Summer 2023 RCEU Proposals

Project descriptions for the Summer 2023 RCEU program may be found below. Students interested in a particular project should contact the faculty member responsible for the proposal for additional information via the included email. Please note that some faculty have proposed multiple projects.


Mr. Vinny Argentina

Art, Art History, & Design  |

    Animated Short Film

    Animated short films are a fantastic medium for individual expression and experimentation, but they can be incredibly time consuming and challenging to create. This project seeks to help one highly motivated student reduce some of the barriers to creating an animated short film by providing funding to support full-time work, as well as an active mentor to help with project management/production. The short can explore any subject matter desired using 2D or 3D digital tools, stop motion, or a completely experimental process, but it should be produced from start to finish during the program period. Getting a short film done in 10 weeks is a TALL order, so process, subject matter, design decisions, and scope will be important, but motivation, passion, and strong initiative will also be essential.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: ARS 220 and 2+ courses from ARS 32X or ARS 42X

    Virtual Production

    Virtual Production has quickly taken over as one of the most popular methods of shooting and integrating live action actors in computer generated (CG) environments. There is much that goes into professional virtual production shoots, such as extensive hardware for the LED wall, shooting stage, etc. We do not have access to a full LED wall or studio, but will experiment with alternate methods of employing virtual production on a smaller scale, such as rear projection, green screen, and large 4k monitors for stop motion. In addition to virtual production tech, this project will also use facial and body motion capture and will lean heavily on Unreal Engine. The student chosen for this project should be interested in creating real-time environment art in Unreal Engine, both digital and real cinematography, and researching and using entertainment technology. In addition, the student should be highly motivated, a good collaborator, and an excellent troubleshooter.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: ARS 220 and 2 or more classes from 31X, 32X, 41X, 42X


Dr. John Saunders

Communication Arts |

    Alabama Myths and Public Memory

    Public memory studies is interdisciplinary by its very nature. Alabama provides us with a treasure trove of public memory sites, stories, and myths. The focus of this project is to research the biggest myths of Alabama public memory to investigate how these myths are being propagated today. We are not focusing on whether these myths are “true” or not, but rather how they are being presented as truth. So our focus will be on how major stories from Alabama’s past are being presented strategically to preserve the myths. We will start by identifying Alabama myths, and then will chose a specific few to focus on. It is beyond the scope of our project to find and analyze all myths of public memory in Alabama. Then we will find every version of these myths to analyze how the narrative is continually being presented to the Alabama public. There will be some focus on the body of scholarship defining public memory as well as the historical research of the myths. But the largest part of this project will be archival research into local newspapers and websites that all tell and retell the narrative of these myths.

    If this RCEU project, and Dr. Sears’ RCEU project on “Alabama Myths & Public History” are both chosen and funded, then Dr. Sears and I will work collaboratively with our RCEU students to select specific myths that her student will research the historical origins of to account for what is historically accurate and what is not. My student will focus on the same narratives from when they become myths to current day narratives that are acting as public memory. If we are able to work in tandem, the scope and outcomes of both of our RCEU projects will be magnified.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Junior or senior standing in a major within the College of Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences preferred. Experience writing papers including historical research also preferred. No course prerequisites.


Dr. Alanna Frost

English |

    First Nations' Environmental Protests

    My own project this summer is to complete the proposal work necessary for research pertaining to environmental protests that took place in central British Columbia, Canada, in the 1970s. My research areas are literacy studies and cultural rhetorics and, ultimately, the project will involve work in the archives and interviews with participants in the protests and current forestry stakeholders. The student awarded this position will be mentored to support the following necessary parts of the proposal work: support IRB application, engage in a search for relevant grants, support the necessary literature review, and search for archival material.

    Most relevant to this project is an impact-report written In 1974, following a First Nations Band’s protest of forestry companies’ incursions onto disputed lands surrounding their reservations. The government of British Columbia placed a moratorium on development in Central B.C. and commissioned two scholars to study the impacts of logging on “resource and human development.” The 54 page document they produced was circulated to Band members and the cattle ranchers who shared the vast valley in question. It is a document that tells an incomplete story of the state of clear cut logging in BC, at that time; of the stakeholders concerned with the protest, including Band members, foresters, ranchers, scholars, and environmentalists. It is my aim to investigate the texts, necessary to the event, in their entirety.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: All majors, Sophomore standing or higher, preference to students with interests in learning the process of academic inquiry used by writing studies scholars who are invested in qualitative research methods and cultural and environmental rhetoric. No GPA minimum, but GPA will be used as evaluation criteria.


Dr. Joseph Robertshaw

English |

    The Far Reaches: a Podcast About Fantasy Fiction

    Creation of one podcast season of eight (8) episodes for release to the public. This is not to be my podcast but rather the creative outlet of the student. The student will exit this experience with the ownership of a monetize-able podcast and the skills to continue to run it indefinitely. This will be a student driven experience. The student will learn to execute all aspects of podcast creation from securing and scheduling guests to researching the work of the guest, preparing questions for the guests, recording the interview, editing the audio for publication, and even promotion and marketing.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: The student should have experience reading the authors they hope to interview, basic writing proficiency, a willingness to prepare for the interviews, and the time to commit to the process of running a small business.


Dr. Ryan Weber

English |

    Do Cover Letters Improve Responses to Job Applications?

    This project investigates an important and under-researched question: do job cover letters actually improve job seeker’s chances of getting an interview? Job search experts often recommend cover letters, and our business and technical writing classes at UAH teach students to write them. However, there is very little empirical data to indicate whether and how cover letters improve job seekers’ chances at getting an interview. Therefore, this project will answer this question using established methodologies (Darolia et. al, 2014; Bellemare et. al., 2018) to test the effectiveness of job application packages sent to real job postings with and without cover letters.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None


Dr. Christine Sears

History |

    Harrison Brothers and Local History

    The student working on this project will determine a research project based on the Harrison Brothers Ledgers and Papers, but focusing particularly on the ledgers. These ledgers, dating from the 1880s to the early 1900s, contain a wealth of local history information through the lens of the Harrison Brothers’ store in downtown Huntsville. The student will be trained on reading and interpreting historical documents; research regional background information and how to use ledgers as an historical source. The student will be trained to trace individual customers and their purchases through the ledger. After the student has practice working with the ledgers, the student will work with Dr. Sears to identify an area of interest for deeper research that will illuminate local history through their purchases and appearances in the ledgers. The student may also delve into the history of the Harrison Brothers and their Huntsville store to provide context for their work.

    The project will culminate in a digital exhibit sharing the student’s research. The student will create the exhibit using Omeka Exhibit Builder, a plugin available as part of UAH Archives and Special Collections’ Digital Collections website. The student will work with Mr. Gibbons to learn the technical aspects of Exhibit Builder as well as how to make creative and narrative choices that will showcase the student’s research. Once the student completes the digital exhibit, it will be available for public viewing on the UAH Digital Collections site. The student’s work might also include an article for Perpetua or local history journals. The student will have office space and technology support in the UAH Archives and Special Collections Digital Initiatives Lab, as the ledgers are held in the Archives.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Minimum 2 history classes

    Alabama Myths and Public History

    This project will identify and research myths about public history, myths that are not historically accurate, but widely held as truth. The student will work with Dr. Sears to identify 1-3 historical myths to investigate, myths that can be researched in the historical record. One myth that could be investigated is the issue of whether or not enslaved individuals from Alabama fought for the Confederate States during the Civil War. The student will be trained to do historical research, and then will research the 1-3 myths identified. The final project could consist of an article to be published in Perpetua or a local history journal and/or a presentation at a public or academic event like an undergraduate conference.

    If this RCEU project, and Dr. Saunders’ RCEU project on “Alabama Myths & Public Memory” are both chosen and funded, then Dr. Saunders and I will work collaboratively with our RCEU students to select specific myths that my student will research the historical origins of to account for what is historically accurate and what is not. His student will focus on the same narratives from when they become myths to current day narratives that are acting as public memory. If we are able to work in tandem, the scope and outcomes of both of our RCEU projects will be magnified.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Minimum 2 history classes


Dr. Jennifer Sims

Sociology |

    I just thought I was just a late bloomer: Exploring asexual people's experiences of identity and community

    As a part of Dr. Sims’ ongoing research project “Decentering Heteronormativity in Critical Mixed Race Studies,” this RCEU project will examine mixed-race asexuality. The majority of research on mixed-race people has and continues to focus on heterosexual people; and while there is a nascent, growing literature on mixed-race bisexual women, mixed-race lesbians, and mixed-race gay men, this work, too, focuses on allosexauls, i.e., people who feel sexual attraction to others. To date, there is no focused empirical work describing the identity and experiences of asexual mixed-race people.

