The application process for summer 2024 will open in mid-December. Please check back! 2023 information is still posted for reference only.
Fellowship recipient Alfred Chang
1) Review the summer 2023 NURF project descriptions (below) and select a project of interest.
2) Complete the APPLICATION, and save the file with your last name and your first name as the first words in the file name. (Ex: Smith-Barb 2023 NURF Application)
3) By 8:00am Eastern on February 8, email your completed application and current resumé (saved with the same name convention -- Smith-Barb 2023 NURF resumé) to the project’s faculty mentor(s) for consideration, and cc: email@example.com. NDnano faculty will follow-up with selected applicants directly. Award notifications will begin in early March.
Students are welcome to apply for more than one project. However, please list and prioritize on your application(s) all the projects for which you are applying. Please include project title and faculty/mentor first/last name.
For purposes of the NURF program, undergraduates are students who will not yet have completed their undergraduate studies at the start of their summer fellowship.
The University allows students to work a maximum of 40 hours per week during the summer (all campus jobs combined). This means that students cannot participate in the NURF program on a full-time basis and at the same time hold any other paid, on-campus, summer position. (Fellowships of less than 40 hours per week would be considered on a case-by-case basis.)
In addition, fellowship recipients who attend Notre Dame and have 2022-2023 on-campus, academic-year jobs may have restrictions on their NURF start date; contact Heidi Deethardt for more details.
Project: Electrical magneto-transport characterization of emerging semiconducting magnetic materials
The student will carry out electrical magneto-transport measurements on a class of emerging magnetic materials with high critical temperature close to room temperature and a semiconducting electronic structure. The student is required to have some proper knowledge of electromagnetism, with some experience in electrical characterization tools (basic circuits). The materials in question can host unconventional sources of spin-polarization that enable the Hall effect to be non-zero and zero magnetic field, without a net magnetization present. This effect is the result of a finite quantum geometric phase appearing at the Fermi energy in these materials. Electrical measurements can elucidate this effect.
Project: In-sensor data security via advanced algorithm/circuit co-design
With the ubiquitous IoT sensors and enormous real-time data generation, data privacy is becoming a critical societal concern. State-of-the-art privacy protection methods all demand significant hardware overhead due to computation-insensitive algorithms and divided sensor/security architecture. More importantly, it introduces additional attack surface as separate data and security infrastructure is prone to attacks such as eavesdrop, trojan injection and so on. As such, it is imperative to introduce a privacy-preserving and data security mechanism under the severe resource constraints of the IoT. However, the conventional digital circuit and architecture are energy/area-inefficient due to required data conversion, digital computation, and security entropy generation/storage overhead. As such, in this project, we will investigate an advanced algorithm, architecture, and circuit to address these issues and protect data privacy at generation. The student’s role, depending on the research expertise and interest, will include evaluation of security algorithms with MATLAB or Python, implementing attack method, hardware performance modeling and estimation, circuit design and SPICE simulation, and so on. Interested students are expected to have a strong academic record (e.g., EE20241) in circuit design and proven expertise in programming (Python, MATLAB), and/or experience in training/calibrating machine learning models (e.g., LeNET, linear regression).
Project: Adaptive federated learning for sustainable, secured and robust distributed intelligence: Algorithm and hardware co-design
With the proliferation of internet-of-things (IoT), distributed intelligence has gained much attention and become very promising in many applications. Distributed intelligence, which is a decentralized decision-making framework, is a viable alternative to centralized cloud, due to its capability of significantly enhancing data security, privacy, network efficiency, response agility etc. However, it remains challenging to integrate intelligence into distributed sensors, especially when large model size and extensive computation / data exchange are required. One of the major challenges is how the learning could be effectively (as measured by, e.g., energy, area, communication) and securely (e.g., privacy, confidentiality) achieved in a distributed manner, an open question for both algorithm and hardware designers. In this project, the students will be responsible for designing and demonstrating a distributed smart sensor prototype system (e.g., learnable sensor swarm for wildfire early detection) that features custom adaptive federated learning algorithm (e.g., PSO-FL for kernel regression) on low-power embedded systems (e.g., MSP430, Arduino). Then, students will integrate sensor (e.g., temperature sensor) and radio frequency (e.g., Bluetooth transceiver) modules with implemented computation core and connect individual devices to a network for distributed tasks. Finally, they will evaluate the system in an artificial environment to demonstrate the algorithm and hardware effectiveness. Interested students are expected to have (one of the following) (1) strong academic record in signal processing and/or circuit design, (2) hands-on experience with embedded system programming and integration, and (3) proven expertise in programming (Python, MATLAB), and/or experience.
