For U-M undergraduate students, SURE 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 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 $4,200, attend regular meetings and seminars, and produce a short YouTube video of their summer research project and/or experience. Learn more about SURE.
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 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 SURE website. Accepted applicants receive guidance by a faculty advisor in a College of Engineering research facility, a stipend of $4,000, 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@example.com.
The application deadline is January 15th. We will contact you when the list has been updated with instructions for our internal ChE-specific selection process.
Maciek Antoniewicz |Lola Eniola-Adefeso | Scott Fogler | Sharon Glotzer | Bryan Goldsmith | Jovan Kamcev |Nicholas Kotov | Ronald Larson | Joerg Lahann | Andrej Lenert | Jennifer Linderman | Sunitha Nagrath | Michael Solomon | Peter Tessier |Henry Wang | Fei Wen | Robert Ziff
Project Antoniewicz 1- From genotype to fluxome to comprehensive kinetic model of Escherichia coli
The overall goal of this project is to comprehensively assess the metabolic flux redistribution in response to gene knock-outs (KO) for a large number (>100) of E. coli KO strains, both single gene KOs and double KOs, enabling the development of a comprehensive predictive kinetic model of central carbon metabolism. To accomplish this goal, we will apply 13C-MFA approaches to measure highly precise metabolic fluxes and biomass compositional changes for >100 E. coli KOs in both batch and continuous culture, and use this extensive experimental data set, enriched with complementary transcriptomic and proteomic measurements, to build a comprehensive kinetic model of primary metabolism that includes regulatory effects using the ensemble kinetic modeling approach.
Our overall research interest is in understanding dynamics of blood flow adhesion. Characterization of blood flow dynamics can help increase understanding of important biological processes like the cellular immune and inflammatory responses, and lead to the development of technologies such as cell separation and targeted drug delivery.
Project Eniola 1: Leukocyte Adhesion Studies in Parallel Plate Flow Chambers – Evaluation of Platelet-Enhanced Neutrophil Adhesion
Dynamic interactions between leukocytes in the blood stream and the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels in response to inflammation are a hallmark of immune physiology. These interactions are mediated by cell adhesion molecules expressed on leukocyte and endothelial cell surfaces and are governed by blood flow dynamics and tissue-produced chemical stimuli. A recently published work suggests a role for platelets in leukocyte adhesion from flow and migration into tissues. We seek to elucidate the mechanism by which blood platelets enhance leukocyte (neutrophils) adhesion to the endothelium. This project will involve in vitro flow adhesion assays with human platelets, neutrophils and endothelial cells. Student(s) will also learn cell culture and fluorescence imaging techniques.
Project Eniola 2: Characterization of the flow adhesion dynamics of vascular targeted drug carriers – Evaluation of Drug Carrier Blood Compatibility
Vascular-targeted drug carriers are often designed to locally deliver therapeutics that can eliminate (or control) disease phenotype in targeted tissue. For this reason, it becomes important that these carriers themselves do not elicit immune responses that can exacerbate the status quo. While blood concentration of targeted particles is not likely to elicit leukocyte reaction, a significant concentration bound to the endothelium at the target site could potentially affect local leukocyte-EC interaction by physical contact or molecular interaction. Student will use in vitro flow adhesion assays to evaluate increased leukocyte-endothelium interaction that is due to the presence of targeted drug carriers. Particularly, human leukocytes (neutrophils and monocytes) in whole blood (obtained by venipuncture from healthy donors) or isolated will be perfused in a flow chamber over activated endothelial monolayers with endothelium-targeted drug carriers already bound to their surface.
Project Fogler 1: Asphaltene precipitation kinetics
Asphaltenes are known as the cholesterol of the petroleum industry. This project is a fundamental study on the onset of asphaltene precipitation and the growth of the primary particles. The onset is measured by the refractive index and by optical microcopy.
