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2024 REU Research Projects

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The 2024 MatSci REU Application is now closed. Application decisions will be sent to students before the end of Winter Quarter. Check out our website to learn more about other undergraduate research opportunities. 

Click on the links below to jump to each project description and to view the faculty member's website.

Professor Eric Appel

Sustained delivery of biopharmaceuticals 
Project Description: Protein therapeutics are a fast-growing class of pharmaceuticals exhibiting many advantages over traditional small-molecule drugs. Yet biopharmaceutical formulation is particularly challenging on account of the inherent instability of many proteins, their propensity to aggregate, and difficult administration of ideal formulations for extended periods of time. We seek to exploit rational design principles to engineer a novel class of injectable hydrogel materials for biopharmaceutical formulation that can address all these issues. In particular, we are developing novel vaccine delivery platforms that can improve the potency, durability, and quality of immune responses to generate better vaccines against challenging pathogens such as flu, HIV, or COVID. Students will have the opportunity to learn polymer synthesis and characterization as well as protein structure and function characterization. [Back to Top]

Professor Zhenan Bao

Synthesis and characterization of dynamic polymer semiconductors 
Project Description: Flexible and stretchable electronics are of great interest given their broad applications, particularly in bioelectronics. Organic semiconductors can be intrinsically stretchable, but most structures known to date are crystalline or semicrystalline substances, below their glass transition temperatures at room temperature. Dynamic polymer semiconductors, based on new molecular architectures currently being developed in our lab, are promising targets for removing charge trapping by grain boundaries and studying charge transport in well-defined plastic substances. In this project, students will be able to learn and conduct organic and polymer synthesis, materials purification and transistor fabrication. They will also be introduced to various soft matter characterization techniques. Due to the breadth of this project, students will be able to focus on their interests, as determined with their mentors. [Back to Top]

Professor Yi Cui

Materials Design for Aqueous Batteries 
Project Description: This project explores materials design for enhanced energy conversion and storage based on aqueous electrochemistries, which could have a great impact towards grid-scale energy storage. Students will have an opportunity to learn several skills including materials synthesis, structure characterization, battery device fabrication, and performance evaluation. [Back to Top]

Professor Will Chueh

Investigating MnO2 cathodes for high-performance aqueous batteries 
Project Description: Stationary battery energy storage is going to play a crucial role in grid systems integrated with renewable energy, and aqueous batteries are attractive candidates due to their low cost and high safety. MnO2 is one of the most ideal aqueous cathodes in this regard. However, traditional Zn-MnO2 alkaline batteries fail to achieve satisfactory performance metrics because of the irreversible Zn intercalation into MnO2. The aqueous subgroup has been developing Sn-based materials as a novel type of aqueous anode with the potential of overcoming the drawbacks of the Zn counterpart. Working with our aqueous subgroup, you will work to assess the stability of MnO2 in different aqueous electrolytes and their compatibility when paired with a Zn- or Sn-based anode. This will provide critical information for enabling a well-performing aqueous full cell. Techniques you will learn or be exposed to: hydrothermal syntheses of MnO2 materials, X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), rotating disk electrodes (RDE) and electrochemical tests, electrode sheet and pouch cell fabrication, and cell testing. [Back to Top]

Professor Reinhold Dauskardt

Nano-mechanical behavior and reliability in energy devices 
Project Description: The intent of this project is to study the nano-mechanical properties and adhesion of advanced thin-film structures that have applications in a wide range of emerging technologies. The goal of the work is to develop a fundamental understanding of how the films’ mechanical properties are related to their nanostructure and processing conditions. The student will gain familiarity and experience with a number of experimental techniques, including thin-film sample preparation and the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) for analyzing fracture surface composition and morphology. [Back to Top]

Bio-mechanical function of human skin 
Project Description: This project takes a quantitative, in-vitro experimental approach to examine the biomechanical properties of human skin, which are vital for its function but poorly understood. Students will use a range of thin film characterization techniques to explore the outermost stratum corneum layer of skin and determine the effects of preconditioning treatments and cellular structure. We would also like to expand the research project to include multiple layers of skin. The project involves applying novel and new micromechanical and characterization techniques to study the structure and biomechanical function of human skin. Students will learn to separate, enzymatically treat and condition human skin, fabricate specimens, and conduct testing and analysis using methodologies developed in our research group. Analysis techniques such as scanning electron and optical microscopy will be employed, together with newly developed techniques involving wafer curvature and bulge testing of soft tissues. [Back to Top]