 V. C. Gogineni, S. Werner, Y. -F. Huang and A. Kuh, "Communication-Efficient Online Federated Learning Framework for Nonlinear Regression," ICASSP 2022 - 2022 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), Singapore, Singapore, 2022, pp. 5228-5232, doi: 10.1109/ICASSP43922.2022.9746228.
 N. Cao, M. Chang and A. Raychowdhury, "14.1 A 65nm 1.1-to-9.1TOPS/W Hybrid-Digital-Mixed-Signal Computing Platform for Accelerating Model-Based and Model-Free Swarm Robotics," 2019 IEEE International Solid- State Circuits Conference - (ISSCC), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2019, pp. 222-224, doi: 10.1109/ISSCC.2019.8662311.
 V. C. Gogineni, S. Werner, Y. -F. Huang and A. Kuh, "Decentralized Graph Federated Multitask Learning for Streaming Data," 2022 56th Annual Conference on Information Sciences and Systems (CISS), Princeton, NJ, USA, 2022, pp. 101-106, doi: 10.1109/CISS53076.2022.9751160.
Project: Nanoparticle mediated reprogramming of cells to fight cancer
Professor Meenal Datta • Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Bioengineering Graduate Program • 145 Multidisciplinary Research Building • 574-631-5735 • firstname.lastname@example.org (Send applications to Professor Datta)
In difficult-to-treat cancers, normal host cells are co-opted to facilitate cancer growth and spread. Fibroblasts normally provide support and structure to our tissues, but once re-programmed in the presence of cancer, carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) fuel tumor progression, metastasis, immunosuppression, and treatment resistance. However, fibroblasts are highly plastic, meaning they are able to tune their behavior in response to specific biological, chemical, and mechanical cues from their surrounding environment. Therefore, nanoparticles can be applied to reprogram CAFs to fight against – rather than support – tumors (Figure 1). This multidisciplinary project melds tumor model and intravital imaging (e.g., live in an animal) expertise in the Datta Lab with nanoparticle design and imaging expertise from the Roeder Lab. The undergraduate student will be mentored by a graduate student from each lab and will be responsible for nanoparticle synthesis and optimization, fibroblast cell culture assay development and analysis, and early stage in vivo administration and visualization of the nanoparticles. The undergraduate student should be pursuing a STEM major and should have completed introductory biology and chemistry with associated laboratory components by summer 2023.
Project: Pursuing superconductivity in novel low-dimensional materials
Dr. Bence G. Márkus • Physics and Astronomy, Stavropoulos Center for Complex Quantum Matter • 442 Nieuwland Hall • 574-631-4164 • email@example.com
The current project aims to investigate novel, low-dimensional superconductors, such as doped few-layer graphene, TMDCs, MXenes, etc. Superconductivity represents a compelling physical phenomenon that has inspired both theoretical advances and numerous applications. The quest for new superconductors, especially in materials with reduced dimensions, continues. The purpose of this study is to prepare new materials that advance the field of superconductivity. The materials are going to be characterized with SQUID/VSM standard magnetometry methods. The results of this study help the students to deepen their knowledge (both in theory and experimental techniques) and try to give new insights into the field. Numerous industries are interested in novel superconductors that can outperform current ones either in transitional temperature, critical field, or price-effectiveness. The student will work closely with ND postdocs and graduate students on sample synthesis, investigation, and data analysis. An experimental background, basic knowledge of superconductivity, and knowledge of magnetometry methods (SQUID/VSM) are a plus.