Project Fogler 2: Wax deposition in subsea pipelines
In the enhanced oil recovery technique of water flooding water, water containing sulfates is injected into the formation to push out the oil. Unfortunately it can mix with the ground water in the reservoir that contains barium to form a barium sulfate precipitate which can plug the pores in the reservoirs as well as damaging downstream equipment. This project studies the kinetics of the precipitation in small capillary used to simulate the reservoir pores.
Project Fogler 3: Develop Material for the Website: Process Safety Across the Chemical Engineering Curriculum
This project will develop modules on chemical process safety for all core lecture courses in chemical engineering that are course specific. A safety module consists of viewing a Chemical Safety Board Video of an accident, doing as safety analysis of the incident and then doing a technical calculation of the accident that is course specific. Last year we developed at least two modules for each course along with 5 tutorials on process safety. These modules and tutorials can be found at http://umich.edu/~safeche/. In the next phase of this initiative, students on this project will work with faculty and industrial colleagues to strengthen the existing modules and tutorials as well as add new modules and tutorials.
More information about Professor Glotzer’s projects can be found at the Glotzer Research Group
Project Glotzer 1: Nucleation of Complex Crystals with Soft Particles
Certain soft, spherical particles are known to self-assemble into complex crystal phases, such as quasicrystals. We will probe the nucleation of such crystals using molecular dynamics simulations to see how inter-particle interactions may kinetically promote their formation. Revealing the dynamics and mechanisms of nucleation will enable us to better understand how these crystals form in nature.
Project Glotzer 2: Computational study of assembly of binary mixture of disks
Two-dimensional lattices of colloids are appealing as they serve as model systems to explore the fundamental properties such as charge and spin transport within the lattice. Using molecular dynamic simulations, we will investigate the self-assembly of binary mixture of two-dimensional disks. We will explore variety of relevant conditions, such as the characteristics of disks as well as mixture stoichiometry. Revealing such behavior may should help experimental realization of self-assembly of novel two-dimensional structures.
Project Glotzer 3: Computational study of protein crystallization
Understanding and modelling protein-protein interactions are important for biomolecule engineering. We will use machine learning methods for protein interface prediction and generate a knowledge-based force field encoding the predictions to study protein dimerization. Studying the mechanism of protein dimerization will enable us to better understand protein crystallization in nature and engineer protein assembly.
Project Glotzer 4: Developing a particle simulation toolkit in Python
Assist in the development of the particle simulation toolkit HOOMD-blue (http://glotzerlab.engin.umich.edu/hoomd-blue/), a fast, GPU-accelerated, simulation library for Python. The open-source library is 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. The package is 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.
Project Glotzer 5: Development of data and workflow management software in Python
You will be involved in the continued design and development of the data and workflow management framework signac (https://signac.io/). The software is in use by multiple research groups inside and outside of the University of Michigan. This project provides opportunities to develop and strengthen skills required for a professional software development project. Basic experience in programming with Python is required.
Project Goldsmith 1: Electrocatalytic hydrogenation of model bio-oil compounds
Our work aims to engender the electrocatalytic hydrogenation of bio-oil compounds to sustainably produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels. We will computationally probe the reaction rates, mechanism, and barriers for electrocatalytic hydrogenation of model bio-oil compounds such as phenol on platinum group metals. We will use state-of-the-art first-principles modeling techniques such as density functional theory modeling and molecular simulation. This work is in collaboration with Prof. Nirala Singh, who is performing analogous experiments.
Project Kamcek 1: Understanding the role of membrane charge on water transport in polymer membranes
The current fundamental understanding of small solute transport in dense polymeric materials is largely incomplete, and this lack of understanding limits our ability to design high performance materials for various membrane-based technologies. This project aims to probe the influence of fixed charge groups on water transport in charged membranes. A series of membranes with systematic variation in charge density will be synthesized via free radical polymerization. Water transport in the membranes will be quantified via dead-end permeation cells. Interactions between water molecules and polymers will be studied via differential scanning calorimetry. Fundamental models will be used to draw connections between membrane structure and water transport properties.