    Given the impact that hetero-, homo-, and bi-sexuality has been shown to have on mixed-race people’s racial and gender identity development, extant theories thereto potentially do not apply to asexual people. In addition to this academic lacuna, lack of information on asexual mixed-race people means that parents, school counselors, social workers, doctors, and others who work with and care for members of the LGBTQIA population are operating without evidence-based information with respect to asexuals. This RCEU project will be a qualitative case study of one mixed-race asexual woman interviewed by Dr. Sims, and it will begin to address the gaps in academic and practical knowledge of this overlooked population.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Sociology majors who, by Summer 2023, will have successfully completed the following relevant major courses: SOC 100 Intro to Sociology, SOC 301 Research Methods, and SOC 309 Sociology of Sexuality.

Dr. Lisa Rose Johnson

Curriculum & Instruction |

    "What I'm going to need you to do is...": Analyzing Teacher Talk to Improve Communication Clarity

    Teacher talk - literally what teachers say as they are delivering instruction - represents the majority of input for students in any given learning situation. Consequently, the design of that talk, coupled with the complexity of content, represents the majority of cognitive load for students. In the proposed project, the participating student will be trained to analyze actual teacher talk and code the language components that represent heavy cognitive load. The resulting analyses/coding will support work that is commencing on a recently awarded National Professional Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Outcomes: Ability to analyze expert-to-novice talk to improve accessibility and comprehensibility; Tasks: Analysis of video segments of teacher talk and coding of more/less complex language components; Mentorship: Training in the identification and coding of elements of talk that will increase/decrease cognitive load for learners, directly supported by the project leader, who is working with colleagues on the NPD grant program as well.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: It is most likely that students who are bilingual/multilingual and/or those who have struggled in content area classes will understand the challenges that teacher talk can create in the learning process. The most promising fit for the project will be students who have faced challenges in understanding content areas and who are interested in learning more about how language supports and sometimes impedes communication.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None


Dr. Ryan Conners

Kinesiology |

    Validation of the Kinematic Knee Sleeve for Measuring Joint Angle Changes in Collegiate Athletes

    In the field of exercise science, standard criterion measures have been used in laboratory settings for the accurate assessment of human movement. However, these gold-standard measures often involve expensive equipment and can be inaccessible. As a result, there has been an increase in the creation and use of wearable technology to measure/monitor exercise performance. Wearable technology allows for athletes to be tested outside of a laboratory setting and provide real-time feedback during conditioning, practice, or games. A specific piece of wearable technology that is new to the field of exercise science is the kinematic knee sleeve (Kitt), developed by Footfalls and Heartbeats (UK) Limited.

    Kitt is a motion tracking knee sleeve, which contains a strain sensor, and provides immediate feedback in the form of angle and range of motion changes. This is state of the art textile technology assists with physiological monitoring and can be utilized in both sports’ performance and rehabilitation settings. However, the Kitt has not been previously validated against a criterion measure, such as electric goniometers. Thus, the purpose of this project is to determine the validity of the Kitt for measuring knee joint angle changes during open – and closed -chain movements in collegiate athletes.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Junior standing or higher


Dr. Paul Whitehead

Kinesiology |

    Analysis of lower extremity strength values in club-level collegiate hockey players

    The purpose of the study is to assess lower extremity strength values in club-level hockey players at UAH. It is believed that the restricted range of motion created by the rigid boot of a hockey skate results in diminished relative ankle strength in hockey players, which could lead to injurious situations away from hockey. There is little doubt that hockey players have strong legs, but we will be able to see if the restricted range of motion in hockey manifests in diminished ankle strength relative to other sports.

    Kitt is a motion tracking knee sleeve, which contains a strain sensor, and provides immediate feedback in the form of angle and range of motion changes. This is state of the art textile technology assists with physiological monitoring and can be utilized in both sports’ performance and rehabilitation settings. However, the Kitt has not been previously validated against a criterion measure, such as electric goniometers. Thus, the purpose of this project is to determine the validity of the Kitt for measuring knee joint angle changes during open – and closed -chain movements in collegiate athletes.

    The student researcher for this project will be responsible for recruiting participants from the UAH Club Hockey Team, conducting strength testing sessions, and analyzing the data. Furthermore, the student will be able to compare values of the club hockey players to existing values for other sports and competition levels. The student researcher will gain experience in all facets of the research process, with the ultimate aim of this study being publication of a research manuscript related to work on this project.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Junior standing or higher


Dr. Jeremy Elliott

Kinesiology |

    Formative Experiences of Successful Athletic Coaches

    This is a project that helps to uncover one aspect of how successful athletic coaches are created. Previous research in this field has questioned whether or not successful coaches can point to one unique experience in their past that helped them to become a successful coach. Some examples include experiences they had as a beginning coach that helped to shape them later in their career while others might include experiences outside of coaching that they feel helped to prepare them for their entire career. The purpose of this project is to ask highly successful coaches if they can identify and share this unique experience in their own words.

    RCEU students interested in working on this project will potentially get the opportunity to interact with well-known, successful coaches from a wide range of sports. Possible duties for the student researcher would include helping to identify and contact potential coaches to participate in the study, reviewing data collected to identify commonalities between coaches, and helping to draft a manuscript based on the findings of the study. While this project is research and will require a fair amount of work, the assembled research team working toward it has chosen this topic because of their interest in sport and because there is an element of fun in getting the chance to interact with world-class coaches.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Good communication skills (both written and oral), Organized, Able to work as part of a team, Students interested in sport or in what makes a successful coach would be ideal candidates

Dr. Rui Ma

Civil & Environmental Engineering |

    Conflicts among Autonomous Vehicles and Cyclists in CARLA and SUMO co-simulation

    This research project aims to study the interactions among autonomous vehicles (AV) and cyclists in urban environment. This project will investigate how the AV market penetration rates, the gap acceptance, waiting time thresholds and vehicle passing behaviors of the AVs affect the interactions and conflicts among AVs and cyclists on Huntsville downtown streets in a microscopic co-simulation setup. Two simulation platforms, Simulation of Urban Mobility (SUMO), and the Car Learning to Act (CARLA), will be used. The simulation platforms are installed and maintained at the workstation server in the lab at OKT.

    We’re interested in supporting undergraduate research student to work with us in our lab to help out the following activities: Building the digital triplets of Huntsville downtown in CARLA and SUMO environment; Adding cyclists in SUMO and CARLA; Designing the fleet of autonomous vehicles in CARLA; Creating realistic traffic in the co-simulation scenario by utilizing actual demographic information. The student will get familiar with the basics of the traffic simulation and the digital maps. The student will learn to use SUMO and CARLA interface to create various scenarios with traffic conflicts on urban streets and contribute to scenario graphic settings.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Civil Engineering or Electrical and Computer Engineering major, Junior or Senior standing; basic programming skills

    Solving the dynamic pricing for mixed traffic of human-driven and autonomous vehicles

    Among congestion management procedures, road toll pricing is a common strategy with the aims of revenue generation and demand management. However, pricing strategies on the mixed traffic of emerging autonomous vehicles and conventional human-driven vehicles on ridesharing market are not thoroughly discussed in the literature. In this research, we are working on an optimal control framework to model and solve the dynamic pricing in a continuous-time dynamic traffic assignment framework with mixed traffic, including autonomous vehicles and human-driven vehicles.