Project: Electron paramagnetic study of spinel oxides
Dr. David Beke • Physics and Astronomy, Stavropoulos Center for Complex Quantum Matter • 442 Nieuwland Hall • 574-631-7361 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Doped spinel oxides have unique properties. They can emit visible or infrared light upon X-ray excitation. This emission can last minutes or hours and is often called long-lasting (photo)luminescence. Photon-induced therapy methods use photons to cure certain diseases in the living body. Photodynamic therapy uses a molecule that creates reactive oxygen species upon illumination. Photon-induced therapy uses molecules that interact with the body differently. Either of them requires excitation in a specified wavelength. These techniques have a decisive advantage, which is a shallow side effect and high efficiency when appropriately applied. However, the body's photon absorption limits the application of these methods. Both LLP and XEOL allow light generation inside the body to cure deep-seated diseases. However, these parameters depend on the entire crystal structure, defect density, and surface termination. The successful candidate will join an ongoing project to work on the hydrothermal and solid-state synthesis of the materials and to characterize them with electron paramagnetic spectroscopy (EPR or ESR), Raman microscopy, and photoluminescence spectroscopy. The student will work closely with ND postdocs and graduate students on sample synthesis, investigation, and data analysis. An experimental background, basic knowledge of electron paramagnetic measurement, and experience in chemical synthesis are a plus.
Project: Point defect in boron nitride nanostructures
Dr. David Beke • Physics and Astronomy, Stavropoulos Center for Complex Quantum Matter • 442 Nieuwland Hall • 574-631-7361 • email@example.com
Point defects in semiconductors have atom-like electronic structures that allow precise addressing and readout. Many of them are called color centers due to their capability of emitting light upon excitation. Single photon emitters and quantum bits (or qubits) have a particular interest in quantum sensing and quantum information technology because their spin states are sensitive to the environment, allowing measurement with precision not possible with the classical techniques, high-fidelity entanglement between the qubit electronic spin and a coherent zero-phonon line for quantum computing, and high-fidelity quantum repetition. Boron nitride is quasi 2D material in which the discovery of new defects that are valuable candidates for qubits is continuous. This project aims to synthesize and characterize such materials to discover new color centers and describe the physical properties of the existing ones. The successful candidate will join an ongoing project to work on the hydrothermal and solid-state synthesis of the materials and to characterize them with electron paramagnetic spectroscopy (EPR or ESR), Raman microscopy, and photoluminescence spectroscopy. The student will work closely with ND postdocs and graduate students on sample synthesis, investigation, and data analysis. An experimental background, basic knowledge of electron paramagnetic measurement, and experience in chemical synthesis are a plus.
Project: Paramagnetic defects in large bandgap semiconductors
Dr. David Beke • Physics and Astronomy, Stavropoulos Center for Complex Quantum Matter • 442 Nieuwland Hall • 574-631-7361 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Point defects in semiconductors have atom-like electronic structures that allow precise addressing and readout. Many of them are called color centers due to their capability of emitting light upon excitation. Single photon emitters and quantum bits (or qubits) have a particular interest in quantum sensing and quantum information technology because their spin states are sensitive to the environment allowing measurement with precision not possible with the classical techniques, high-fidelity entanglement between the qubit electronic spin and a coherent zero-phonon line for quantum computing, and high-fidelity quantum repetition. TiO2, ZnO, and similar large bandgap semiconductors have a well-developed background in actual life applications that comes together with cost-effective manufacturing. This project aims to synthesize and characterize such materials and the family of these materials to discover new color centers and describe the physical properties of the existing ones. The successful candidate will join an ongoing project to work on the hydrothermal and solid-state synthesis of the materials and to characterize them with electron paramagnetic spectroscopy (EPR or ESR), Raman microscopy, and photoluminescence spectroscopy. The student will work closely with ND postdocs and graduate students on sample synthesis, investigation, and data analysis. An experimental background, basic knowledge of electron paramagnetic measurement, and experience in chemical synthesis is a plus.
Project: Tailoring the electronic properties of Ti-based MXenes
The need for more and more computational power and the storage is energy is one of the crucial problems mankind currently faces. The target of this project is to discover new materials that might find applications in the field of spintronics and energy storage. The candidate will prepare and investigate MXenes, a new family of low-dimensional materials, and try to dope the prepared materials with various adatoms. The obtained materials will be characterized with Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and Raman spectroscopy. During the work, the applicant will learn about new synthesis techniques, the operation of the above-mentioned instrumentation, and the arising physical phenomena. The student will work closely with ND postdocs and graduate students on sample synthesis, investigation, and data analysis. An experimental background, basic knowledge of handling glovebox and vacuum systems, and knowledge of magnetic resonance spectroscopic methods (ESR) and Raman spectroscopy are a plus.