Project Kamcev 2: Developing mechanically robust, highly selective ion exchange membranes
An inherent shortcoming of covalently cross-liked membranes is their poor mechanical stability. This issue has been circumvented by mixing ion exchange polymers with inert polymers to form composite membranes. Consequently, this places limitations on membrane geometry (thickness) as well as transport properties since the inert polymer typically do not transport species of interest. This project aims to develop free-standing mechanically robust ion exchange membranes by utilizing dynamic cross-link moieties to form the membrane. Dynamic cross-links can effectively dissipate energy in the presence of mechanical stresses. Additionally, materials formed with dynamic cross-links can be recycled and reused. This project will involve polymer synthesis and characterization of mechanical and transport properties.
Project Kotov 1: Self-Assembly of Nanoparticles
Interactions between inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) are central to a wide spectrum of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. Their quantitative description encounters, however, many obstacles not present, for micro-size particles, as revealed in multiple experimental observations. Such difficulties include the greater variability of NP shape, the greater effect of a surface layer, and discreteness and fluctuations of the ionic atmosphere around NPs, relative to micro-particles. At the nanoscale interactions between particle become non-additive, i.e electrostatic, van der Waals, hydrophobic, and other interactions cannot be simply added to each other. We engage, experimental, computational and theoretical methods to understand better how complex NP systems can form from simple ones.
Project Kotov 2: Chiral Nanostructures
The geometrical property of “chirality” or “handedness” describes whether the object is identical with its mirror image or not. This property is very common in nature and determines the operations of most essential elements of cellular machinery. In fact, biomolecules are known to be homochiral in all life forms on Earth, e.g. amino acids display exclusively “left” chirality while sugars display exclusively “right” chirality. The dominance of particular chiral isomer (enantiomer) of biomolecules is particularly puzzling because of the often miniscule energy difference between them.
We hypothesize that the problems of biomolecular homochirality and enantiomer-specific chemical synthesis needed for many areas of technology have common solution based on inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) and their assemblies. Geological records indicate that NPs were a part of the primordial conditions on Earth, and therefore should have played a role in the origin of homochirality of the first biomolecules. Concomitantly, chiral NPs similar to those found in primordial Earth and their assemblies were found to be highly catalytic. Therefore, they can be used in enantioselective synthesis of organic molecules/intermediates for multiple chemical precursors. The goal of this project is to establish (1) nanoscale tools for the engineering of chiral inorganic nanostructures; (2) their role in appearance of homochirality; and (3) new technologies enabled by chiral NP assemblies – advanced chiral synthesis and optical devices.
Project Kotov 3: Hedgehog Particles
One of the essential barriers on the way to broader utilization of many catalysts is that particles of metal oxides–the most efficient photoxidation agents known to date–are difficult to disperse in apolar media. Concomitantly, the same reactions in polar media compatible with inorganic catalysts have poor yields and/or selectivities. These issues can be potentially resolved by using colloidal hedgehog particles (HPs) combining microscale cores and nanoscale needles. Hydrophilic HPs were shown to disperse in all types of organic solvents regardless of polarity, dielectric constants and ionic strengths. The possibility to break the heuristic similarity rule of particle dispersability and molecular solubility known from high-school science classes originates from the drastic reduction of the van der Waals attraction between the HPs compared to particles with smoot surfaces. Development of a new form of photo-catalytically active colloids capable of direct conversion of solar energy into useful products are ongoing.