    We would like to recruit an undergraduate research (UR) student who is interested in solving optimization problem numerically. The student will assist the research in the following activities: Helping the design of computational examples; Entering inputs for models programmed in GAMS computational platform; Running solvers on dedicated servers; Collecting and organizing the solutions/results from GAMS; Helping on visualizing and analyzing the results using Python; Documentation of the results.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial and System Engineering, Mathematics, or Computer Science major, familiar with Python

Dr. Tingting Wu

Civil & Environmental Engineering |

    Novel Advanced Oxidation Processes for Water Treatment

    “Provide access to clean water” has been identified as one of the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century by National Academy of Engineering. In the innovative water research and technology lab at UAH, we focus on physiochemical methods for advanced water and wastewater treatment. In one of the projects, we seek to develop novel heterogeneous catalytic ozonation processes for the removal of recalcitrant organic pollutants (e.g. pharmaceuticals, pesticides) in water. The RCEU student will actively involve in catalyst preparation, characterization, laboratory reactor design and fabrication, and catalytic ozonation experiments.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

    Destructive Treatment of PFAS in Contaminated Water

    The innovative water research and technology lab at UAH focuses on physiochemical methods for advanced water and wastewater treatment. One project we are working on is to destroy Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as persistent chemicals in water. Surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that most people in the United States have been exposed to some PFAS, due to the widespread production and use, as well as the ability to move and persist in the environment of these compounds. Most known exposures are relatively low, but some can be high, particularly when people are exposed to a concentrated source over long periods. Some PFAS chemicals can accumulate in the body over time and cause serious health problems such as cancer and infertility. Therefore, active removal of PFAS is now a scientific hotspot. In this project, we aim to develop new destructive methods (e.g. oxidation or reduction) to permanently break down the strong chemical bonds of PFAS and turn them into less harmful products.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Dr. Yu Lei

Chemical Engineering |

    Develop Adsorbents for Carbon Dioxide

    An adsorbent is a porous solid substance that adsorbs gas or liquid substances. In real applications, it is used to selectively remove the targeted chemicals from the stream. For example, adsorbents are used to remove carbon dioxide and moisture in the air revitalization system in the international space station. Adsorbents are also used in respirators, removing toxic chemicals in the working environment or battle field. Adsorbents are widely used in chemical industry to separate/purify products and to remove impurities and contaminants. A key to create a highly effective adsorbent is that it must be able to selectively adsorb the target chemical that is only a small portion in a mixture.

    The selectivity and the capacity of the adsorbent to the targeted chemical can be precisely tuned by altering the pore size and structure of the adsorbent and the surface chemistry of the adsorption sites. The project is proposed to synthesize a series molecular sieve adsorbents with various pore diameter and structure, composition, and surface area. This study will focus on the adsorption of carbon dioxide in the presence of water vapor. In the literature, carbon dioxide and water were found to compete for the same adsorption sites, leading to lower CO2 adsorption capacity and selectivity. The goal in this project is to establish quantitative relationship of the competitive adsorption between CO2 and water moisture.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Strong Chemistry background, preferred candidates should have chemistry lab experience, Understanding of thermodynamics and reaction kinetics

Dr. Kyung-Ho Roh

Chemical & Materials Engineering |

    Manufacturing of therapeutic T cells using microbeads coated with peptide ligands

    Interests in immunotherapies using genetically engineered T cells have been rapidly growing due to their recent success in treatment of various cancers with unprecedented efficacies. The current manufacturing processes for the T cell therapeutics employ a combination of anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies to artificially activate the T cells so that they can proliferate in numbers. However, such artificial activation processes often exhaust the T cells or differentiate them to terminal effector phenotypes, which are detrimental for the successful engraftment and longevity of the engineered T cells in vivo when they are adoptively transferred into the patient. In our lab, we recently have discovered a novel peptide ligand against CD3 molecules on human T cells. In this RCEU project, we will develop a biohybrid structure of microbeads coated with this peptide ligands, and utilize them for T cell expansion. We hypothesize the T cells could be expanded in number without exhaustion, owing to the lower affinity of the novel peptide ligand toward CD3 compared to anti-CD3 antibody. We will test the phenotypes of the T cells using flow cytometry.

    The student will be trained for basic cell culture, microscopy, flow cytometry, in addition to the general lab procedures and techniques. The student researcher will participate in the weekly group meeting and get trained on critical thinking process as well as effective communication skills for science and engineering discussion. The student will have an opportunity to present the results in local or national scientific conferences and to publish in scientific journals.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Rising Junior standing or above, any relevant Science or Engineering majors, interested in biomedical applications

Dr. Isaac Torres-Diaz

Chemical & Materials Engineering |

    Multi-actuating Binary Magnetic Nanorobots

    Nanorobots have great potential for in-body treatment at the cellular level. However, the degrees of freedom and the multitasking functionality decrease as the scale decreases compared with macroscopic robots. The dynamic behavior of nanorobots with multitasking functionality remains challenging at the nanoscale. In particular, nanorobots with independent locomotion capabilities for reaching small vascularly regions which are not easily accessed by other methods. Electromagnetic field are used to manipulate the position of colloidal particles, but tuning their configuration for multitasking requires variable polarization at different conditions. Magnetic nanoparticles with different shapes and magnetic anisotropy are promising candidates for building tunable nanorobots. They provide multiple responses that can be used for directional and orientational actuation in response to both the applied field and the environmental changes. In this project, we will model the dynamic response/actuation of nanorobots composed of binary magnetic nanoparticles with different shapes and magnetic properties.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Any major in Science or Engineering

    Anisotropic Spiky Colloids for Antifouling Surfaces

    Contaminated surfaces due to the adhesion of external organisms at different scales are a major cause of contamination of biological devices and the efficiency reduction in maritime applications. However, a counteract fouling effect at bigger scales might increases the fouling at smaller scales, which is influenced by the topography and the environmental conditions. Assembling anisotropic spiky colloids with different shapes is an innovative approach to fabricating antifouling surfaces to repel multiple-scale inserts. Manufacturing antifouling surfaces requires direct quantification and modeling of the interactions of the spiky particles with substrates and between particles as a function of position and orientation. However, one of the main challenges in colloid science is quantitatively describing the multiple degrees of freedom of anisotropic particles and their interactions in the position and orientational spaces. This project aims to assemble periodic spiky structures composed of spiky particles able to repel multi-scale inserts at different flow field conditions.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Any major in Science or Engineering

Dr. Buren Wells

Electrical & Computer Engineering |

    Next Generation UAH Jetson Educational HPC Cluster

    This RCEU project will directly support an on-going effort to create and test a new multicore computer platform that is being designed by students and faculty in the ECE Department. It is expected that this platform will soon replace the aging 100-core UAH Jetson Cluster that is currently housed on the second floor of the Engineering Building. Like the current Jetson Cluster, this new parallel computing platform will be constructed using commercially-off-the-shelf multicore single-board headless computer modules that will be interconnected together through one or more commodity high-speed ethernet switches to form a Beowulf configuration. The purpose of this new system is to serve as an educational testbed for students who are taking the parallel programming classes by allowing more deterministic control and better monitoring of performance, memory, and energy consumption aspects of high-performance computing applications than would otherwise be possible. The basic hardware and software attributes of the system are being developed as part of an ongoing two semester senior design project. It is expected that a prototype implementation of the new platform will be completed by May 2023.

    Students in this RCEU project will have the opportunity to work in one or more areas: Develop software routines that will stress test the new parallel configuration; Create test, and integrate user-level software that will mimic the environment currently present in the Alabama Supercomputer Center; Develop and/or adapt existing process, thread-based, hybrid software highly parallel benchmarks that can be utilized to measure the effectiveness of the new configuration; Develop user level instruction modules or videos to help other students make use of this configuration; Install and evaluate the feasibility of utilizing a functional python-based environment to message-passing process level parallelism instead of C/C++.

    Expected benefits to student include: Practical experience using modern single board computing environments that are often also used in internet of things environments; Practical experience in creating efficient parallel multi-threaded and multi-process code in C/C++; Practical experience in use of high-performance computing software stack; Opportunity to present work to others in the UAH community and in other venues.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Computer Engineering or Computer Science major, Proficient in C/C++, Sophomore Standing or higher. Working knowledge of linux, knowledge of Python preferred but not required

Dr. John Bennewitz

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering |

    Fundamental Detonation Physics Research for Rocket Propulsion and Hypersonics

    Rotating detonation rocket engines (RDRE’s) have recently gained substantial interest as an alternative to traditional deflagration-based propulsion systems, with the theoretical potential to achieve overall engine performance gains. Specifically, rotating detonation rocket engines (RDRE’s) can exhibit an increase in chamber pressure, temperature and exhaust gas velocity for a substantially lower injection pressure through a constant-volume combustion process, compared to constant-pressure devices. During RDRE operation, one or more detonation wave(s) travel around the annulus supersonically by continuously consuming the incoming reactants while producing combustion products that exit the open end of the engine. To realize these engine performance benefits, fundamental research is required to advance the physical understanding of the following coupling mechanisms pertaining to RDREs: (1) creating/controlling high-strength detonations in multiphase reactive environments, and (2) acoustically-coupled multiphase combustion. Presently, a new detonation science laboratory is being established at the Propulsion Research Center with multiple experimental facilities including a detonation tube and an acoustically-forced waveguide supporting combustion. This research project will entail the undergraduate researcher assisting with the laboratory work for both of these two experiments, encompassing the following tasks: (1) facility/diagnostic design and construction, (2) data collection and processing, and (3) archival (i.e., publication) of the work.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Any major in Science or Engineering, Experience performing research in a laboratory environment in combustion/propulsion related areas preferred but not required.