Project: An aptamer-based optical sensor for continuous and real-time drug detection
A narrow drug therapeutic window is a hurdle for effective disease treatment. From the clinical viewpoint, it often requires monitoring drug concentration in plasma, where a high-dose drug leads to toxicity, and a low-dose drug often lacks treatment efficacy. One of the major challenges in front of drug detection is the accessibility of real-time drug concentration information that reflects the pharmacokinetics in the given therapeutic period, which usually lasts from hours to days. So far, one of the most successful real-time biomolecular detectors is the continuous glucose monitor that reads glucose levels every five minutes for two weeks. While glucose detection is an excellent but non-generalizable approach for most drug detection in the body, which in most cases has several orders of magnitude lower concentration and much fewer available enzymes than enzymatic glucose sensing. In the past decade, aptamer-based sensors served as an alternative solution to track and monitor small molecules (metabolites, chemo drugs, antibiotics) with good sensitivity, excellent specificity, highly reversible signal generation, and continuous signal reading. Recently, we reported, the first of its kind, a real-time drug monitor that measures the pharmacokinetics within tumor tissue of live animals (Science Advances, 2022, 8, abk2901). In this project, we propose to further advance the current technology by integrating the optical detection module with a highly emissive aptamer-based molecular switch for drug sensing, leading to multiple target readouts, a shorter reading interval for faster kinetics, and higher sensitivity (from previous low uM to current high nM concentration range).
To fulfill this requirement, the proposed research is to develop a dual-channel optical sensor that simultaneously measures two drugs or one drug plus one metabolite. The student researcher will be involved in three broadly defined objectives:
- Convert the molecular binder (unmodified aptamer) into the molecular switch (aptamer with the optical reporter) by linking two highly emissive fluorophores to two different aptamers, respectively.
- Design and fabricate the nanostructured cavities that place the two aptamers mentioned above and trap the excitation light for fluorescence emission.
- Test the drug analytes in the presence of other drug analogs and evaluate their specificity, sensitivity, and temporal resolution for drug sensing.
We are looking for a student researcher trained in electrical engineering, materials science, or chemistry with a strong interest in the areas of nanophotonics, bioanalysis, or signal transduction and transmission to undertake this research project.
Project: Biocompatible membrane coated nanoelectrode for sweat analyte measurements
In recent years, wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit, have paved the way toward real-time monitoring of physiological signals (e.g., temperature, electrocardiogram (ECG), blood O2 levels) in a personalized and continuous manner. As wearable device designs advance, a critical need exists for innovative solutions that enable the measurement of biomolecules and chemicals excreted from sweat over extended periods of time. For instance, the quantification of stress hormones, such as cortisol, is relevant to controlling stress disorders and monitoring the mental health of human beings. Sensor fouling (i.e., the non-specific deposition of material on the sensing interface) is one of the major technical barriers to achieving the long-term use of these devices for monitoring cortisol levels in sweat. Resolving this challenge necessitates the development of an interface that allows for efficient signal transduction while addressing broad challenges relevant to device fouling. So far, the dominant strategy for device protection is to deposit a barrier layer between the biofluids and the device. However, it is difficult to integrate other functional elements that promote the selective transport of sweat analytes to the biosensing surface within the protective antifouling layer. In this project, we propose to meet this demand by designing a nanostructured biocompatible membrane with robust formation mechanisms rooted in self-assembly. The membranes that result from this scalable manufacturing process possess tunable pore wall chemistries that can be tailored post-synthetically to afford both antifouling characteristics that prevent non-specific protein adsorption as well as rapid and selective analyte transport mechanisms.
The goal of the proposed research is to develop the fundamental scientific knowledge that informs the design and fabrication of protective gatekeeping membranes tailored to facilitate the transport of sweat analytes (e.g., cortisol) to sensing electrodes. In contributing to this ambitious, potentially transformative project, the student researcher will contribute to three broadly organized objectives:
- Integrate the bio-compatible membrane with the nanostructured electrode for biosensing by developing a low-cost and efficient strategy that conformally seals the membrane to the sensor surface;
- Identify molecular design strategies for membranes tailor-made to promote the efficient transport of cortisol by elucidating how the nanoscale structure and chemistry of the membranes impact the experimentally observed transport properties;
- Test the detection performance of the sweat analyte in the presence of common fouling interferences and evaluate the signal stability over a period of time.
Self-motivated, independent student researchers will have the ability to focus their research efforts on the aspect of the project that appeals to their skills and interests. Students trained in chemistry, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering with a strong interest in the areas of nanotechnology, analytical chemistry, and polymeric materials are well-suited to undertake this research project.