Solid State Lithium Battery Manufacturing 
Project Description: Our research is focused on the fast manufacturing of solid-state lithium batteries. We use alternate heating sources on metal oxide thin film curing kinetics, including rapid thermal annealing and blown arc plasma. The project entails a comprehensive immersion into processing and characterization tools, including spray-plasma processing, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and X-ray Diffraction (XRD), complemented by a fundamental grounding in battery science and plasma processing. [Back to Top]

Professor Joseph DeSimone

Microneedles for transdermal drug delivery 
Project Description: Skin contains several immune cells whose job it is to survey the environment and eradicate foreign invaders. We can harness this network of immune cells to design better vaccines and immunotherapies. We are currently working on developing 3D-printed microneedle platforms to deliver therapies into the skin. With this new route of administration comes new challenges and the need for new formulations. Through this project, you will be working on developing new strategies to stabilize therapeutic cargo on microneedles for solid state drug delivery. [Back to Top]

Measuring and understanding the conductivity of 3D-printed lattice force capacitive sensors 
Project Description: The overarching goal is to create a high-resolution 3D-printed elastomeric lattice pressure sensor suitable for wearable electronics application. The summer student will work on tackling the problem from three aspects: (1) to explore polymeric material formulations to create and print deformable, conductive 3D lattice structures; (2) to build a set-up to measure the strain versus conductance of the lattice material; and, (3) t0 design, simulate, and understand the stress-strain response of the lattice structure with FEA simulation, using commercial software (nTopology and Abaqus). [Back to Top]

Professor Jennifer Dionne

Mapping intracellular forces in the immune synapse with upconverting nanoparticles 
Project Description: Immune cells undergo a range of mechanical feats to identify and target pathogen cells for death. While the mechanical forces are critical for immune cell performance, there is currently no suitable sensor for mapping the intracellular forces. We are working on developing biocompatible mechanical force sensors based on upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) with nanometer spatial resolution capable of imaging intracellular mechanical forces. A summer intern will be working on characterizing UCNPs force sensitivity by mimicking biological forces with an atomic force microscope (AFM) while recording the upconversion spectra. A summer student will also learn how to characterize UCNPs materials properties using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and x-ray diffraction (XRD). Through careful materials studies and characterization, we will provide a new way to track immune cell interactions. [Back to Top]

Solar plastics upcycling with plasmonic photocatalysts 
Project Description: Plasmons, a unique optical response to light by metallic nanostructures, can increase the speed and selectivity of chemical transformations. In this project, we will explore the application of plasmons for breaking down commercial plastics and for boosting catalyst performance in critical chemical steps involved in the synthesis of plastics. Starting from computational optical simulations, we will carefully design the shape, size, and composition of plasmonic nanoparticles and then synthesize these particles in the lab. A summer intern will learn how to characterize nanomaterials using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and how to use and develop computational programming to quantify their results. We will then perform bench-scale reactions using a custom photoreactor set-up and explore correlations between these results and single particle experiments performed in an environmental TEM. A long-term goal is to enable a sustainable, circular materials economy with non-toxic nanoparticles that enable plastic upcycling. [Back to Top]

Lighting up the oceans: Developing in-situ sensors of ocean and environmental health 
Project Description: TBD

Professor Leora Dresselhaus-Marais

Directly Imaging Defects Deep inside Alloys 
Project Description: Dislocations are the line defects that give rise to the workability and ductility of metals, but much is unknown about how they move deep beneath the surface. While electron microscopes can “see” dislocations at the atomic scale in thin films, the surface effects of those films often cause them to behave in ways not typical of the macroscopic metals we interact with in the real world. My group has established time-resolved Dark-Field X-ray Microscopy to directly image dislocations deep inside macroscopic materials. In this summer REU, we will explore some of the high-temperature behaviors that occur inside bulk metals, using computer-vision tools to quantify the precise behaviors critical to describe how they give rise to mechanical properties. [Back to Top]

Professor Sarah Heilshorn

Biomaterials for Regenerative medicine 
Project Description: A unique approach to designing biomaterials involves mimicking the tools evolved by nature to create functional materials at the molecular level. The REU student will be involved in the synthesis, purification, and characterization of protein-based biomaterials using engineered bacterial hosts. These biomaterials will be evaluated for use as regenerative medicine scaffolds to induce the formation of new tissue. [Back to Top]

New materials as inks for 3D bio-printing 
Project Description: 3D bio-printing is similar to traditional 3D printing, but the inks include embedded cells. This promising technology can be used to fabricate living devices for regenerative medicine and disease modeling. In this project, we are working to develop and validate new cell-compatible materials that function well as bio-inks. [Back to Top]