Dr. Nathan Spulak

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering |

    Fracture and Deformation of Materials Under Extreme Conditions

    Many engineered devices are subjected to extreme loading. Military devices such as armor, projectiles, weapons platforms and explosive ordnance containment structures experience high-speed blasts and shock waves, elevated temperatures, and complicated impact loading. Understanding how materials deform and fracture under these complex conditions is critically necessary in order to design such devices. This knowledge of material behavior is also vital for many other applications including automotive and aerospace vehicle crashes, manufacturing forming processes, and designing biomedical implants.

    For this project, the student will experimentally characterize the stress-strain response and fracture behavior of certain materials, and then use this data to construct computational models for Finite Element Analysis (FEA). These material models can then be used in the design and analysis of real-world engineering applications. Through this project the student will gain a deeper understanding of material deformation and fracture processes. The student will also learn useful skills including how to operate various experimental testing apparatus (hydraulic load frame, split-Hopkinson bar), analyzing surface deformations with Digital Image Correlation (DIC), and how to use the FEA software LS-DYNA for in-depth structural analysis.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: All Engineering majors

Dr. George Nelson

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering |

    Development of Batteries for In Operando Neutron Imaging

    Lithium-ion batteries are a critical energy storage device for electric vehicles and grid-scale integration of renewable energy resources. The safe and reliable operation of lithium-ion batteries requires a balance of many mixed materials and complex processes that take place over scales ranging from the angstrom to the meter. A variety of direct 3D imaging methods have been applied to observe lithium-ion battery electrode microstructure. X-ray tomography permits the non-destructive studies of battery materials at resolutions of microns down to 17 nm. While X-ray imaging is well suited for batteries at micron and nanometer scale, it has limited ability to connect the microstructure of lithium-ion battery electrodes to their aggregate performance. Neutron imaging can provide the capability to observe lithium within composite electrodes at larger scales. However, test battery geometry tailored for neutron imaging experiments must be specially design to permit extraction of useful image data.

    The Multiscale Transport and Energy Conversion research group at UAH has an on-going effort to design custom lithium-ion batteries that can be used in neutron imaging experiments to track the real-time movement of lithium during battery operation. The student researcher will fabricate and test lithium-ion batteries in support of efforts to develop batteries that can be used in neutron imaging experiments. Duties will include electrode casting, battery assembly and testing.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

    Multiscale Simulations of Lithium-ion Batteries

    Lithium-ion batteries are critical energy storage devices that balance of many mixed materials and complex processes that take place over scales ranging from the angstrom to the meter. Lithium-ion batteries with higher energy density and fast charging capability are vital for the continued advancement of electric vehicle technology. Under normal conditions the energy density of a lithium-ion battery can be increased by using thicker electrodes, but during fast charging thicker electrodes show low capacity and increase the risk a dangerous lithium plating. Using numerical simulations of battery behavior, it is possible to develop basic design guidelines that can account for the complex and intertwined structure, chemistry, and physics of battery operation. These tools will help us develop safer batteries with higher performance.

    The Multiscale Transport and Energy Conversion group has developed lithium-ion battery models in the commercial finite element analysis software COMSOL Multiphysics. These models reveal the effect battery geometry and microstructure on energy density, fast charging capability, and safety. The student researcher will perform model-based analysis for this project and aid in the development of guidelines for the multiscale design of battery electrodes.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Dr. Nick Ginga

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering |

    Development of mechanical characterization techniques and analysis of flexible electronic materials

    The goal of this project is the continued development and utilization of innovative mechanical characterization systems to aide in the advancement of next generation multi material systems such as those found in flexible electronics, wearable electronics, microelectronics, and aerospace/automotive composites. Currently there is a need for new test methods with capabilities including large displacements, multiaxial loading, interfacial fracture, and simultaneous electrical behavior monitoring to meet the unique needs and use conditions of the increasingly complex materials being developed for these applications.

    For example, to research new materials for flexible electronics, students will create test samples by using a modified inkjet printer to pattern electrically conductive ink on flexible polymer substrates. Different process parameters such as ink thickness, geometry, substrate material, and curing temperatures will be investigated with different samples. These samples will then be subjected to mechanical test methods such as wedge testing to measure the interfacial fracture toughness or biaxial stretch testing to investigate the failure mechanisms of the electrically conductive ink. The experimental results will then be used to determine the effects of the process parameters and different loadings on the mode of mechanical failure and electrical behavior of the material systems. This research will provide insights to improve the mechanical reliability and electrical performance of future electronic devices. Students conducting this research will gain hands on laboratory experience with fabrication, computer-aided design, microscopy, and experimental mechanics of microelectronic/flexible electronic materials.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: MAE Majors with experience in CAD

Dr. Guangsheng Zhang

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering |

    Thermal Management of Lithium-ion Batteries

    Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in various applications from smart phones to electric vehicles. But their performance, durability and safety are significantly influenced by temperature. Therefore, thermal management is critical for lithium-ion batteries. This project is part of our efforts in understanding thermal behaviors of lithium-ion batteries and developing novel thermal management strategies. The student will work under the guidance of the PI (Dr. Zhang) and a graduate student to set up experiments, perform testing, and analyze data. The student is required to take trainings according to UAH policies.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

    Characterization of Lithium-ion Battery Fast Charging

    Electric vehicle (EV) industry is rapidly developing in recent years. However, a critical challenge for EVs is the long charging time due to limitations of lithium-ion batteries. In this project, the behaviors of lithium-ion battery cells during fast charging will be experimentally characterized for better understanding of the limitations. The understanding will help develop lithium-ion batteries that can be charged faster and thus advance the EV industry.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Dr. Lenora Smith

Nursing |

    Knowledge, Perceptions and Beliefs of Palliative Care by Primary Providers

    Many people diagnosed with serious illnesses are troubled by extreme symptoms that dramatically affect their quality of life and often cause pain, disability and suffering. Palliative care, now considered a medical specialty, provides multidimensional evidence-based care proven to decrease their symptom burden and improve quality of life. Referral for palliative care differs from hospice care requirements but misinformation often clouds the decision to request palliative care consultation and results in lack of referral. Research studies have identified several key factors that that influence appropriate referral for palliative care. For example, studies found that some primary healthcare providers did not understand the process or realize the key role palliative care plays to decrease suffering and improve quality of life for both patient and family caregivers. Therefore, education for healthcare providers is noted as an important intervention associated with improvement in referral to palliative care providers. In 2019, the Center to Advance Palliative Care systematically evaluated each state in the US and graded their provision of palliative care services to appropriate patient populations. Alabama received a grade of ‘D’ for provision of palliative care in hospitals. In order to improve this poor rating, it is imperative to examine factors that negatively influence referral for palliative care. This includes determining the knowledge, perceptions and beliefs about palliative care of practicing healthcare providers in the Huntsville area. The UAH CON Palliative Care research team will survey healthcare providers to identify methods to improve palliative referral, their preferred modality of education and specific topics to be addressed in the program content. The information gained in the initial study will be used to create a targeted educational program to address the identified barriers. This educational program will be piloted, evaluated, refined and possibly disseminated across rural areas of Alabama to address regions lacking palliative care.

    Students who chose to participate in this research study will participate in an ongoing literature review to gain knowledge about palliative care’s value to decrease pain and suffering for the seriously ill. They will learn strategies for data collection using online surveys and interviews as well as data entry for statistical analysis of subject responses. Undergraduate students who participate in the Summer Research program will participate in Palliative Care Research Team meetings and data analysis discussions. In the future the team hopes to expand the research initiated in the northern Alabama area across underserved areas of the state to begin to improve palliative care services for those with serious illness.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Ms. Tammy Shults

Nursing |

    Civility as a Nursing Concept in the Classroom Setting

    Civility as a Nursing Concept in the Classroom is a qualitative research focused study to identify student perceptions regarding faculty incivility. Faculty who are perceived as “uncivil” in the nursing classroom setting hinder program outcomes, devalue nursing students, compromise students' success, and contribute to program withdrawal. Students are more likely to share their concerns surrounding incivility with fellow nursing students during the qualitative interview process as the student-teacher role may inhibit honest, accurate feedback. Undergraduate nursing curriculum usually focuses on the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusivity which prepare students for future nursing practice; however, the concept of incivility with regard to how to recognize it, understand it, and overcome it does not receive adequate attention.