Project: Engineering biomimetic materials to control stem cell morphogenesis
Blood and lymphatic vasculatures are two important components of the tumor microenvironments. Blood vessels supply nutrients important for tumor growth and serve as a conduit for hematogenous tumor spread, while the lymphatic vessels are used by the cancer cells to interact with the immune system as well as for lymphatic tumor metastasis. Consequently, the growth of blood and lymphatic vasculatures surrounding the tumor have been associated with tumor metastases and poor patient prognosis. The objective of this project is to understand what governs the formation of blood and lymphatic vessels from stem cells, how these processes are affected by the tumor microenvironment, and how we can use these insights to develop novel therapies. The student will synthesize and characterize biomaterials for in vitro evaluation using stem cell. The student is expected to maintain stem cell culture, and study cell-materials interaction using microscopy and molecular biology techniques. Students with a background in mechanical engineering, chemical/bio-engineering, material science, or biochemistry are encouraged to apply. Prior lab experience is preferred.
- Laura Alderfer, Elizabeth Russo, Adriana Archilla, Brian Coe, Donny Hanjaya-Putra, “Matrix Stiffness Primes Lymphatic Tube Formation Directed by Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-C Regulate Lymphatic Tube Formation,” FASEB, 2021 March 27, 35:e21498. PMID: 33774872.
- Laura Alderfer, Eva Hall, Donny Hanjaya-Putra, “Harnessing Lymphatic Tissue Engineering to Modulate the Immune System,” Acta Biomaterialia, 2021 June 9. PMID:34118451.
- Zehao Pan, Loan Bui, Vivek Yadav, Fei Fan, Hsueh-Chia Chang, Donny Hanjaya-Putra, “Conformal Single Cell Hydrogel Coating with Electrically Induced Tip Streaming at an AC Cone,” Biomaterials Science, 2021, 9, 3284-3292. PMID: 33949367.
Project: Magneto-silica nanoparticles (MagSiNs) for combinatorial chemotherapeutics and gene delivery against metastatic cancers
We intend to target non-targetable cancer cells by tuning the magnetic field-induced force exerted by label-free magnetic nanomaterials at the cell membrane to selectively permeabilize the more compliant cancer cell membranes but not the stiff healthy cell membranes. Systemic delivery chemotherapeutics is toxic to all cells but more so to cancer cells due to the high metabolic rate of cancer cells. Targeted drug delivery using antibody tagged drug carriers reduces the dosage required to kill cancer cells and thereby mitigate the toxicity associated with systemic drug delivery. But the lack of unique targetable biomarkers on aggressive cancer cells such as 3º negative breast cancer makes the targeted drug delivery option a non-starter. But with the recent advances in biophysics, it is well documented that cancer cells have significantly different cell membrane stiffness in comparison to healthy cells. Cancer cell membranes are less stiff and more compliant, and the cells as a whole are easily deformable. The difference in membrane physical properties can be exploited by applying a force that is above the threshold required to permeabilize the cancer cells, but the force is still below the threshold required to permeabilize normal cells. While the cancer cell permeabilization and cancer cell-specific drug delivery have been validated in vitro, it is not known how effective such systems are in vivo. Studies that have tried to validate magnetic field directed drug delivery systems in vivo did so by sticking a permanent magnet on the tumor site before administering the nanocarriers intravenously or intratumorally. The requirement to know the tumor location beforehand to use magnetic targeting is the shortcoming of previous studies. As such, targeting modes offer no advantage over surgical re-sectioning, which is the current standard of care. Therefore, in this proposed study we will validate a label-free magnetic nanocarrier system (PEG-MagSiNs, PEG-Dox-MagSiNs) that will localize to cancer cells without the need for prior knowledge of the cancer cells’ location in vivo. We will exploit this property for selective drug-delivery and gene delivery to cancer cells. In this project the students will get exposure to (a) the conjugation of multiple therapeutics to PEG-MagSiNs; (b) design multiple modes of drug delivery from the PEG-MagSiNs (ON-demand, stimuli dependent, enzymatic release, etc.) and (c) execute in vitro cell and in vivo mouse studies that show selective targeting of PEG-MagSiNs to metastatic breast cancer cell and improved survivability in the sample group.
