manufacturing conditions, LC species, and monomer selection. These systems are being actively developed for a variety of applications to include: cell and tissue engineering, electronic, optical, antifouling, adhesion, and antibiofouling. The student will learn how to set up and operate the CVD system to prepare samples and grow nanofibers. The student will also learn how to characterize surface chemistries, image nanostructures, and assess application functionality. With these main skills, the student will participate in a series of experiments to create fibers made of different materials. Characterization includes techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Optical Microscopy, Ellipsometry, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The potential to learn cell handling and analysis techniques will also exist.
Research mode: In person

Lahann Project 4: Surface-engineered Fibronectin Scaffolds for Cell, Tissue, and Organoid Research
The project investigates shear induced formation of highly aligned fibronectin scaffolds. This alignment allows cells to experience an environment very similar to the extracellular matric (ECM) of a natural environment. Within this project there are studies of the intrinsic properties of the engineered ECMs (eECMs), cell migration and growth, cell differentiation, tissue formation, and organoid development. Commercially available These substrates will be used to explore the effects of orientation, matrix porosity, mechanical properties, and chemical availability of cofactors. These results will enable us to understand the reasons behind the success of these eECMs in with differing manufacturing parameters and chemical modifications. Additionally, matrices will be characterized by FTIR, optical spectroscopies, optical imaging, mechanical testing, and through laser scanning confocal microscopy. Applications are mostly biomedical- tissue engineering, cancer stem cell culture, hESC and iPSC culture. The student will be responsible for the production and characterization of matrices and the subsequent interactions with cellls. They will get hands-on experience in the techniques listed above and will familiarize themselves with the chemical and biochemical aspects of the research question. They will gain knowledge of basic biopolymer chemistry and cell biology and will be able to hone their understanding further by interacting with graduate students, collaborators and by taking part in group meetings.
Research mode: In person

Lahann Project 5: Surface Engineering for Biomedical and Materials Applications
Biomolecular interactions with synthetic surfaces are important in diverse biomedical fields including medical device implants, microfluidic sensors, marine fouling, and tissue engineering. In the past, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) polymerization has been used to fabricate thin polymer films with robust mechanical and physical properties. The impact of CVD surface properties on biomolecular interactions will be assessed via a myriad of techniques such as ellipsometry, contact angle measurements, and fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The student will be involved in all aspects of experiments from fabrication to characterization to data analysis. They will also participate in weekly research group meetings if their schedule permits it and will have the opportunity to work with senior graduate students.
Research mode: In person

Lahann Project 6: Area-Selective Surface Manipulation via Chemical Vapor Deposition Polymerization
In this project, a sterically hindered polymer precursor is activated and deposited in its monomeric form by way of Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and polymerized on the substrate surface. The study is being undertaken to understand the selective property of the reactive species on two conventional electronics substrates based on processing conditions. The ultimate goal of this work is to provide additional mechanistic knowledge which can be applied to the controlled deposition into specific geometries. Applications to be considered are area selective deposition for the following areas: microchip manufacturing, lab-on-a-chip, nano- and micro-patterned surfaces, surface polymer trapping, and layer-by-layer surface manufacture using polymeric systems. The students will get to know the basics and gain experiences in chemical vapor deposition and surface characterizations, involving FTIR, XPS, Ellipsometry, AFM, and SEM.
Research mode: In person

Ronald Larson

Larson Project 1 – Polyelectrolyte Simulations
Polyelectrolytes (PEs) widely exist in life, such as DNA/RNA, and they have many applications in fields such as drug delivery, sewage treatment. However, we do not understand most of the aspects of how PE molecules behave, not only because there are too many variables controlling the PE phenomena, but also PE system is strongly correlated due to electrostatic interaction, dipole-dipole interaction, hydrogen bonding, and so on. Here we are interested in understanding the fundamentals of PE complexes using via all-atom or coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. The project will involve learning the molecular dynamics software package GROMACS, and directly simulating complex formation by oppositely charged polyelectrolytes. The results will be compared to experiments and theory.
Research mode: In person or hybrid

Larson Project 2 – Polyelectrolyte phase behavior and rheology
Polyelectrolytes (PEs) widely exist in life, such as DNA/RNA, and they have many applications in fields such as drug delivery, underwater adhesives, food additives and others. When polyelectrolytes of opposite charge are mixed, they form complexes or “coacervates” with unusual flow properties, including high viscosity and gel-like structure important for their applications, and important in the structure of biological cells. The project is to mix well-defined polyelectrolyte and measure their properties experimentally, especially their flow properties using a mechanical rheometer. The work will be guided by a Ph.D. student and will train the student not only in polyelectrolyte physics and technology, but also in the measurement of properties of viscous solutions and gels.