    Peer to peer faculty civility workshops have improved workplace satisfaction. The concept of civility/incivility is not part of the undergraduate BSN nursing curriculum in either the didactic or clinical setting. Student-led qualitative interviews can more accurately identify a classroom instructor’s behaviors and activities that are deemed as “uncivil.” Simultaneously, a separate arm of the study (with a separate RCEU proposal ID) will be collecting student-led qualitative interviews limited to the clinical setting. The two arms of research findings will culminate in one manuscript. The student will be expected to conduct 20 1:1 personal qualitative interviews, attend weekly meetings (either face to face or virtual), and assist with analysis of the data.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: The student must be a current CON student in good academic standing and completed NUR 307 Inquiry into Evidence Based Practice.

Dr. Rachel Seady

Nursing |

    Civility as a Nursing Concept in the Clinical Setting

    Background: Uncivil faculty practices in the clinical nursing setting devalues nursing students, contributes to course withdrawals, and compromises patient safety. Students may not share their concerns due to fear of retribution which surrounds the student-teacher role differential. Typical undergraduate nursing coursework includes instruction on the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusivity which prepare students for future nursing practice. Coursework on civility is underutilized and not yet well-defined in the undergraduate nursing curriculum. This RCEU project would use structured student-led interviews of nursing student peers at UAH in the College of Nursing to gain insight into the uncivil faculty practices during clinical experiences.

    Motivation: Peer to peer faculty civility workshops have improved workplace satisfaction. Faculty and student civility workshops are not a typical component of undergraduate BSN nursing curriculum in either the didactic or clinical setting. Student-led qualitative interviews can more accurately identify a clinical instructor’s behaviors and activities that are deemed as “uncivil.” Simultaneously, a separate arm of the study (with a separate RCEU proposal ID) will be collecting student-led qualitative interviews limited to the classroom setting. The two arms will culminate in one body of research which utilizes two students. The student will conduct 20 1:1 qualitative interviews, and meet once per week with faculty (in person or virtual), and assist with data analysis.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: A current student in the College of Nursing at UAH having completed NUR 307 Inquiry into Evidence Based Practice.

Dr. Lawrence Carey

Atmospheric & Earth Science |

    Weather Radar Characteristics of Thick Cloud Layers over the Eastern Range Associated with a Triggered Lightning Risk

    At the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), safety rules used by the 45th Weather Squadron (45WS) during space launch activities include the Lightning Launch Commit Criteria (LLCC). The 45WS Launch Weather Officer (LWO) evaluates all of the LLCC before giving the “go” for launch at the Eastern Range (ER) in Florida. To identify clouds associated with the natural or triggered lightning threat, the LLCC utilize a variety of measurements such as radar and cloud type categories relative to temperature levels and cloud history thought to be associated with cloud electrification. Historically, non-thunderstorm electrified (NTE) clouds have received less research attention than thunderstorms because they do not produce high impact weather and are not associated with the natural lightning threat. Knowledge of their electrification mechanisms and methods to detect them remotely are limited. Nonetheless, NTE clouds can pose a significant range safety risk when the flight path of a space launch vehicle goes through or near them because they can trigger a lightning flash even in the absence of other weather such as rain, winds or natural lightning activity.

    The LLCC identifies the thick cloud layer as a potential NTE cloud and a triggered lighting risk. A thick cloud layer is one or more physically connected cloud layers whose combined vertical extent exceeds 4500 feet. The 45WS LWO uses ground radar and visual measurements from aircraft to identify the presence of any thick cloud layers in the launch vehicle flight path when making the “go/no go” evaluation for weather. The 45WS has scrubbed a number of planned space launches from the ER in the past including a recent SpaceX mission due to thick cloud layers. The purpose of this study is to learn more about the radar properties of thick cloud layers that are electrified versus those that are not in the hopes of improving the LLCC. From past research, the 45WS has identified a database of over 70 thick cloud layer events and their synoptic weather environments. Ongoing 45WS research is identifying whether each event was likely electrified (i.e., a NTE cloud) or not according to a network of surface electric fields mills at KSC/CCSFS. This study will analyze nearby Melbourne (KMLB) NEXRAD polarimetric radar observations of each thick cloud layer event to characterize its horizontal and vertical extents, reflectivity intensity statistics with height and hydrometeor types (e.g., rain, ice crystals, snow aggregates etc.) with height. The study will further subdivide the radar outcomes into thick cloud layers that are likely hazardous NTE clouds and those that are likely not electrified clouds. Finally, the study will develop conceptual models of NTE thick cloud layers that can be used by the 45WS and NASA to improve the LLCC with the goal of increasing launch availability while maintaining the same high level of range safety during a period of rapidly increasing space launch activity at the ER by private and government entities.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Sophomore standing or higher, AES Major - ATS/Meteorology Concentration, completed AES 209 Data Analysis Tools, AES 212 Severe Weather Analysis & Lab, and AES 301 Intro to Earth & Atmospheric Physics

Dr. Luis Cruz-Vera

Biological Sciences |

    Describing the effects of antibiotic-resistance ribosomes on gene expression in bacteria

    Antibiotic resistance bacteria is a serious matter for public health. Excessive usages of antibiotics and low generation of new ones increases the chances of people to die by bacteria infections. Because antibiotic resistance bacteria changes their genetic makeup, it is important to determine how all genes are affected. This project will provide the student with working skills in a molecular biology setup, by being advised directly from Dr. Cruz-Vera. It is expected to use the data for a near future publication.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Students, planning a career as scientist or as researchers, from either undergrad chemistry or biology programs, that have taken genetics, and cell biology, as well as to have training in preparation of solutions are welcome to apply.

Dr. Bradley Kraemer

Biological Sciences |

    Characterization of p75NTR Interactions and Associated Effects on Neurodegeneration Associated with Parkinson's Disease

    Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder involving the progressive deterioration and death of neurons that communicate using the neurotransmitter dopamine. During the early stages of PD, the deterioration of these neurons begins at the tips of their axons, and in a process termed axonal degeneration, the axons become dysfunctional and fragmented. The dopaminergic neurons also begin to undergo oxidative stress, a condition in which toxic and reactive molecules accumulate and interfere with the function of proteins, lipids, and DNA within the cells. The progression of this damage leads to death of the neurons, ultimately resulting in a variety of debilitating motor and cognitive impairments in PD patients. Unfortunately, current treatment options for PD do not impact final outcomes on cognition and mortality. Thus, there is an urgent need for research that reveals the molecular underpinnings of neurodegeneration, thereby facilitating development of novel treatment strategies.

    The overarching aim of the current project is to elucidate the role of a protein termed the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) in neurodegeneration associated with PD. Previous studies have demonstrated that p75NTR signaling promotes the death of neurons associated with various types of pathological conditions, but the role of the protein in neurodegeneration associated with PD remains poorly understood. The student working on this project will use a combination of cell culture and mouse models to identify coreceptors and/or intracellular proteins with which p75NTR must interact to promote downstream signaling in dopaminergic neurons. The student will also contribute to studies designed to evaluate whether blocking p75NTR signaling protects dopaminergic neurons from progressive death associated with PD.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: The students must have completed an introductory course in cell biology, such as BYS 119 or a similar course. Preference will be given to applicants with previous experience in conducting molecular biology research assays in a laboratory setting.