- Chen Q1, Schweitzer D, Kane J, Davisson VJ, Helquist P. “Total synthesis of iejimalide B” J Org Chem. 2011 Jul 1;76(13):5157-69.
- Guduru, R.; Liang, P.; Runowicz, C.; Nair, M.; Atluri, V.; Khizroev, S., Magneto-electric Nanoparticles to Enable Field-controlled High-Specificity Drug Delivery to Eradicate Ovarian Cancer Cells. Scientific Reports 2013, 3, 2953.
- Nallathamby, P. D.; Hopf, J.; Irimata, L. E.; McGinnity, T. L.; Roeder, R. K., Preparation of fluorescent Au-SiO2 core-shell nanoparticles and nanorods with tunable silica shell thickness and surface modification for immunotargeting. Journal of Materials Chemistry B 2016, 4 (32), 5418-5428.
Project: Pushing the limits of super-resolution imaging using two-dimensional metacrystals
Nature sets a limit to the smallest objects that we can see using visible light. Over the past several decades, scientists and engineers have discovered and implemented numerous approaches to surpassing that limit, allowing us to observe structures and processes that were once thought to be beyond the realm of possibility. While much progress has been made, there is still the need for approaches that enable wide-field optical microscopy with even better spatial resolution. In this project, the student will advance recent research in two-dimensional metacrystals developed at Notre Dame to explore the limits of wide-field super-resolution imaging. The student working on this project will fabricate and characterize two-dimensional metacrystals that improve upon our existing designs (see Figure). These special optical materials are engineered to (1) support localized optical fields on very small length scales and (2) couple to light in free-space, ultimately enabling super-resolution images. The student will incorporate the metacrystals that he/she creates into an existing super-resolution microscope to quantify the super-resolution enhancement. The interested student will work in the Notre Dame Nanofabrication Facility and use the tools in the Integrated Imaging Facility. In the laboratory, the student will gain experience with nanoparticle synthesis, optical alignment, optical imaging, and data analysis.
Project: Electrical and electrochemical analysis of hybrid bronzes
Figure 1. A schematic hybrid bronze structure. The inorganic layers contain blue metal atoms coordinated by red O atoms. Polyhedra are drawn to show connectivity. The organic layer is depicted with purple ellipses and multicolored spheres representing the varied possibilities for molecular centers and functional handles, respectively. The inset shows electron or proton transfer between inorganic and organic layers.
Achieving a sustainable energy future means developing new classes of tunable materials that facilitate clean energy technologies and that can ideally be synthesized under mild conditions. Crystalline metal oxides are ubiquitous materials that display myriad electronic properties of interest and high chemical and thermal stability. They are vital for clean energy technologies such as batteries, fuel cells, and photovoltaics. These inorganic solid-state materials, however, can require high-temperature syntheses and exhibit low post-synthetic tunability, therefore diminishing their versatility and ease of integration in devices. Conversely, molecular species are highly tunable, but can lack the desirable mechanical and electronic properties associated with extended solids (materials with infinitely repeating bonding in at least one dimension), including facile intermolecular electron transfer. Our lab is developing new materials called hybrid bronzes that address this challenge by placing molecular centers in close contact with inorganic conduction pathways that possess high electron mobility (Figure 1). The objective of this project is to gain understanding of the structural and electronic property relationships in hybrid bronzes that will inform future implementation efforts in energy-related technologies. The student will assist in synthesis and characterization of hybrid bronzes. The student is expected to learn basic materials characterization techniques such as powder X-ray diffraction and infrared (IR) spectroscopy, followed by electrochemical characterization techniques such as cyclic voltammetry and impedance spectroscopy to determine how choice of components of these hybrid materials and the resulting atomic structure affect their redox and conductivity properties. Questions to answer include: (1) How is electronic conductivity modulated by molecular functional groups? (2) Can we enhance stability relative to all-inorganic materials? and (3) Can we reliably induce switching between conductive and insulating states? Students with a background in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, or applied physics are encouraged to apply. Some prior lab experience is preferred.