Professor Guosong Hong

A circulatory light source enabled by an endogenous optical flow battery 
Project Description: Light is used in a wide array of processes and methods in biology and medicine, ranging from photosynthesis, fluorescence imaging, optogenetics, to photodynamic therapy to treat COVID infection. A critical challenge of applying light in vivo arises from the poor penetration of photons in biological tissue due to scattering and absorption. Therefore, delivering light deep into the body requires invasive procedures, such as the insertion of optical fibers and endoscopes, as well as surgical dissection of overlying tissues. The very invasiveness of these procedures also precludes easy repositioning and volume adjustment of the illuminated region in the same subject. In this project, you will be able to address this long-standing challenge by developing a circulatory light source that can be produced from inside the body and programmed in a logic circuit to yield emission of desired colors and sizes at any location in vivo. Specifically, you will synthesize and inject trap-engineered phosphor materials (e.g., Sr2MgSi2O7) into the mouse, effectively turning the endogenous circulatory system into an "optical flow battery". When blood circulates past superficial vessels near the skin, light energy incident on the skin will be absorbed by and stored in trap-engineered phosphors in the blood. Blood then carries the stored energy until triggered by focused ultrasound, releasing the energy as localized emission inside the body, thus fulfilling a circulatory light source. You will be able to use fluidic dynamic modeling, spectrophotometry, electron microscopy, and immunohistochemistry to characterize the efficiency of the in-vivo light source and optical flow battery. [Back to Top]

Professor Felipe Jornada

Predicting novel 2D materials with large-scale simulations and machine learning 
Project Description: The student will use a combination of theoretical and computational tools to predict the electronic and optical properties of novel 2D materials, their moiré structures, and emerging properties. The project uses state-of-the-art computational tools based on density-functional theory (DFT), first-principles calculations based on many-body perturbation theory (MBPT), and machine-learned force fields. The student will also use large-scale computational resources to carry out these calculations and will be able to engage with the vibrant experimental community at Stanford on 2D materials to test their predictions. [Back to Top]

Elucidating photodeterioration of materials with large-scale excited-state calculations and machine-learning 
Project Description: Many novel photovoltaic materials, such as inexpensive perovskite solar cells, display a diminished performance when they are illuminated for long periods. However, the microscopic mechanism behind this critical deterioration process is not understood. In this project, the student will use state-of-the-art methods to understand these processes. The student will work closely with the mentor to develop materials datasets, learn how to use large-scale supercomputers to obtain accurate properties of optically excited materials, and eventually train machine-learning models to learn how illumination can affect the atomic stability of a few selected materials. [Back to Top]

Professor Aaron Lindenberg

Visualization of dynamical functionality in two-dimensional ferroelectrics 
Project Description: In recent years, two dimensional ferroelectric materials have enabled new types of atomically-thin devices with applications to information storage and energy harvesting technologies. The fundamental time-scales on which these materials can be reconfigured and the ultimate speed limits that define these processes remain largely unknown. In this project a summer student will learn to use nonlinear optics to probe these dynamical properties within an operating device. [Back to Top]

Professor Andy Mannix

Charge transport and high-throughput optoelectronic characterization of 2D semiconductors and moiré heterostructure 
Project Description: Atomically thin 2D materials incorporated into van der Waals heterostructures are a promising platform to engineer the next generation of semiconductor devices and future quantum materials. Summer REU students in the Mannix lab will gain experience in the growth, heterostructure fabrication, and optoelectronic characterization of 2D semiconductors, with the goal of developing a key missing link for material optimization: high-throughput, non-contact methods to measure material properties without device fabrication. Beyond optical measurements, this project will involve analysis via unsupervised machine learning. [Back to Top]

Professor Paul McIntyre

Silicon-compatible semiconductors for energy-efficient chip-to-chip data transfer 
Project Description: In this project, we are studying novel silicon-germanium-tin semiconductors that can exhibit excellent light emission characteristics for chip-to-chip optical communication. These materials hold promise for more energy-efficient computing and communication by reducing the energy penalty and latency of chip-to-chip data transfer. We are examining how composition and mechanical strain can be tuned in these materials to optimize their performance. An undergraduate student working on this project will help characterize the optical properties of nanometer-to-micrometer scale Si-Ge-Sn light emitters and detectors and look for correlations between measured properties and the semiconductor growth and fabrication methods used to make the devices. [Back to Top]