Dr. Sharifa Love-Rutledge

Chemistry |

    Characterization of students ability to communicating regulation of metabolic pathways

    This project explores students’ understanding of the regulation of metabolic pathways in the biochemistry classroom. Understanding metabolic pathways is a fundamental part of the biochemistry classes but due to their various backgrounds students struggle with studying the material. Students often practice knowledge compartmentalization which is to their detriment in studying metabolism. Our exercise requires that students collaboratively create a metabolic map that highlights regulatory points and design infographics on the effects of a metabolic disorder on energy homeostasis. This exercise encourages students to review the steps in metabolic pathways, apply concepts, analyze information, and enable them to construct new knowledge. The goal of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the exercise at developing students skills in synthesizing and communicating biochemical information.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Rising Junior or higher, CH 121, CH 123, BYS 119, BYS 121, and either CH 331 or CH 201

    Assessing the impact that FAT10 has on glucose processing and glycogen Metabolism

    Patients that develop obesity related diseases are referred to as pathologically obese, and they often show signs increased ectopic lipid deposition, insulin resistance, and impaired glucose tolerance. Problems with glucose tolerance are often driven by the poor uptake of glucose by insulin responsive tissues like the liver and skeletal muscle and often in this disease state patients have a problem properly mobilizing energy. We are interested in the impact that fat10, an inflammation responsive gene has on regulating metabolic pathways like the glucose storage pathway, glycogen synthesis. This project will access the impact that the increased expression of a gene that is routinely overexpressed in obesity has on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in liver cells.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Rising Junior or higher

Dr. Olaf Nachtigall

Chemistry |

    Use of Pulsed Laser Ablation in Metal Cluster Synthesis

    Clusters of ferromagnetic metals with zero-valent kernels are expected to possess unique electronic and magnetic properties and could be used in catalysis or quantum information science. In this project, intense laser pulses will be focused onto metallic targets in anhydrous liquids to ablate metal atoms and to form such clusters. In contrast to the synthetic procedures commonly used for laser ablation, all experiments will be conducted under inert reaction conditions as known from modern organometallic chemistry. Therefore, the water- and air-free samples will be handled in a dinitrogen-filled glovebox and Schlenk techniques will be applied.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Dr. Jie Ling

Chemistry |

    Zero Valence Iron Nanoparticle – Metal Organic Framework Composites as Novel Separating Materials for TcO4- in Nuclear Waste Streams

    Nuclear energy, known for the high energy density and zero carbon emission, is considered as an important alternative resource for fossil fuel. However, the lack of a permanent solution for high-level nuclear waste remains a barrier to increased nuclear power generation. Within these nuclear wastes, 99Tc, primarily exist as TcO4-, is one of the most problematic radionuclides because of its long half-life, high environmental mobility, and the lack of effective sorbents under harsh conditions. At present, TcO4- is mainly treated by cationic polymer-based resins, which can absorb TcO4- via ion exchange. Due to their organic nature, however, those resins may lose capacity when exposed to highly alkaline solutions and high radiation doses, such as those present in the legacy tank wastes at the US Hanford site. Recently, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) with cationic features on metal nodes or linkers have been utilized to absorb TcO4- via replacing the liable -OH/H2O groups on metal nodes or free anions within the void space of frameworks. Although demonstrating promising results, the number of practical cationic MOFs is still very limited and their selectivity in the presence of competing anions, e.g., NO3-, SO42-, is unsatisfying since the absorption process is governed mainly by electrostatic forces. Another common Tc absorption strategy is to reduce TcO4- to much less soluble Tc(IV) complexes, e.g., TcO2·nH2O, using reducing agents, such as zero-valent iron nanoparticles (ZVINs). ZVINs have better Tc absorption and reduction selectivity over competing anions, and they can be used for environmental remediation because of their nanoscale size. Unfortunately, unless contained, they tend to aggregate into large particles and react with water and oxygen and eventually lose their reactivity.

    To this end, this proposed project will, for the first time, develop ZVIN-MOF composites as new Tc sorbents by encapsulating ZVINs within robust MOFs. The stability and performance of ZVINs will be greatly improved by encapsulating in the long rang ordered void space of MOFs. In addition, the absorption mechanism and capacity of resultant composites are expected to be enhanced by the synergistic combination of ZVINs’ reduction of TcO4- to Tc(IV) species with the ability of MOFs’ to absorb TcO4-. Given the radioactivity of Tc, nonradioactive ReO4- with similar coordination and redox chemistry will be used in this work as a surrogate for TcO4-. The proposed work is significant from both fundamental and practical standpoint and the results will advance the fundamental knowledge, establishes new remediation techniques, and supports an advanced nuclear fuel cycle. By participating in this interdisciplinary research, students will learn knowledge in both materials science and nuclear chemistry. They will gain hands-on experience on the synthesis of MOFs and nanoparticles and various state-of-the-art analytical techniques, including but not limited to XRD, FTIR, UV-Vis, BET, TGA, SEM, TEM, XANES, EXAFS, available at UAH and outside government laboratories.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

    Development of Novel Ultraviolet Nonlinear Optical Crystals using Materials Genome Initiative Approach

    Nonlinear optical materials (NLO), which can alter the frequency of light, have a wide application in military and civil fields, such as telecommunication, quantum computing, and biodiagonostics, etc. Depending on the chemical and physical construct of the materials, NLO materials can combine multiple photons to generate shorter wavelength photons or split one photon into several new photons of longer wavelengths. To be NLO active, materials must adopt noncentrosymmetric (NCS) crystal structures, and simultaneously meet other requirements, including transparency, phasematchability, high optical quality, optical damage threshold and availability in bulk form. Currently, only limited amount of them is practical and their application is narrowed in the visible light range, while IR and UV NLO materials are much underdeveloped.

    To this end, the proposed work will focus on development of UV NLO optical crystalline materials using a Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) approach. MGI is typically composed by three cores, experimental, simulation and data science, and is utilized to accelerate the discovery process. In this work, machine learning (data science core) will be applied to predict the centrosymmetry of compounds based on their chemical formula and DFT calculations (simulation core) will be utilized to simulate the electronic structure (i.e., band gap) using the information of crystal structure. The targeted materials include metal borates, iodates and tellurites with NCS structures which are essential for nonlinear behavior and they will be synthesized using a suite of complementary crystal growth methods. And to increase the transparency and facilitate their application in UV, small halide ions, i.e., F- will be introduced into the structure by replacing partial of oxygen atoms on these NSC oxoanions which can blue-shift the absorption edge. This proposed work will expand the family of NLO materials, advance the understanding and knowledge on the correlation between crystal structure and optical property, and may develop novel practical optical crystalline products. By participating in this work, students will learn to design the synthesis of NCS compounds and grow high-quality crystals through hydrothermal and salt fluxes routes. They will also gain hands-on experience on single crystal X-ray diffraction, powder XRD, SEM-EDS, FTIR, UV-Vis-NIR which can be used to determine the crystal structure, composition and optical property.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Dr. Jeffrey Weimer

Chemistry |

    Can we easily and effectively remove organic acids from organic solvents?

    The goal of this project is to determine whether we can remove an organic acid contaminant from an organic solvent in an easy, timely, and effective process. Two methods are possible for testing, liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) and membrane dialysis (MBD). In LLE, a contaminant molecule in a primary solution is pulled into (extracted into) a different pure liquid through a two-phase interface. In MBD, the contaminant molecule seeps through a permeable or porous membrane, leaving the purer solvent behind. We are interested in determining such factors as the time or number of LLE or MBD cycles needed to extract oleic or linoleic acid from organic solvents such as acetonitrile, acetone, and hexane.

    You will spike a pure, primary solvent with a known concentration of organic acid. You will apply the extraction methods as a function of time over one or many cycles. You will track the composition in the primary solution and in the extracting solvent with techniques such as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or gas chromatography.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: CH 200+ course credit or CH ENG lab skills preferred

    Can we make metal surfaces non-wetting with only a monolayer of coating?

    The goal of this project is to develop an easy, robust method to make the surface of metals water repellent with a minimal amount of coating. Water wets metal surfaces; we say that metals are hydrophilic. To make a metal surface hydrophobic, we must functionalize it to change its chemistry. Teflon is strongly hydrophobic. We might therefore imagine coating the surface of metals with a molecular agent that has a comparable chemistry to teflon. One candidate is 1H, 1H, 2H, 2H per-fluoro-octyl-trimethoxysilane (PFTMS). The large molecular size of PFTMS, its abundance of fluorine groups (as found in Teflon), and its ability to form strongly adherent chemical bonds to most surfaces should make PFTMS a good candidate, even when the coating is only a monolayer (single molecular layer) thick.