Project: Initial study and demonstration of terahertz adaptive wireless communication systems
Over the last few decades, wireless communication systems experienced vast development and deployment with data rates approaching several tens of Gbps. To satisfy the increasing demand for higher speed information transmission and processing in modern society, potential terabit-per-second (Tbps) wireless links based on terahertz (THz) band communication have been proposed for a wide range of applications, including 5G cellular network, Tbps wireless LAN (local area network), Tbps wireless PAN (personal area network), secure military communication, wireless nanosensor networks, and chip-to-chip high-speed interconnections. To establish a THz link, a device (either a transmitter or receiver) may need to scan its neighborhood by steering its antenna beam with a broader beam-width and low gain to localize the link target. Once a data packet is transmitted/received, the device should switch to a different mode with a narrower beam-width and higher gain for high-speed data communication. By dynamically beam steering and forming, atmospheric effects and terminal mobility can also be enabled. In our previous work, we have successfully demonstrated beam steering and forming THz antennas based on reconfigurable photo-induced Fresnel-zone plates (PI-FZPs) . The FZPs were generated by illuminating a high-resistivity silicon wafer for wave-front spatial modulation using a digital light processing (DLP) projector, without any circuit or device fabrication [2, 3]. We propose to study and demonstrate initial THz adaptive wireless communication using a WR-1.5 VNA (vector network analyzer) and multiple beam-steering THz antennas. Both line-of-sight (LOS) propagation and non-line-of-sight (NLOS) propagation modes will be studied. In addition, multi-path channels and dynamic MIMO for advanced THz communications will be initially investigated. Other components required for the adaptive communication systems, such as tunable THz filters and dual-polarization detectors/receivers, will also be attempted in this project. This project will offer the participant an excellent opportunity to work with the state-of-the-art facilities at NDnano, as well as to gain hands-on experiences on solid-state THz sources, detectors, quasi-optical systems and measurements. Furthermore, we expect that the completion of this work will lead to high-quality journal publications. Highly self-motivated students with a strong background in microwave engineering, EM are encouraged to apply.
- M. I. B. Shams, Z. Jiang, S. Rahman, J. Qayyum, P. Fay, and L. Liu, “A 750 GHz dynamic beam-steering and forming antenna based on photo-induced Fresnel-zone plates,” IEEE Trans. THz Sci. Tech., in review, 2014.
- Y. Shi, Y. Deng, P. Li, P. Fay, L. Liu*, “A 200 GHz fully-integrated, polarization-resolved quasi-optical detector using zero-bias heterostructure backward diodes,” IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters, vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 891-894, 2022.
Project: Forming complex objects from nanometric building blocks
Nanometric objects are often described as building blocks because they, like all building blocks, represent a basic unit from which grander structures can be constructed. While the synthesis of such building blocks is now commonplace, their alignment and placement into organized configurations remains one of the grand challenges in nanotechnology. The mere placement of smaller nanoparticles of one material on just the top surface of a larger nanostructure of a second material represents a daunting challenge. With two dissimilar nanomaterials in close contact, they inevitably interact with one another to form chemical, optical, and magnetic properties that are distinct from the individual materials and which have been demonstrated as the active component in nanoscale chemical reactors, nanomotors, and chemical and biological sensors. Prof. Neretina’s research team has developed a technique for generating periodic arrays of such structures but it is quite involved and requires highly specialized instrumentation. The goal of this summer’s NURF project will be to test whether or not a newly proposed and much simpler procedure can be implemented. Professor Neretina’s team, with graduate students with engineering, chemistry, and physics backgrounds, is highly interdisciplinary and welcomes applications from students from all disciplines who have an interest in nanomaterial synthesis. The project also requires hands-on skills.
Project: Synthesis and performance evaluation of two-dimensional membranes composed of thiolate-protected clusters for olefin-paraffin separation
The goal of this project is to synthesize two-dimensional membranes composed of thiolate-protected silver clusters, and evaluate the performance of these membranes for olefin-paraffin separation. The research is based on the central hypothesis that the silver clusters in the two-dimensional membranes will selectively allow only olefins to permeate across the membrane to give high olefin-paraffin selectivity and high olefin permeance, which would substantially reduce the energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions associated with this industrially important separation. The student will be responsible for (1) synthesizing the thiolate protected silver clusters using wet chemistry techniques; (2) synthesizing the two-dimensional membranes by self assembly of the thiolate protected clusters; and (3) evaluating the olefin-paraffin separation performance of the membranes using a gas permeation cell. Laboratory experience, particularly in materials synthesis, is preferred though not required.