Research mode: In person

Andrej Lenert

Lenert Project 1: Multicomponent aerogels for solar thermal applications
Silica aerogels are an exciting alternative to conventional solar thermal collectors for use in concentrated solar power. They are one of the most thermally-insulating materials and they can also be optically transparent. Our goal is to develop a facile synthesis procedure that improves their properties by coating them with a second material: one that is capable of suppressing infrared radiative losses while also maintaining high optical transparency. This project will provide experience in wet lab chemistry and material characterization, and also provide knowledge in conductive and radiative heat transfer.
Prerequisites: Experience with MATLAB or similar
Research mode: In person

Sasha Cai Lesher-Pérez

Lesher-Pérez Project 1: Dynamic Nanopore Microfluidic Transfection via Electroporation
Objective and Methods: Electroporation is a transfection method used to deliver macromolecules such as DNA, mRNA, and proteins into cells. Transfection has a variety of medical applications including cellular manipulation, therapeutic effects, and stem cell differentiation. Cell based therapies including wound healing with patient-derived stem cells would benefit from an advanced transfection technology to increase throughput and efficiency. We are developing a new tool that builds upon electroporation called Dynamic Nanopore Microfluidic Transfection via Electroporation (DyNaMiTE). DyNaMiTE is a technology that will leverage nanopore electroporation in a microfluidic device. In nanopore electroporation, an applied electric field is localized at the nanopores embedded in an insulated membrane to provide a safer alternative of transfecting cells.

Responsibilities: The student’s responsibilities in this project will be designing microfluidic device molds using 3D modeling software (i.e., Fusion360), designing a clamping mechanism to secure the final microfluidic device, and fabricating microfluidic devices. If the student is interested in cell work, they would also can learn how to culture cells and electroporate cells. This student will develop skills in CAD software, generating microfluidic devices, operating/navigating various 3D printing platforms, microscopy, operating electrical equipment (oscilloscope, waveform generators, amplifiers, etc.) and cell culture. The student will grow in knowledge about the biomedical applications this technology possesses in reference to transfecting cells with macromolecules.

Lesher-Pérez Project 2: Modeling microfluidic flow within granular systems

Objective and Methods: Microfluidic organ-on-chip models aim to more closely mimic complex tissue environments. In pursuit of mimicking3Dtissue microenvironments, we combine granular microgels with dynamic flow in a microfluidic configuration. This granular systemin ables perfusion through void spaces between each microgel which increases mass transfer rates to increase nutrient and oxygen supply while increasing waste removal rates. The granular scaffold also provides a similar mechanical environment to tissue while individual microgels provide a similar biochemical environment. Development of a COMSOL model will help better understand physical effects of fluid flow through the system. With this new perspective, the aim of the project is to improve feeding rates, waste removal, and flow impacts for better outcomes. 

Responsibilities: Student will primarily work on translating experimental parameters to the development of a COMSOL model. This work will require the use of COMSOL Multiphysics. Basic understanding of fluids will help but is not needed.

Research mode: In person 

Lesher-Pérez Project 3: Developing microfluidic tools to generate shaped microgels on-chip

Objective and Methods: Microgels have gained popular interest in tissue culture applications due to their high degrees of tunability and modularity. By simply modifying gel composition, size or shape, researchers can observe different cellular responses and outcomes. To leverage tunability of microgels, this project aims to generate different shaped microgels. The goal of the project is maximizing throughput of generated microgels for use in tissue culture systems.

Responsibilities: The main task for the student is to develop microfluidic devices capable of generating shaped microgels on-chip. This work will utilize CAD software and soft lithography techniques to generate devices. Students will be trained in all basic techniques necessary for this project including 3D & 2D designing and modeling, gel production, soft lithography fabrication, and microscopy.