Project Kotov 4: Biomimetic Composites from Branched Nanofibers
High-capacity, high-discharge rate batteries are essential for many technologies but their use has been hampered by troublesome safety and longevity records. These problems stem from the growth of dendrites that pierce ion conducting membranes and cause short-circuits leading to capacity fade, overheating, and fires. Dendrites are microscale branched metallic protrusions shaped as fern leaves forming on the surface of electrodes. They have numerous sharp nanoscale tips that exert large pressure on the membranes. Attempts to inhibit dendritic growth have met with limited success and highlight the fact that materials properties needed for safe high-performance batteries are fundamentally difficult to obtain. Resolution of this materials engineering problem will make possible a marked improvements in the performance of batteries without sacrificing their safety.
This project is focused on materials engineering of ion-conducting membranes aimed at making them strong, tough, and resilient to high temperatures. To attain this goal we used the structural blue-print of cartilage known for its mechanical and transport properties. Branched aramid nanofibers (ANFs) discovered recently at the University of Michigan are utilized as the ultrastrong component during the manufacturing of the membranes. The membranes will be made from ANF and ion-conducting polymers and systematically investigated for suppression of lithium dendrites. The prototypes of high capacity charge storage cells are being tested for performance and safety.
Project Kotov 5: Kirigami Composites
The typical studies on increasing elasticity and expanding multifunctionality of nanocomposites focus mainly on integrating new polymeric and nanoscale components. Yet owing to the stochastic emergence and distribution of strain-concentrating defects and to the stiffening of nanoscale components at high strains, such composites often possess unpredictable strain-property relationships. In this project we are taking inspiration from kirigami-the Japanese art of paper cutting- to show that a network of notches made in rigid nanocomposite and other composite sheets by top-down patterning techniques prevents unpredictable local failure and increases the ultimate strain of the sheets from 4 to 370%. Such approach enables combining the properties that are thought to be incompatible with each other. Furthermore, the tensile behavior can be accurately predicted through finite-element modelling. These properties are used to design new LIDAR devices for autonomous vehicles.
Project Lahann 1: Anisotropic Multicompartmental 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 vitro and potentially in vivo as well.
Project Lahann 2: Anisotropic Nanoparticles for the Delivery of Therapeutics and Imaging Agents
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 nanoparticles capable of selective surface modification and dissolution. The undergraduate student will be involved in the manufacturing, as well as further processing (surface modification and separation), of the nanoparticles and testing of their efficacy in vitro.
Project Lahann 3: Microfluidic Manifold for Anisotropic Fibers and Fiber Scaffolds
Using the techniques of electrohydrodynamic co-jetting and a microfluidic manifold device, we are hoping to be able to generate micro- and sub-micron fibers which are anisotropic in composition and physical properties along the length of the fiber. These fibers will then be patterned into 3D scaffolds and characterized for potential use in a variety of cell and tissue engineering applications. The student will learn how to set up and operate the microfluidic manifold device to produce fibers via electrohydrodynamic co-jetting. The student will also learn how to use a direct write process to pattern fibers into scaffolds. With these main skills, the student will participate in a series of experiments to create fibers made of different materials. The student will also pattern these anisotropic fibers into 3D scaffolds which will then be characterized. Characterization includes techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Laser Confocal Scanning Microscopy (LCSM), and tensile testing for mechanical property analysis
Project Lahann 4: Surface-engineered hydrogel coatings for stem cell culture
The project investigates two routes in the creation of well-defined synthetic surfaces for long-term stem cell culture and maintenance- UV initiated free radical polymerization and atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). Commercially available polystyrene tissue culture substrates will be coated with a polymeric brush, created from various zwitterionic monomers whose ability to support stem cell proliferation while maintaining their undifferentiated state has already been demonstrated. These substrates will be shared with collaborators (cell biologists) who will jointly explore the effects of chemical interactions between the polymer and the stem cell system, coating thickness and hydrogel chain orientation on the ability of the substrate to achieve cell adhesion and proliferation. These results will enable us to understand the reasons behind the success of these zwitterionic hydrogels and to further tune the cell culture environment in a way that helps us control and direct environmental cues for triggering stem cell differentiation on demand. The techniques used for synthesizing cell culture surfaces are- Chemical Vapour Deposition and Surface initiated polymerization through ATRP and UVO-initiated polymerization. Additionally, surfaces will be characterized by FTIR, Ellipsometry and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. 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 cell culture substrates for use by the collaborators and in interpreting results from this study. 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 polymer 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.
