Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE)/Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP)

Applications for SURE/SROP 2018 open December 15, 2017 and the deadline is January 15, 2018. Please review the criteria for SURE and SROP, and consider all of the projects in this list carefully before applying. You are welcome to contact faculty if you have additional, specific questions regarding these projects. If you have any SURE/SROP application questions, please contact Ariane Smith ( CEE projects will be confirmed by Monday, December 18, 2018.

CEE Projects 2018

CEE Project 1: Fire Forecasting

Faculty Advisor: Ann Jeffers (

Project Description:

This project explores the potential for applying forecasting techniques to the simulation of fires in order to predict how a fire might grow or spread within a building. An inverse model has already been created to determine heat release rates from measurements of fire signatures, such as the temperature and oxygen concentrations. Forecasting techniques will be applied to extrapolate the fire growth rate in order to generate a predictive model that can tell firefighters how a fire is evolving within a building. The model will be updated with new “measurements” of temperature and oxygen concentration taken from a simulated building fire. No prior experience in fire modeling is necessary. 

CEE Project 2: Incorporating Non-Traditional Materials in Structures for Earthquake Response Reduction

Faculty Advisor: Jason McCormick (   

Graduate Student Mentor: Malcolm Ammons (

Project description:

Seismic activity each year leads to injury, loss of life, property damage and significant economic impacts to the affected areas. One solution is to improve the performance of buildings through passive control systems. The goal of this project is to address this problem through integration of non-traditional materials such as metal foams, polymer foams, and rubber into structural members to enhance their performance during a seismic event. These materials provide a unique means of adding energy dissipation capacity and inhibiting local buckling in steel members with minimal added weight. Specifically, this research will focus on the evaluation of the energy dissipation characteristics of these materials and their use in steel members. The student working on this project will determine the properties and energy dissipation capacity of these non-traditional materials through experimental tension, compression, and shear tests. Larger member tests of steel section incorporating these materials also will be conducted under cyclic and non-cyclic loadings. Experience will be gained in designing and running experimental tests, working with instrumentation to gather data, and analyzing the resulting data from experimental tests.

 CEE Project 3: Nanoengineered Thin Films for Distributed Structural Sensing

Faculty Advisor:  Jerome P. Lynch (        

Graduate Student Mentor: Andrew Burton (           

Pre-requisite:  None

Project Description:

Nanotechnology has the potential to transform current approaches to structural sensing.  Specifically, nano-engineered thin films can be created with both mechanical strength and electro-mechanical properties suitable for sensing.  This project will explore carbon nanotube-polymeric thin films for distributed sensing using flexible substrates bonded to a structure.  A lithographically-assisted patterning process will be developed to pattern thin films for sensing specific structural responses.  The student selected will be required to perform bench-top fabrication of the thin films, model their electro-mechanical behavior using equivalent circuit analyses, and experimentally verify film performance in small- and large-scale structural tests.  A detailed report at the end of the project will be required. 

CEE Project 4: Rethinking Mainstream Domestic Wastewater Treatment: Novel Biological Processes for Nitrogen Removal from Wastewater

Faculty Advisor: Nancy Love (        

Graduate Student Mentors: Zerihun Alemayehu (, Brett Wagner ( and Jeseth Delgado-Vela (       

Prerequisite: Must be at least a junior with a focus in environmental engineering

Project Description:

Using anaerobic technologies to treat domestic wastewater can significantly decrease energy use and increase biogas production when compared to conventional treatment schemes.  However, there has been little research on the treatment of nitrogen from anaerobic effluents, which have a notably different composition than effluents treated using conventional technologies. In addition, nitrogen can be removed from aerobic effluents using low-energy technologies. Through this research project, we are evaluating novel treatment approaches that remove nitrogen and greenhouse gases from wastewater. The technologies rely upon microorganisms that are grown in biofilms (both attached to surfaces and self-immobilized aerobic granules) to convert nitrogen and residual carbon into less harmful forms.  Two laboratory-scale biofilm reactors are currently being operated to evaluate the novel treatment technologies.  A range of standard and advanced chemical and biological methods, including DNA sequencing methods and mass spectrometry, are being used to evaluate the performance of the systems.  The student will be expected to help operate the reactors, will become skilled in chemical methods to evaluate water and gas quality, and will learn selected microbial techniques.​