Albert Liu

Liu Project 1: Dynamic Electrochemical Systems via an Electromagnetically Reconfigurable Electrode-Electrolyte Interface 

Faculty Mentor: Albert Liu, [email protected]

Project Description: The pressing need to reach net-zero emissions drives a global effort to de-carbonize the chemical sector. One of the most promising strategies is to electrify the chemical production processes and establish distributed manufacturing with lower energy and chemical footprint. Building nature-inspired synthetic electrochemical systems that simultaneously possess high activity, selectivity, recyclability and adaptability represents an important step towards sustainable and responsible production of value-added chemicals. By bringing together recent advances in conductive microgel synthesis and field-assisted self-assembly of colloidal microparticles, this proposed study aims to develop a colloidal microgel based surface modification strategy to dynamically reconfigure the electrode–electrolyte interfaces in electrocatalytic systems, in order to enable temporally and spatially resolved control of reaction pathways and product selectivity in next-generation adaptive electrochemical systems.

Research Mode: In Lab

Liu Project 2: Nanopore Electroporation for Exosomal Uptake and Delivery of Therapeutic Molecules Towards Rapid, On-Demand Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury   

Faculty Mentor: Albert Liu, [email protected]

Project Description: Effective treatment of acute spinal cord injuries (SCI) constitutes a gap in the triumphs of modern medicine. SCIs are caused by violent events, such as car crashes, and structural degeneration from aging, a challenge that will grow in the coming years with the expanding global elderly population. Rapid, initial treatment is key in SCI prognosis: around 20% of SCI patients treated in less than 24 hours made meaningful recoveries, as compared to only 9% treated later (in North America). The general SCI treatment strategy involves two steps: neuroprotection and neuroregeneration, with the initial neuroprotective treatment focusing on mitigating further injury from a traumatic immune response. After intense immune activity abates (~14 days), mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) transplants are used to rebuild nerve function, and they are considered state of the art for neuroregeneration. Both treatment steps commonly involve surgical procedures, which necessitates access to specialized centers and skilled surgeons. MSC therapies also suffer from high immune activity harming MSC viability, imprecise delivery (MSC migration/trapping), and the necessity for multiple transplants. The proposed study aims to bridge this service deficiency by developing novel neuroprotective and neuroregenerative therapeutics for on-demand SCI treatment using engineered exosomes.

Research Mode: In Lab

Liu Project 3: Harnessing the Hydrovoltaic Effect for Sustainable Energy Harvesting: From Fundamentals to Real-World Applications   

Faculty Mentor: Albert Liu, [email protected]

Project Description: Water is the Earth’s most abundant and versatile energy resource, yet its vast energy potential remains largely untapped. Covering 71% of the Earth’s surface, water consumes about 35% of the solar energy received by the Earth, corresponding to a remarkable 60 petawatts (1015 W). If just a small portion of the tremendous energy contained in water could be harvested, it would readily satisfy the global energy demand of 18 terawatts (1012 W). The hydrovoltaic effect, a recently discovered phenomenon that converts the latent energy in water into electricity, holds the promise of introducing new ways we can extract energy from the ambient environment. Even though many practical hydrovoltaic energy harvesting devices have been demonstrated in the last few years, a comprehensive theoretical framework on the structure-property-relationship between the network structure of the underlying nano-materials and the resulted power outputs is still lacking. By investigating the interaction between water and carbon nanostructures, such as nanoflakes and nanotubes, we aim to unlock the full potential of hydrovoltaic-based energy harvesting.

Research Mode: In Lab

Eranda Nikolla

Nikolla Project 1: Controlled synthesis of high surface area nonstoichiometric mixed metal oxides for hydrogen generation from water
Non-stoichiometric mixed metal oxides (e.g., perovskites, double perovskites, Ruddlesden-Popper (R-P) oxides…) are redox and thermally stable materials largely characterized by the oxygen non-stoichiometry in their structure. The latter is a key factor in providing excellent ionic conductivity to this family of materials, enabling their application as promising heterogeneous catalysts for a number of relevant reactions to energy and chemical conversion and storage. One application of these oxides is that of catalyzing oxygen electrochemical reaction related to H2 generation from water. Electrolysis of water provides a sustainable pathway toward storing electrical energy from renewable sources in the form of chemical bonds. The objective in this project is to use reverse microemulsion and hydrothermal syntheses to control the surface area and nanostructure of nonstoichiometric mixed metal oxides for effectively catalyzing the electrochemical reactions involving oxygen.  Previous experience in a wet lab is preferred.
Research mode: In person