The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Undergraduate Research & Independent Study Topics

Participation in research can be a very rewarding component of an undergraduate engineering program. Motivated students can earn credit and satisfy some elective degree requirements by conducting independent study or thesis research with a supervising faculty member. Alternatively, students can be paid to conduct research, for example as part of a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at UMass or at another university.

Most undergraduate research projects are “arranged” by the student who meets with faculty to discuss research interests and needs. Students often consult faculty web pages, for overviews of faculty research interests and then arrange to meet prospective advisors. Most faculty members welcome undergraduate researchers to their labs and many can create undergraduate research projects related to their own research which reflect student interests and capabilities. Other projects may be more clearly defined in advance by faculty members, may derive from other projects or might reflect a new idea which a student wishes to explore. Descriptions of some of the more well defined research projects follow. Students interested in any of these projects or in other research topics are encouraged to contact the associated faculty members.

Professor Erin Baker: My research is on energy technology policy, especially related to  energy equity and the transition to a low carbon energy system. The methods are mathematical and computational decision modeling. Examples of current honors topics include modeling the impact of heat pumps on electricity demand in New England and evaluating energy storage options, including cooperatively owned and operated batteries and hot water storage.

Professor Wen Chen: Our Multiscale Materials and Manufacturing Laboratory (lab website: is very interested in hosting students for research intern, independent study, or senior project throughout the year. Our research group is focused on advanced manufacturing of structural and functional materials using various 3D printing technologies. Structural metal alloys that we study include Al alloys, steels, high entropy alloys, metallic glasses, and 3D architected materials (also called mechanical metamaterials). We also collaborate with many other universities (UPenn, Brown, Stanford, Georgia Tech), national labs (Oak Ridge National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Argonne National Lab), and industry partners to develop next-generation eco-friendly batteries. Our lab houses a wide range of 3D printing facilities including direct ink writing, laser powder bed fusion, laser engineered net shaping, and plasma wire arc additive manufacturing system. We have a multidisciplinary team working on alloy development, mechanical behavior of 3D-printed materials, powder metallurgy, and electrochemistry.  
If you are interested in applying for research opportunities in our lab, please send a CV to Dr. Wen Chen (  

Professor Steve de Bruyn Kops: I study fluid turbulence at a very fundamental level.  Fundamental science, not engineering. I can work with students who have some appreciation for how to move massive amounts of data through a computer (files larger than the hard drive on a laptop).  Knowledge of python and C++ is good.  Excel and Matlab are not adequate. In particular I am looking for a student with these computer skills and an interest in learning something about artificial intelligence / data mining / big data.

Professor Xian Du: I am very interested in the supervision of senior students. Following are my research areas (please also refer to

1. Roll to Roll Flexible Electronics Printing
2. Intelligent Vision
3. Medical Device Realization

Specific projects (I would like to meet the students to discuss the details)

  • The design, realization, control and scale up of Roll to Roll Print Machines: You will work with me and my Ph.D. students who have rich industrial experience, and my industrial collaborators in the project. You will learn both hand-on skills in design and programming, many interesting research directions in the manufacturing of flexible electronics. This project will be good for students who are interested in precision machine design, control, and manufacturing.
  • Machine vision, image processing, machine learning, and data mining for nano-manufacturing, or medical devices. The data can be from MRI, high speed high resolution optical and NIR camera, or microscope. You will learn the how to apply AI to the above areas. You also will learn how to solve fundamental problems in setup, calibration, and using of these imaging devices. You have chance to work with both my industrial and hospital collaborators. This project will be good for students who are interested in AI applications and discovery of novel AI computations.

Professor Chaitra Gopalappa: My research area and previous work can be found here Students interested in doing a CHC thesis or independent study should contact me at to set up an appointment to discuss specific projects of interest. Students can expect to use one or more of stochastic processes, optimization, simulation, computational modeling, and data analytics. Students can expect to work in the ‘broad’ area of disease prevention and control, though the methodologies can be transferable to other areas.

Professor Meghan Huber: The mission of the Human Robot Systems Lab is to advance how humans and robots learn to guide the physical interactive behavior of one another. To achieve this, our research aims to: (1) develop new methods of describing human motor behavior that are compatible for robot control, (2) understand and improve how humans learn models of robot behavior, and (3) develop robot controllers that are compatible for human-robot physical collaboration. This highly interdisciplinary research lies at the intersection of robotics, dynamics, controls, human neuroscience, and biomechanics. To apply, please follow the instructions here:

Professor Juan Jiménez: The research goal of the Jiménez laboratory at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst is to elucidate the fluid flow characteristics and fluid flow-dependent biomolecular pathways relevant to diseases and processes in the body, by integrating fluid dynamic engineering into cellular and molecular mechanisms important in medicine. Our research focuses on experimental cardiovascular biomedicine; specifically, addressing the interaction of flow in the blood vasculature and lymphatic system with the endothelium. Furthermore, we also work in the area of biomedical implantable devices like stents. Active areas of research are:

  1. Atherosclerosis & Stents: Elucidating the role of fluid flow on endothelial cell migration by investigating cell motility, reactive oxygen species and gene expression.
  2. Cerebral Aneurysms & Stroke: Recreating the fluid flow environment present in the cerebral vasculature to identify pro-inflammatory endothelial cell gene expression.
  3. Vascular Biology: In-vitro models of disease and endothelial cell phenotype.

Professor Jim Lagrant: I typically advise 2-3 independent study projects each semester in industrial automation, engineering education, machine design and fabrication. Topics include: Selection and application of industrial control hardware, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programming, Human Machine Interface (HMI) design and programming, design of classroom aids and laboratory experiments, equipment re-design.  Students interested in doing a CHC thesis or independent study should contact me at to set up an appointment to discuss specific projects of interest.

