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Undergraduate Program

Research Opportunities: Current Projects

Title: New Membrane Materials for Water Purification

Description: Water scarcity affects one in three people in the world today. Membrane filtration is a simple, efficient and versatile process to generate clean, safe, fresh water. However, membrane process economics are often impeded by membranes with low flux and by membrane fouling, which occurs due to the accumulation of feed components on the filter. My lab focuses on developing new membrane materials for water purification and energy efficient separations to circumvent these issues. To achieve this goal, we rely on our knowledge of polymer science to design macromolecules that self-assemble to form materials with desired nanostructures and surface properties. This interdisciplinary project is an exciting opportunity for students interested in advanced materials, polymers, and environmental applications of chemical engineering. We will synthesize and test polymers that will be the active components of new water purification membranes. Students involved in this project will have the opportunity to work on various aspects of this study, which includes polymer synthesis, membrane coating, membrane testing, and microscopy to characterize the membrane structure.

Advisor: Prof. Asatekin
Website: Smart Polymers, Membranes and Separations Lab
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer

Title: Nano Catalysis and Energy Laboratory (NanoCEL) Research

Description: Research conducted at the Tufts NanoCEL aims at applying principles of heterogeneous catalysis to the solution of problems in the production of clean energy and "green" chemicals. Catalysts such as metals and metal oxides facilitate reactions, i.e. they allow them to happen at much lower temperatures than if the reactions happened unassisted in the gas or liquid phase. Here at Tufts, we are very interested in developing new catalysts that can do the job efficiently and at low cost. Thus we are trying to reduce the amounts of expensive platinum metals and/or use base metals and metal oxides as affordable catalyst compositions. This is the overall or "engineering" objective of our research. We also study how these catalysts work, what component makes them active; and what makes them selective. This basic information is needed to guide good catalyst design. This is the "chemistry-based" knowledge that we build in our catalysts. Finally we try to improve the performance of our catalysts under realistic conditions of temperature and pressure to ensure good stability and durability for the practical application. Within this context, we have developed and are currently evaluating various structures of nanoscale oxides, and of metals "pinned" on these oxides as atoms or a few-atom clusters (thus using much less of valuable metal resources) as efficient catalysts for energy and hydrogen production. The applications are many: from natural gas conversion to hydrogen to alcohol reactions and to selective hydrogenation and dehydrogenation reactions to specialty chemicals. We are also interested in redox reactions that convert pollutants (CO, SO2) to innocuous species on these specially formulated catalysts.

Advisor: Prof. Flytzani-Stephanopoulos
Website: Tufts Nano Catalysis & Energy Lab
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer

Title: Modeling, Optimization, and Control of Batch Pharmaceutical Processes

Description: We have recently proposed a novel methodology for the Design of Dynamical Experiments to collect data from which to develop dynamic data-driven models. This approach has great applicability on the optimization and control of pharmaceutical processes as well as in the calculation of the Design Space of the process, which is part of the data submitted to FDA for approval. We are also interested in the data mining of historical process data to separate the informative from the non-informative segments, exploiting the former for modeling purposes while ignoring the latter. Another area of interest is in the development of hybrid models based both on data and partial process knowledge. In the optimization and control of pharmaceutical processes we are exploring the use of game theory, to balance the expected improvement of the process against the uncertainty of such predictions caused by the imperfect model.

Advisor: Prof. Georgakis
Website: Systems Research Institute for Chemical and Biological Processes
References: Troup, G.M. and C. Georgakis, Process systems engineering tools in the pharmaceutical industry. Computers and Chemical Engineering, 2013. 51: p. 157-171.
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer (Juniors & Seniors)

Title: Metabolomics of gut microbiota; adipose tissue engineering

Description: Metabolomics of gut microbiota -The human gastrointestinal tract is colonized by ~1014 bacteria belonging to ~1,000 species that are collectively termed the microbiota. Disruptions in the microbiota composition are increasingly correlated to not only gut diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colitis, but also obesity, insulin resistance and type II diabetes. There is increasing evidence that the functional outputs of the microbiota, specifically the metabolites they produce, are important modulators of host physiology. We are interested in developing computational and analytical tools to identify and quantify these functional outputs of the microbiota.

Adipose tissue engineering - Obesity has become one of the most pressing health concerns in the United States. With very few drugs approved for long-term treatment, there is a critical need to develop additional therapeutics. We are interested in developing a three-dimensional tissue engineered model of the adipose tissue that will support the investigation of metabolism and signaling in a well-defined, yet physiologically relevant experimental setting.

Advisor: Prof. Lee
Website: Tissue and Metabolic Engineering Lab
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer

Title: Fluid Mechanics

Description: An undergraduate research position in the 2013-14 academic year in the area of experimental fluid mechanics. Suitable for seniors (ChBE 21 and 22 are prereqs).

Advisor: Prof. Mess
Offered in: Fall, Spring

Title: Ionogel Electrolytes for Energy Storage Applications

Description: Renewable energy sources that are inherently intermittent (e.g. wind, solar) will increasingly demand scalable technologies for electrical energy storage. Ionic liquid-based gel electrolytes (ionogels) are being developed for safe, lightweight, flexible, and recyclable supercapacitors. Various chemical routes will be explored for creating novel ionogel materials, and new supercapacitor device architectures will be fabricated and characterized.

Advisor: Prof. Panzer
Website: Green Energy and Nanostructured Electronics Lab
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer

Title: Data-Based Modeling Applications


Advisor: Prof. Ryder
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer

Title: Bioprocess Monitoring with Shape-encoded Macroporous Microparticles

Description: Controlled fabrication of nonspherical, shape-encoded functional microparticles has gained substantial attention in a large number of application areas including multiplexed biosensing, controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering. We exploit simple, robust and scalable nature of replica molding (RM) technique in combination with thermodynamic predictions of the polymer solubility and high-yield bioorthogonal chemistries in order to manufacture macroporous microparticles that are functionalized with nucleic acids or proteins toward multifaceted biosensing. An important application area we are pursuing is upstream biopharmaceutical process monitoring through rapid detection of direct variables at both transcriptional (RNA) and translational (protein) levels. Our focus on facile fabrication of functional materials by harnessing biological materials and interactions provides interdisciplinary and primarily experimental research platforms, where the students enlist fundamental Chemical Engineering principles in thermodynamics, reaction kinetics and mass transfer phenomena to gain in-depth quantitative understanding of the novel hybrid materials systems. Highly motivated students interested in carrying out independent research projects at the intersection of biochemical engineering, nanobiotechnology and advanced materials science are encouraged to contact Professor Yi directly via email to set up an appointment.

Advisor: Prof. Yi
Offered in: Fall, Spring, Summer