    Two methods are proposed for development testing, vapor deposition and wet chemistry solution. The hydrophobicity of the functionaized metal surfaces will be evaluated using contact angle goniometry. This technique measures the angles that water drops make on a surface. Hydrophobic surfaces have higher contact angles; water beads up rather than spreading out. The functionalized surfaces can also be examined using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This technique may quantify the relative amounts of PFTMS on the surface as well as how the PFTMS is bonded to the metal surfaces.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: CH 200+ course credit or CH ENG lab skills preferred

Dr. Timothy Newman

Computer Science |

    Achieving Voxel Rendering Effects using World-Class GPUs and CPUs

    UAH will soon have a world-class computing resource equipped with thousands of computing cores and tens of thousands of graphics cores. In this project, we want to develop next-generation schemes for creating science and engineering renderings (2D or 3D visualizations) that are suitable for and can run on this world-class resource. Those schemes will encompass the use of volume representations (e.g., voxels), which you might have seen examples of in video games like Minecraft or Outcast. claims that "voxels are the future of video games, VR, and simulating reality" -- and voxels are also the present and future for lots of science and engineering based discovery of new information and for guiding key decision-making. If all this sounds interesting to you, this project could be a good one for you for a summer research experience!

    This project involves designing and implementing computer code. You'll also spend some time learning about new techniques, technologies, and representations that enable the development we want to do, which will enable the next generation of knowledge and information discovery!

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Must be proficient in C/C++ programing and have good familiarity with computing data structures (arrays, queues, stacks, trees)

Dr. Jacob Hauenstein

Computer Science |

    Trends Over Time in Baldrige Performance Excellence Winners

    The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes U.S. organizations for performance excellence and is the highest formal recognition of performance excellence given by the President of the United States. Organizations competing for the award develop a 50-page application to document their organization’s responses to the Baldrige criteria. The applications of winning organizations, dating back to 1999, are publicly available via the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s website.

    This project seeks to perform various analyses on the publicly available Baldrige Award data to identify trends in the data over time. For example, one part of this project will include performing AI/ML-based sentiment analysis on the data to determine if there are any changes in sentiment over time among applications. Other potential analyses include usage of some language complexity metrics (e.g., sentence or paragraph length) or other AI/ML-based approaches to similarly analyze trends over time.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, or Engineering Management

    Host-based CD-ROM Data Recovery

    There is wide interest in archival of, and recovery of data from, aging or damaged digital media. For example, preservationists are interested in preserving aging digital media containing video games or other data to ensure continued access to the media contents into perpetuity. However, there remains much work to be done in developing methods to preserve many types of damaged media. One area where much progress may potentially be made is in preservation of CD-ROMs. CD-ROMs include multiple types of error correcting information, and error correction is an iterative process whereby one type of error correction may allow further error correction of another type, thus necessitating potentially a many-step process for data recovery. However, error correction is often done by the optical drive itself using relatively limited processing and memory resources, thus potentially limiting data recovery efforts.

    This project seeks to develop new methods for recovering data from damaged and aging CD-ROMs. These methods will work by bypassing the error correction process within the optical drive and instead perform error correction using the resources of the host machine (where processor and memory resources are much less limited). The student will write code to interact with the optical drive (in order to extract the raw sector data from CD-ROM discs) and also learn to process and interact with the raw data.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Electrical Engineering

Dr. Bramwell Brizendine

Computer Science |

    Development of offensive security tool

    This project will involve developing a new tool to help facilitate software exploitation or some aspect of offensive security. This is intended to be somewhat open-ended, and the exact nature will depend on the interests of the student and faculty. The tool will be created in Python. Preference will be for a low-level approach, although that need not necessarily be the case.

    A second option is rather than developing a new tool - to help in developing new techniques to somehow further offensive security or software exploitation.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Junior standing or higher. Reverse Engineering or Offensive Security is not required, but encouraged.

Dr. Dongsheng Wu

Mathematical Sciences |

    Heads or Tails and Related Topics

    Whenever we think of probability, coin flipping is often the first model/experiment popping up in our mind. Indeed, it is one of the most important random experiments in probability, and serves as the building blocks for several typical probability models, including geometric model, binomial model, negative binomial model, just to mention a few.

    In this project, we plan to study the limiting behavior of coin flipping, that is, what we may expect when we flip the coin for many times. We will further conduct statistical study to see how well the statistical results agree with the theoretical results.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: MA 385

Dr. Lingze Duan

Physics & Astronomy |

    Fiber-Optic Pathogen Detection based on Dynamic Light Scattering

    Pathogen detection is critical for ensuring food safety and protecting public health. Conventional methods for detecting foodborne pathogens are based on culturing the microorganisms on agar plates followed by standard biochemical identification. These methods are laborious and time-consuming (i.e., 3~10 days). Since the majority of the samples are typically negative, it is rational to develop and employ monitoring technologies that may provide “early warnings” so to direct efforts to further lengthy analysis on “suspicious” samples. The key attributes of such technology should be simple, low-cost, and real-time.

    Optical methods have proven to be particularly attractive in this regard owing to their potentials for rapid, non-destructive, online real-time measurement that requires minimal sample preparation. Dynamic light scattering (DLS), in particular, is based on optical scattering, which describes the change of light propagation when encountering spatial non-uniformities. Solid particles, oil droplets, or bacterial cells present in the liquid can scatter the incident light and cause a redistribution of the optical power along different directions. Probing such alteration of energy distribution would lend us the information about these impurities. This RCEU project aims to set up a preliminary experiment to demonstrate the concept of fiber-optic DLS, especially with regard to post-measurement data processing. Students will have the opportunity to operate basic optical instruments such as diode lasers, photodetectors and oscilloscopes and to learn basic data processing techniques such as FFT.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Students need to have a physics or engineering background, preferably with past experience in optics or lasers.

Dr. Don Gregory

Physics & Astronomy |

    Entangled Optics, Cryptography, and Propagation of Laser Light in Turbulence

    The propagation of laser light in turbulence is a topic that attracts experimental and theoretical researchers from varied disciplines. At UAH there are facilities for investigating topics ranging from analyzing the atmospheric roots of scintillation to the collection of experimental data in indoor and outdoor ranges. A facility has been constructed in the Optics Building that allows for a propagation path of more than 100 meters through a controlled environment. It is possible to create turbulence similar to that experienced in the atmosphere and quantify parameters used to describe it. This facility is unique to the South and students have designed and performed experiments never before done.

    Common laser beam profiles are Gaussian in phase (and can be Gaussian in amplitude as well), but there are higher order modes that are predicted to propagate better in turbulence. Laguerre-Gaussian beams look like concentric rings with the center either being bright or dark. There is also theoretical and experimental evidence connecting these beams to quantum entanglement, which is a popular topic now for researchers in quantum computing and quantum cryptography. Students involved in this work will have the opportunity to make a contribution to cutting edge research that will likely result in a peer reviewed journal publication.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Student should have completed the undergrad class in Electricity and Magnetism, either in Physics or Electrical Engineering. Computer Science students interested in cryptography are also encouraged to apply.

Dr. Du Le

Physics & Astronomy |

    Mueller Matrix Polarimetry Microscope (MMPM) for Visualization of Collagen Structure

    In the human body, collagen accounts for 30% all protein, providing structure, support or strength to the skin, muscles, bones and connective tissues. The crosslinking between the collagen fibers determines the strength and mechanical activity of the tissues. Subsequently, how collagen fibers are arranged can have a significant impact on the normal function of these tissues. For example, the weakening in collagen crosslinking in the cervix can lead to preterm birth labor or that in the cornea can lead to changes in corneal shape and a degradation of the optical properties of the cornea (keratoconus).

    In the translational biophysics laboratory (TBL) at UAH, the student will have the opportunities to learn the principal of polarized light interaction with biological tissues, and apply it into building a simple lab-based Mueller Matrix Polarimetry Microscope to quantify the orientation of collagen-rich tissue including mice cervix and cornea. Students will also learn the principal of Mueller matrix imaging and familiarize with image decomposition using MATLAB-based algorithm. Overall, the student will gain knowledge of optical polarization, light-tissue interaction, optical alignment and principal of microscopy as well as skills in MATLAB image processing and data acquisition.


    Fabrication and Characterization of Optical Phantoms for Biophotonics Application: Principal of Integrating Sphere Spectrophotometer

    Optical phantoms are test objects that simulate the optical characteristics of human tissues, and are commonly used to mimic light distributions the human body. Depending on the target-simulating tissues or organs, the materials and components of the phantoms can vary. These phantoms can be in liquid, gel or solid form with the later commonly produced by 3-D printers. Optical phantoms are primarily used for calibration of bio-optical devices to ensure their functionality, safety and accuracy. Such phantoms are often required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 510(k) premarket application of bio-optical devices.