Professor Jae-Hwang Lee: Nano-Engineering Laboratory We are looking for a few research-oriented undergraduates interested in materials in mechanical extremes. Their material research topics could potentially relate to bulletproof materials or additive manufacturing. We prefer a research plan more extended than one semester.

Professor Tingyi “Leo” Liu: My Inter²EngrLAB ( welcomes any passionate undergraduate students who want to step out of their comfort zone to prepare themselves for the challenging future. We work on interdisciplinary topics and aim to advance fundamental science and develop enabling technologies in the fields such as Micro Electromechanical Systems (MEMS), nanotechnology, brain-machine interface, soft electronics and robotics, listing just a few. Example projects include neurosurgical robots, automated nano-manufacturing systems, multifunctional neural probes, super-repellent surfaces. Our projects offer students research experience on mechatronics, CNC machining, MEMS, control systems, hardware-software interface programming, lithography, app design, bioinspired design, human-factor product design, etc., with hard-core training in both hands-on and theory as well as interdisciplinary communication. We have opportunities for students to do research intern, senior design projects, independent studies, and honor thesis that may involve all phases of academic research, technology transfer and development, and industrial product development. I individually train students who are interested in working with me to maximize their potential and let them work with everyone in my lab to encourage diversity and inclusivity. Feel free to talk to me for more in-depth discussion on possible projects.

Professor Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi: I always have projects for undergraduate students: General Fluid-Structure Interactions (FSI) problems, mainly experimental, with specific problems being those in which the students conduct experiments in the water tunnel or wind tunnel for either fundamental FSI problems, fish propulsion, wind energy related projects, or our bat deterrent device. I also have projects on biomedical FSI.

Professor Jinglei Ping: The goal of Ping Lab ( is to determine the fundamental principles governing applications of nanomaterials and nanomaterial-based device structures in biotechnology, healthcare, environmental monitoring, and so on. Fanscinating phenomena emerge as materials or devices scale down, inducing "surprises" and offering promise for dramatic improvement in the material/device performances. However, not all "surprises" are favorable. Moreover, fabrication and invesitigation at micro/nano scales can be technically challenging. We tackle the challenges by combining techniques in bioelectronics, microfluidics, microscopy, microfabrication and more (sometimes we invent the techniques) to harness innovative physicochemical principles at micro/nano scales to create devices/systems for processing, detecting, or/and stimulating biosystems.We are an energetic lab focusing on interdisciplinary research.

If you are interested in novel nanomaterials, understanding their bio-transducing properties, building nano-enabled biosensors, etc., reach out to us through! Students from underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged.

Professor Anuj K. Pradhan: The Pradhan Research Group ( operates as part of the Human Performance Laboratory. Our group conducts research on driver behaviors in the context of driving safety, with a specific focus on advanced vehicle technologies including Connected and Automated Vehicles.

Past and current students (undergraduate and graduate) have worked on research projects on: Human Factors of Automated Vehicles; Distracted Driving; Impact of Advanced Technologies on Driver Safety; user centered design for automotive interfaces; and, Driving Simulation Methodologies. These projects are undertaken using an advanced Driving Simulator, or are conducted on public roadways with advanced vehicles, or via analytical human factors methods.

Students in the group will have opportunities to be involved in all phases of a research study, from conceptualization and design and preparation of experiments, to data collection, data analyses, and reporting of results. Students will also have opportunities to independently conduct research of their interest if that overlaps with the group’s interests. Our group students are encouraged to and regularly present their research at conferences at UMass or at domestic conferences and are supported financially to do so. Please visit the group website to learn more and to contact Professor Pradhan. 

Professor Shannon Roberts: The Roberts Research group, a part of the Human Performance Laboratory, is always interested in having undergraduate students join our research team. Broadly speaking, our work is focused on Human Factors in transportation safety. We look at how to improve driving behavior among young adults and teens. We also examine issues in driving automation systems, including how to design in-vehicle interfaces & training systems and differences in performance across demographic groups. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to use a variety of tools (e.g., driving simulators) and are typically involved in all stages of research, from ideation to research design to analysis to publishing.

Professor Jonathan Rothstein: I am always willing to supervise experimental fluid dynamics projects.  The list of possible projects is long and I usually have 10 or so that I sketch out for any student who is interested in working with me.  I let them pick out the one that they like best.

Professor Krish Thiagarajan Sharman: I would be interested in working with one or two honors students in the following topics:

  1. Modeling an offshore wind turbine using industry standard software. Explore new concepts and produce interesting simulation results. No computing skills needed, but interest in learning new skills is essential.
  2. Design, build and test an offshore wind turbine platform in our wave tank (Gunness Hall). Knowledge of SolidWorks is essential. Hands on work in the workshop will be required.

Professor Yubing Sun: Potential projects for undergraduate honors research include : 1) using microfluidic devices to study the mechanotransduction in epithelial cells; 2) using engineered hydrogels and pluripotent stem cells to model early neural development; 3)  Imaging analysis using Matlab to track cell migration and proliferation.

Professor Frank Sup:  The Mechatronics and Robotics Research Laboratory
I am looking for students interested in the areas of:

  1. Robot design
  2. Biomechanics of human locomotion
  3. Collaborative human-robot systems
  4. Robot Teleoperation

Professor Yanfei Xu: Xu Research Group at UMass Amherst
We are looking for like minded scientists and engineers with synergistic research interests to work together on  multifunctional polymers, integrated devices and systems, and advanced manufacturing.
Applicants should send cover letter and curriculum vitae through email to