Project Lahann 5: Surface Engineering for Biomedical 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.
Project Larson 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.
Project Lenert 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.
Project Linderman 1- Systems biology and multi-scale modeling
We develop computational models of processes involved in immunology (especially for tuberculosis) and cancer, incorporating different types of molecular, cellular and tissue level data. Projects involve adding biological/transport/kinetic processes to our models, running simulations, analyzing and comparing experimental and simulation data, developing pipelines for data analysis, etc.
Project Nagrath 1: Isolation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) for use in cancer diagnostics and monitoring
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are rare cells shed from the primary tumor that can be found in the blood stream. To isolate them is an elusive goal: they are present at a frequency of as low as only one CTC in one billion blood cells. However, it is these target cells that may provide clinically useful answers to questions such as “what cells are capable of metastasis?” and “how do we stop them?” By monitoring the concentration of CTCs in a cancer patient’s blood stream, an oncologist may determine the effectiveness of an applied therapy on a day-to-day basis as well as other prognostic indicators. The number of CTCs varies significantly among patients and among different types of cancer, but in all cases, CTCs are rare relative to other blood cells. The field of microfluidics shows a promising capability to capture the cells specifically and enable subsequent genomic and proteomic analysis. The student will work to design, optimize and use microfluidic devices to isolate CTCs and nanovesicles to answer questions about disease status, metastasis and treatment outcomes.
Project Solomon 1: Synthesis and assembly of nanocolloids
Nanocolloids are constituents of materials that are applied in many areas such as inks, coatings, optical materials, sensors and drug delivery. These particles are smaller than about one micron. In this project you will learn methods to synthesize, assemble and characterize such particles. The synthesis procedures you will master include methods to produce monodisperse particles. You will learn how to characterize what you make by electron and confocal microscopy. You will assemble particles by means of sedimentation, spin coating or applied electric fields. You will gain experience characterizing the rheological and electrokinetic properties of the particles you synthesize. At the conclusion of the project you will be well prepared to perform research in the the many fields the synthesize and use colloidal particles, including subsequent research experiences and graduate training.
Project Solomon 2: Physical characterization of bacterial biofilms
To survive in the many environments they inhabit, bacteria may grow in communities in which individual organisms are embedded in a polysaccharide matrix. Biofilms are examples of such communities. Biofilms adhere to a variety of surfaces, including substrates relevant to human health, such as catheters. Confocal microscopy is a tool widely used in microbiological research because it can resolve multiple fluorescence emissions in three dimensions. Our aim here is for students to apply microscopy methods to characterize the microstructure of bacterial biofilms and aggregates. Students participating in the project will receive training in microscopy, computer image processing, and bacterial communities. This unique combination of research in soft matter/complex fluids and microbiology will provide students with a strong foundation from which to pursue subsequent research experiences and graduate training.
More information about Professor Tessier’s projects can be found at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~ptessier
Project Tessier 1: Bioinformatics and computational methods for improving antibody discovery
The success of therapeutic antibodies depends not only on their specific bioactivities but also on their highly variable and difficult-to-predict physicochemical properties (solubility, specificity and biodistribution). The goals of this project are to develop predictive computational and bioinformatics methods for designing, optimizing and identifying drug-like monoclonal antibodies for therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Interested candidates should have experience in programming and MATLAB, and an interest in biotechnology.