    In the translational biophysics laboratory (TBL) at UAH, the student will fabricate liquid and gel-based optical phantoms using standard components such as India ink and synthetic hemoglobin to simulate absorption of human skin and blood, and Intralipid and microsphere to simulate optical scattering of human cells. The student will have the opportunities to use the spectrophotometer integrating sphere and invert adding-doubling algorithms to measure these phantoms optical properties. The students will gain knowledge of beer-lambert's law, optical measurement of total reflection and transmission, light-tissue interaction theories, and principal of integrating sphere spectrophotometer as well as acquire basic skills of chemistry and of data processing in MATLAB.


    Improving Optical Heart Rate Sensitivity in the Obese and Dark Skin Tones Using Time-Resolved Monte Carlo

    Obesity can cause hypertension (elevated blood pressure - BP) and is often linked to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) because hypertension is a major risk for CVD. Research into cuff-less and continuous BP devices based on optical photoplethysmography (PPG) is rapidly expanding in the U.S. market with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of commercial wearable devices for BP monitoring. Currently, all optical PPG sensors rely on the measurement of steady state diffuse reflection signal from skin. However, such technique produces poor sensitivity when considering photon from deep dermis where capillary vessels are found, and when considering individuals with darker skin tones (poor depth sensitivity for thick patients and low detection efficiency for dark skin tone patients).

    This research project intends to explore the potential of time-of-flight spectroscopy techniques to improve PPG sensitivity in obese individuals and those with darker skin tones. This is preliminarily accomplished by using time-resolved Monte Carlo simulations of photon transport in skin to study optical PPG. Overall, the student will gain (1) knowledge of skin anatomy and its dynamic changes with obese progression and (2) knowledge of the interaction between visible light and biological tissues and familiarizing with the theories of light propagation in turbid media including diffusion theory and Monte Carlo, and the student will participate in (1) designing simulated parameters by thoroughly evaluating available references to study the mentioned effects on PPG, and (2) running computer simulation (MATLAB and CUDA) and analyzing the results (MATLAB).

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Some knowledge of MATLAB preferred

Dr. Ming Sun

Physics & Astronomy |

    Studying feedback from super-massive black holes at the center of giant elliptical galaxies

    Every galaxy with a central bulge hosts a super-massive black hole (SMBH). One of the most exciting results in astronomy recently was the finding that the SMBH mass at the center of a galaxy is related to the bulge mass of the galaxy. In other words, a SMBH, with a size of only one billionth of the host galaxy, knows its host. It is still unclear why such a correlation exists and how it was established. Many theories point out that the energy released during the SMBH growth, or feedback energy, can regulate the growth of the host galaxy. SMBHs can inject energy into their surroundings by jets and shocks and such activity can be observed in radio and X-rays.

    In this project, we will focus on giant elliptical galaxies where massive SMBHs are found. We will use the warm, ionized gas with a temperature of about ten thousand K to trace the imprint of the SMBH feedback. Such gas emits Hα and other optical lines that can be effectively probed by optical spectroscopy. We will use the optical integral field spectroscopy (IFS) data from the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which is the world-best IFS instrument! We will study about 15 giant elliptical galaxies with the MUSE data to study the SMBH feedback in these systems. We will reduce the MUSE data with the existing pipeline and our own software. Our science goals are: Produce flux and kinematic maps for the warm, ionized gas; Correlate these maps with the radio emission and the X-ray emission and study their connection to study the SMBH feedback.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: GPA > 3.4, Completed intro MA & PH, experience with programming & Python

    Studying galaxies in ram pressure stripping with the data from the Hubble Space Telescope

    Galaxy clusters are the gravitationally bound structure of hundreds or even thousands of galaxies. Most baryons (or ordinary matter) in galaxy clusters are in the hot intracluster medium (ICM) with temperatures of 10 – 100 million K. Together with cluster galaxies, they form the cluster ecosystem. Cluster galaxies soar through the ICM and the interaction with the ICM plays a vital role in galaxy evolution, through ram pressure stripping (RPS) of the galactic cold gas (Ram pressure is a pressure exerted on a body moving through a surrounding medium. Think about the pressure you feel inside a swimming pool when you want to run inside the water.) As the cold interstellar medium is depleted in the stripping process, the galactic star formation will eventually be shut down and blue disk galaxies can turn into red galaxies. Thus, RPS is an important process in galaxy evolution. Observational evidence of stripping in cluster galaxies has only started to emerge in the last 15 years and is growing fast.

    We are recently granted a large research program to study 28 galaxies and their stripped tails to study galaxy evolution. An important component of this multi-wavelength campaign is the studies on galaxies and the young star clusters in the stripped tails with the data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The HST data, with superior angular resolution, can map the dust distribution, the detailed galaxy morphology, the nucleus and resolve young star clusters in the stripped tail of galaxies. All these results provide important information on the evolution of galaxies during stripping. Our science goals are: Study the galaxy morphology and fit the HST images with GALFIT to search for any asymmetric features: Study the dust distribution as it provides important constraints on stripping; Study the nuclear region to examine the activity of the central super-massive black hole --- is it enhanced or suppressed by the ongoing RPS?; Study young star clusters in the stripped tails. Our group has rich experience with the HST data and have in-house codes for the proposed research.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: GPA > 3.4, Completed intro MA & PH, experience with programming & Python

Dr. Stephen Walker

Physics & Astronomy |

    Measuring the mass of dark matter in clusters of galaxies

    Galaxy clusters are powerful laboratories for understanding the formation of structure in the universe. Consisting of thousands of galaxies, they are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe, with masses reaching a million billion times the mass of the Sun. In between these galaxies is a hot, X-ray emitting plasma called the intracluster medium, which can be studied using X-ray telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory. The bulk of the mass of galaxy clusters lies in the mysterious dark matter, which cannot be seen directly, but which can be inferred form its gravitational influence on normal matter.

    In this project, the student will analyze new data obtained by Professor Walker from the Chandra X-ray Observatory of the galaxy cluster Abell 399. The aim is to measure how the temperature and density of the intracluster medium varies inside the cluster. Using these measurements, the student would then calculate the mass contained within the intracluster medium, and then the mass of the dark matter in the cluster.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: PH Majors only

Dr. Vladimir Florinski

Space Science |

    Benchmarking the flagship Alabama HPC system

    UAH is scheduled to acquire a powerful high performance computing (HPC) system with over 3000 CPU cores and more than 150,000 GPU (CUDA) cores through the Regional Computing Hub for Alabama Universities (RCHAU) sponsored by the National Science Foundation. For this project a student will have an opportunity to benchmark the system using the Linpack test as used by the Top500 website and test the data transfer rates to other Alabama sites using PerfSONAR. Project will also involve testing cluster monitoring solutions and deploying network measurement systems. The student will learn important skills working with modern supercomputers based on hybrid CPU-GPU architecture and optionally learn CUDA development with NVlink and GPUDirect technologies. The main project outcome will consist of a set of benchmark results submitted to the Top500 list and a report on the system's performance placed on the future RCHAU website.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: Some CS background, experience with Linux

Mr. Drew Adan

Archives & Special Collection |

    UAH Disc Golf Course History and Culture

    The UAH disc golf course is one of the oldest in the world, turning 45 this year. Designed while the sport was in its infancy, the course grew to international renown because of its challenging pin placement. It hosted the 1983 and 1993 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Championships, as well as other prestigious tournaments in the emerging sport.

    The UAH Department of Archives and Special Collections proposes an RCEU project to document the history and culture of the UAH disc golf course. Through archival research and oral history interviews, the student will create a pop-up and digital exhibit to showcase the findings of their research. In addition to the exhibit, the student will also create a Clio walking tour of the course that incorporates both current and historic photographs.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None

Mr. Reagan Grimsley

Archives & Special Collection |

    Women in STEM: A Digital Oral History Project

    While women comprise the majority of college age students nationwide, at UAH and within many STEM disciplines they account for a minority of the population. One method of encouraging STEM participation in this group is to provide relevant role models. Likewise, the archival documentation of the experiences of women in STEM fields is also underrepresented. This project will document the lives of six women who are successful professionals in the STEM field by conducting video oral history interviews with each individual. After conducting the interviews, the student will create a digital project which describes the project and makes these interviews available to the public.

    The student selected for this project will be assigned workspace in the Digital Initiatives Lab in the Salmon Library, which offers oral history recording capability and preservation software. Students will receive guidance in how to prepare for, conduct and preserve oral histories. The faculty mentors for this project, Reagan Grimsley, Head of Special Collections and Archives, and Drew Adan, Archivist have extensive experience with both conducting and preserving oral histories.

    Prerequisites/Requirements: None