Project: Polymers in next-generation rechargeable batteries
Advanced energy storage devices are sought after for use in electric vehicles, portable electronics in remote locations, and in conjunction with solar farms and wind farms for load leveling of the electric grid. To meet the cost and performance requirements of these applications, new battery chemistries are under development. Many of these battery designs incorporate functional organic components, such as polymer electrolytes, polymer coatings at the electrode-electrolyte interface, and polymer binders in the electrodes. In this project, the student will synthesize and characterize new organic materials for applications in next-generation batteries (such as lithium, magnesium, aqueous-based, or self-charging). Multiple opportunities are available. Educational backgrounds in chemical engineering, chemistry, polymer science or engineering, and materials science or engineering are preferred.
Project: Adiabatic capacitive logic and clocking systems for ultra-low power electronics
Cross-section of MEMS ACL structure to be fabricated.
Anyone who owns a laptop knows that power dissipation and the associated heat are a problem for the microelectronics industry. As electronic devices scale down in size, they use less power (and hence energy), but is there a lower limit to the energy that must be dissipated by each device? Are there devices other than transistors that able to dissipate less power? This project will investigate adiabatic capacitive logic (ACL), which uses variable capacitors are used in pull-up and pull-down networks to form a voltage divider that be used to as a logic element. The variable capacitors will be built using micro-electro-mechanical structures (MEMS) to make nano-relay like devices. The project will also involve MEMS clock generators that will be able to supply and recycle the energy used in computational devices. Together these logic and clocking devices map well onto adiabatic reversible computing approaches that can reduce power dissipation far below that possible with conventional approaches. Students will work in the cleanroom on the fabrication of devices, and on measurements of devices. Electrical Engineering, Physics, and Computer Science students are preferred. Some knowledge of programming and soldering is helpful.
Project: Characterization of nanoantenna sensitivity
Thermoelectrically coupled nanoantennas (TECNAs) are a new class of infrared sensors. TECNAs are sensitive from mid- to far-wave infrared radiation by using a nanoantenna that operates similarly to RF and microwave antennas, but they are about a million times smaller. The nanoantenna resonantly absorbs incident IR radiation and heats a nanothermocouple junction that creates an electrical signal by the Seebeck effect. Due to the antenna nature of the TECNAs, attributes of incident IR radiation (wavelength, polarization, and directivity) can be easily determined that are otherwise not available or hard to sense with conventional IR detectors. We have identified many paths to improving the sensitivity of our TECNAs, including using various materials for the antenna and the thermocouple, operating in a vacuum to decrease heat conduction, and changing the properties of the reflecting cavity. A student working on this project will work in a laboratory and develop theoretical models to study the impact of various materials on the sensitivity of nanoantennas.
Project: Nanoscale formulation of corrective hormones for blood glucose control
Diabetes presents one of the most pressing global healthcare burdens. Technologies to improve the treatment of this disease and enhance quality of life outcomes are of great importance. The Webber Lab has been evaluating a variety of nanoscale materials-based solutions to better deliver hormones such as insulin and glucagon and in so doing afford improved blood glucose control. Many of these materials are derived from synthetic peptides and polymers, and undergraduates working in this project will gain skills and expertise in peptide and polymer synthesis, purification, and characterization. The next important task in these projects focuses on the formulation and glucose-responsive release of corrective hormones like insulin and glucagon. Students working on this project will thus gain expertise in protein formulation, and in conducting and quantifying protein release profiles. Students in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, or Bioengineering are encouraged to apply. A minimum of some prior laboratory coursework is expected.
Project: Scalable nanomanufacturing and hybrid printing of multifunctional devices
The mission of Professor Zhang’s lab is to innovate materials processing methods and transform manufacturing technology to improve energy and environment sustainability and individual wellbeing by addressing grand challenges our society is facing. To do so, we have established a transformative nanoscale-to-macroscale engineering approach that synergistically integrates fundamental and applied research programs into a coherent effort. The overarching goal of this thrust is to develop and integrate versatile additive manufacturing (AM) and scalable nano manufacturing (NM) methods to transform nanoscale building blocks into macroscale functional systems in a scalable, controllable, and affordable manner. Students will have opportunities to work on scalable nanoparticle and ink synthesis, and multifunctional device design and printing using a suite of innovative AM methods. We aim to harmoniously integrate functional and structural materials into autonomous systems for a range of emerging applications such as clean and sustainable energy, self-powered wireless sensor systems for monitoring of structural health and human health, human-machine interfaces, and soft robotics. Students with any engineering or science background are welcome to apply.