CEE Project 5: Title: Wearables and Crowdsensing for the Elderly’s Comfort in Urban Infrastructure

Faculty Advisor: SangHyun Lee (

Project Description:

Access to urban infrastructure is a fundamental requirement for city-dwellers’ life, but the elderly are struggling to access urban infrastructure. Such struggles become more serious in smart cities, where many are unfamiliar with the technologies that the smart infrastructure demands. To address this issue, we are developing a wearable and crowdsensing framework that aims to make the elderly’s strong interconnection with urban infrastructure realizing non-intrusive, effortless and easy information exchange. Specifically, the framework detects the elderly’s discomfort using wearable devices, and identifies urban-environmental issues by integrating the crowdsourced discomfort data, geo-reference and time-stamps.  Enthusiasm on achieving social equality with emerging technologies is the only prerequisite.

 CEE Project 6: Nutrient Recovery through Urine Separation

Faculty Advisors: Krista Wigginton ( and Nancy Love (      

Graduate Student Mentor: Heather Goetsch (

Prerequisites:  Must be at least a junior with a focus in environmental engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering or microbiology.

Project Description:

Human urine contains the bulk of the nitrogen and phosphorus that passes through municipal wastewater treatment plants, while comprising only 1% of the total volume. Separating urine at the beginning of the waste stream and producing urine-derived fertilizer from that urine could help supplement fertilizer demands and simultaneously reduce excess nutrient release to water bodies. Environmental and human health implications of human urine used as fertilizer must first be assessed.  Bacteria, viruses, antibiotic resistance genes, and nutrients will be characterized in collected urine, urine processed through pasteurization, struvite precipitation and other methods, lysimeter water and vegetables. Student will learn wet chemistry water quality analyses to characterize nutrients and biological methods to track bacteria, viruses, and antibiotic resistance genes.  Depending on interest, the student may also learn analytical chemistry methods to measure trace organic chemicals in the above mentioned constituents. 


CEE Project 7: Sustainably Unlocking Energy from Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Faculty Advisor: Dimitrios Zekkos ( and Jerome Lynch ( 

Graduate Student Mentor: Sampurna Datta (

Project Description:

Current municipal solid waste management practices are unsustainable. A coordinated plan that involves experimental testing in the laboratory, sensing and field measurements using a wireless sensors network and land-based as well as unmanned aerial vehicles at modern landfills and numerical modeling is undertaken with the intent to revolutionize the way we manage solid waste in landfills and lead to a new technology that will not be geared towards waste containments, but towards energy harvesting of MSW through the process of anaerobic biodegradation. This project involves monitoring of actively biodegrading municipal solid waste in the laboratory and the field. A more broad description of the project can be found here:

 CEE Project 8: Investigating the Use of Drones for Post-Disaster Reconnaissance

Faculty Advisors: Dimitrios Zekkos (, Jerome Lynch ( and Vineet Kamat (   

Graduate Student Mentor: Will Greenwood (

Project Description:

Recent disastrous earthquakes are reminders that many lessons are yet to be learned to ensure we can engineer truly resilient communities. Post-earthquake reconnaissance missions are absolutely vital to the experience-based learning process required to advance our understanding of natural hazards and their impact on geotechnical systems. Unmanned Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (UAAVs), using the latest technological and computational tools available, will enable engineers to collect higher quality, more objective, and more extensive perishable datasets on the performance of geotechnical systems during reconnaissance missions. A transformative framework for post-event reconnaissance and decision making is planned based on the use of highly-mobile and sensor-rich UAAVs. Students engaged in this research will explore the abilities of drones to collect and analyze images as well as execute dynamic testing following natural disasters.  A more broad description of the project can be found here:


CEE Project 9: Experimental Assessment of the Seismic Properties of Non-Textbook Earth Materials

Faculty Advisors: Dimitrios Zekkos ( and Athanasopoulos-Zekkos (   

Project Description:

Recent disastrous earthquakes are reminders that many lessons are yet to be learned to ensure that we can engineer truly resilient communities. Characterization of the seismic properties of earth materials is key to assess the expected performance of infrastructure during an earthquake. A unique large-size device has been developed at the University of Michigan to test earth materials with large particles in simple shear. Tests will be conducted to evaluate the properties of more challenging, and less studied, materials such as gravelly soils and Municipal Solid Waste that can only be tested with a large experimental setup. The results of this study  are expected to impact the engineering practice and affect assessment of critical infrastructure such as dams, levees, and landfills during earthquake loading.


CEE Project 10: Novel anaerobic membrane bioreactor configurations for domestic wastewater treatment at low temperatures

Faculty advisors: Steve Skerlos ( and Lut Raskin (          

Graduate Student Mentor: Caroline Van Steendam (

Project Description:

The objective of this project is to research Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (AnMBR) configurations that can treat domestic wastewater (DWW) at low cost while producing net energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  AnMBRs combine the benefits of anaerobic biological treatment (energy production) and membrane separation (excellent effluent quality).  However, previous research has shown that changes to the design of AnMBR systems will be needed to achieve net energy recovery at DWW temperatures typically found in the Upper Midwest of the United States (yearly average of 15⁰C). This project's focus will be on enhancing the activity of biofilms within AnMBR systems to achieve excellent environmental and economic sustainability characteristics in the treatment of DWW.  The student working on this project will gain experience with operating laboratory-scale AnMBRs and bioreactor monitoring methods.  If interested, the student can also study the microbial community in the AnMBR using advanced molecular biology tools.


CEE Project 11: Design and manufacturing of large-scale deployable structures

 Faculty Advisor: Evgueni Filipov (


Deployable structures that use the principles of origami could lead to applications in multiple scales and disciplines from biomedicine to space exploration. In architecture and civil engineering reconfigurable facades could adapt to the environment, and rapidly deployable shelters and bridges could be used for disaster relief efforts. The objective of this project will be to explore how to scale-up principles of origami for structural engineering applications. The student will first create an analytical model to study the motion and geometry of an origami inspired deployable structure. Next, a laser cutter will be used to fabricate panels for a scaled prototype of the structure. These individual panels will then be interconnected with metallic or plastic hinges that allow for deployment and reconfiguration. The systems will be constructed to minimize the stowed volume, while allowing for a reliable deployment that requires minimum force input. Time permitting, the student will conduct experimental testing to quantify the stiffness of different deployable systems. 


CEE Project 12: Evaluation of Permeability-Reducing Admixtures for Improving Concrete Durability

Faculty Advisor: Will Hansen (

Project Description: 

The purpose of this study is to provide an initial performance evaluation of selected samples of permeability-reducing admixtures (PRAs) and to establish a protocol for evaluating other PRAs for their suitability in highway concrete applications. The approach will be to evaluate mortar and concrete mixtures using a combination of physical tests coupled with a detailed material characterization.