Metal oxide semiconductors for beyond Moore's Law 3D integrated circuits 
Project Description: In this project, we are exploring novel semiconductor materials in which indium oxide is doped with other metal oxides to produce thin film transistors synthesized at low temperatures with device characteristics and stability approaching that of silicon at similar device dimensions. These materials provide a route to vertically stack transistors in multiple layers above the surface of a silicon chip, to co-locate logic and memory functions on-chip and thus avoid the energy penalty for chip-to-chip data transfer. An undergraduate student working on this project will help characterize atomic layer deposited In2O3-based semiconductor thin films to help us understand the effects of deposition parameters and dopant concentration on their functional properties. [Back to Top]

Professor Kunal Mukherjee

Defects and luminescence in semiconductors 
Project Description: We aim to understand the role of crystal defects on light emission from semiconductors for a variety of applications in sensors. Crystal defects are known to strongly impact the electronic and mechanical properties of any material. There is a class of compounds where the nature of bonding cannot easily be classified as covalent, ionic, or metallic. The question naturally arises - are crystal defects any different (potentially even benign) in these solids over other conventionally bonded ones? A prototype of such a mixed-bonded crystal is the semiconductor PbSe. We are interested in learning how the behavior of simple point defects (vacancies and interstitials) and line defects (dislocations) in PbSe are different from conventional semiconductors. The student will learn to characterize semiconductor films using infrared light emission and understand how processing impacts luminescent properties. [Back to Top]

Professor Eric Pop

Topological Semimetals for Interconnects and Chalcogenides for Data Storage 
Project Description: We will examine ultrathin (nanometer-scale) new materials for applications in electronics, such as interconnects and data storage devices. [Back to Top]

Professor Alberto Salleo

Multifunctional soft materials for sustainable IoT devices 
Project Description: This project involves the utilization of Organic Mixed Ionic Electronic Conductors (OMIECs) for electrochemical sensor electrodes, transistors, energy storage devices, and actuators to enable fully integrated and sustainable IoT devices. OMIECs are polymeric materials that are redox-active and ionically and electrically conductive, resulting in their usage in a wide variety of electrochemical devices. The student will learn how to fabricate the above electrochemical devices and characterize their electronic and electrochemical performance. Ultimately, the goal is to demonstrate the unique processability and multifunctional properties of OMIECs to enable the circular economy of electrochemical devices. [Back to Top]

Professor Shan Wang

Retrieval of kidney stones with magnetic hydrogel 
Project Description: We aim to develop a medical device that makes kidney stone surgeries more effective for patients and faster for surgeons. The device coats stone fragments with a magnetic hydrogel to facilitate their easy retrieval from the body with a magnetic wire, leading to more efficient clearance of kidney stone fragments during ureteroscopy. [Back to Top]

Professor Yunzhi Peter Yang

Hybprinting functionally graded biomaterials for tissue engineering 
Project Description: In our project, we harness the potential of hybrid bioprinting, or Hybprinting, to advance tissue engineering. Our innovative bioprinter, developed previously, has set the stage for us to fabricate complex tissues that combine both soft and hard elements with various functional and biocompatible materials. In this new venture, we are dedicated to designing and constructing next-generation biomaterials and engineered tissues. These are specifically tailored for interfaces such as the bone-tendon and bone-cartilage connections, incorporating gradations in mechanical strength and biological signals. The project offers the opportunity to delve into the synthesis of biomaterials, the creation of implantable devices, and their comprehensive evaluation using the forefront of Hybprinting technology. [Back to Top]

Injectable biological-laden hydrogel based therapy 
Project Description: Therapeutic angiogenesis via cell-based approaches offers promising solutions for repairing damaged tissues, yet challenges persist in safeguarding cells from inadequate vascularization and ensuring the stability of the vascular network essential for anastomosis and microcirculation. This study aims to develop an innovative injectable hydrogel enriched with biological agents that promotes the formation of functional blood vessels, combats vessel regression, and accelerates the restoration of blood flow. We will design hydrogel systems with adjustable physicochemical and mechanical characteristics, assess interactions between endothelial cells (EC), targeted tissue cells, and the modifiable hydrogels, and ultimately, determine the in vivo effectiveness of this bioactive hydrogel therapy in tissue regeneration. [Back to Top]

Professor Xiaolin Zheng

Study mechanical and combustion properties of metal and polymer composites. 
Project Description: Metal-based energetic materials have extremely high volumetric and specific energy densities, so they have a broad range of applications ranging from propulsion, pyrotechnics, and material synthesis to thermal energy generation. However, metal-based energetic materials have high temperatures/energies, long ignition delay time, and incomplete combustion, which limits their energy release rate and efficiency. To address these challenges, our group synthesizes novel nanostructured energetic materials and uses nanomaterial additives and studies their impacts on the ignition and combustion performance of metal-based energetic materials. The goal of this student project is to experimentally develop novel solid fuels for propulsion applications. [Back to Top]