Project Tessier 2: Novel methods for discovering antibodies and antibody-like molecules
In vitro methods such as phage and yeast surface display are commonly used for screening large antibody libraries to identify rare variants with high affinity and specificity. However, there are several key challenges related to in vitro antibody discovery that must be solved to improve the utility and robustness of these methods. The goals of this project are to i) generate novel antibody libraries that closely resemble those generated by the natural immune system, ii) develop novel screening methods for identifying drug-like antibodies with high specificity and solubility, iii) identify conformation-specific antibodies specific for several complex target molecules, and iii) identify agonist antibodies that activate cellular receptors. Interested candidates should have an interest in biotechnology.
Project Wang 1: Design of A Rotary Bioreactor System for Complex Biologic Production The goal of this project is to design and develop a rotary bioreactor system applying single use bags for complex biologic production. Many of these biologics are currently produced in batches using large-scale stainless steel reactors that are thousands of liters in volume and genetically modified cells to produce these desired proteins. The ultimate goal is to synthesize these biologics on demand to eliminate the need for refrigeration and long distance distribution. Autologous CAR-T Cell manufacturing will be used as a model system for this investigation.
Project Wang 2: Integrating Urban Aquaculture – Vertical Farming System for Food Production
The goal of this project is to investigate the feasibility of integrating aquaculture and vertical farming in an urban setting. Agriculture is facing great challenge that involves producing more food for a growing population, conserving the environment and ensuring food security. Aquaculture has been recognized as an important way of increasing food protein production while urban vertical farming has been touted as a potential means to combat looming food crisis. Such an integrated system will be analyzed with trade-off and various synergies on water utilization, energy consumption and waste disposal to be identified.
Project Wen 1: Engineering protein scaffold for biofuel production
Fuels produced from biomass represent a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels and have various environmental, economical, and societal benefits. The goal this project is to genetically engineer yeast cells for efficient conversion of biomass to biofuel, such as ethanol. We approach this goal from various perspectives, including improving biomass degradation via protein engineering and increasing biofuel production via metabolic engineering. As such, an ideal candidate should have a strong interest in learning biological/bioengineering principles. Students will learn recombinant DNA manipulation, protein production and detection, enzyme kinetic analysis, bioreactor and fermentation.
Project Wen 2: Engineering of therapeutic proteins for T-cell function modulation
T cells, an important type of immune cell, play critical roles in fighting pathogens. Their malfunction has been implicated in a wide range of diseases, including autoimmunity, allergy, cancer, and infectious diseases. The goal of this project is to engineer proteins via directed evolution and rational design approaches so that they can deliver desired instructions (molecular signals) to T cells for therapeutic purposes. This project involves culture of hybridoma and mammalian cell lines, library creation and screening, flow cytometric single cell analysis, and recombinant protein analysis in vitro.
Project Ziff 1: Percolation profiles
Percolation is the process of flow through porous media, such as water or oil flow through sandstone in the ground, and also relates to many equivalent problems of connectivity through random media, such as electrical conductivity in random composites or the spread of disease. A particularly interesting and important aspect of percolation is to consider a system that is right at the “critical point”; the point where the connectivity is just sufficient for flow to take place. Some study can be done by mathematical analysis, but most involves computer simulation. The project will involve studying various aspects, including density profiles, algorithmic development, determination of critical densities, etc. Some familiarity with programming in the C computer language would be helpful.
Project Ziff 2: Percolation and Flow Through Porous Media
The percolation model concerns problems of connectivity and flow through random porous networks. Related problems include electrical conductivity of random conductor/insulator mixtures, dissolution of pills that are made of soluble/insoluble aggregates, and the spread of disease though a population of susceptible and unsusceptible individuals. These various problems can be modeled by a simple and elegant probabilistic geometrical model in which a regular lattice is made random by making some of the edges or “bonds” open or shut. The project is to study various forms of these networks through computer simulation, to determine connectivity and transport processes. This will entail modifying existing programs, written in the C programming language, running those programs on computers, analyzing the results, and writing it up for possible publication. Some of these programs make use of elegant recursive subroutines, and if you are interested in programming this is a fun project.