CEE Project 13: Fermentation of solid organic waste streams within a novel anaerobic bioreactor with dynamic membrane

Faculty advisors: Lut Raskin (         

Post-Doc Mentor: Xavier Fonoll Almansa (

Project Description:

Anaerobic digestion (AD) fits well in the framework of sustainability since it treats organic waste while generating energy in the form of methane and producing a solid digestate with fertilizing properties. Nevertheless, hydrolysis is usually slow due to the presence of lignocellulosic materials in solid wastes. In previous work, the use of rumen content, which contains microbes able to efficiently digest plant material, led to an improvement in the hydrolysis rate and a high production of volatile fatty acids (VFA), which can be used later for the generation of methane, hydrogen or platform chemicals. The objective of this project is to enhance the rate of hydrolysis and the fermentation yield when solid organic wastes like sewage sludge, food waste or agricultural wastes are used in an anaerobic system. To accomplish this, a novel anaerobic dynamic membrane bioreactor has been designed based on the rumen as a  model. The student working on this project will gain experience with operating laboratory-scale anaerobic digesters and bioreactor monitoring methods. If interested, the student can also study the microbial community in the reactor using advanced molecular biology tools.


CEE Project 14: Inactivation of Airborne Pathogens by Non-thermal Plasma Exposure

Faculty mentor:  Herek L. Clack (                                            

Graduate Student Mentor:  Tian Xia                                                                       

Project Description:

Environmental engineering addresses the control of contaminants in soil, water and air.  Small inert particles suspended in air, aerosols, can be a challenge to remove from air streams; bioaerosols include airborne pathogens such as viruses and bacteria that can transmit disease (e.g., influenza) or stimulate allergic responses (e.g., pollen) in humans and animals. This project focuses on an advanced method of both removing such infectious aerosols and rendering them inactive through their precise exposure a non-thermal plasma.  A student is sought who is both interested in and capable of making contributions to this project in any capacity, including design and construction of electronic controls; supporting cultivation of the (harmless) viruses to be aerosolized; or developing numerical simulations and/or optimization algorithms.


CEE Project 15: Lifecycle Sustainability of Deployable, Modular, and Reconfigurable Infrastructure

 Faculty Advisors: Evgueni Filipov, Carol Menassa, SangHyun Lee, Vineet Kamat


Deployable, modular, and reconfigurable infrastructure has potential advantages for construction and building lifecycle management. Such systems can be prefabricated efficiently, shipped in a compact space, and rapidly assembled on a construction site. Once built, this infrastructure could have adaptable properties (e.g. that change for lighting/heating demands) or the systems could repurpose later in their life for new occupants and functions. However, deployable and reconfigurable structures require complex designs, and result in higher costs for construction and maintenance. This project will create a framework for evaluating the lifecycle sustainability of deployable, modular, and reconfigurable infrastructure. The student will perform a review of existing systems and establish methods to calculate the added benefits and costs from the morphing structures. This work will give insight to how these novel structures could create a more functional, adaptable, and sustainable built environment.

 CEE Project 16: Correcting for Missing data in Travel Demand Modeling of Multiple Population Segments

 Faculty Advisor: Tierra Bills


Discrete Choice Models are the fundamental building blocks for large scale activity-based travel demand models; used for modeling relationships between travel activity and the built transportation infrastructure. The data necessary for estimating these models include travel survey data, individual and household demographics, transportation network data, and land-use related data. Reliable samples of these data can be difficult to collect and compile, given the nature of self-selection biases among the population.  These biases can be tied to income levels, meaning that lower income groups are less likely to respond to travel surveys and therefore are largely “missing” from estimation data sets. This project aims to identify the best methods for imputing missing data from underrepresented groups for a basic mode choice data set. The best methods will maximize the predictive accuracy of a mode choice model, for all population segments in that sample. With the guidance of the advisor, the student will need to develop a series of mode choice data samples using various data imputations methods (i.e. multiple imputation algorithms), then determine levels of prediction accuracy using a basic mode choice model.

 CEE Project 17: Sensors in a Shoebox: Ubiquitous Citizen-based Wireless Sensing in Smart Cities

Faculty Advisor:  Jerome P. Lynch (                

Graduate Student Mentor: Katherine Flanigan (          

Pre-requisite:  None

Project Description:

In recent years, smart cities have emerged based on exciting new sensing technologies including connected vehicles, wireless sensor networks, and citizen’s cell phones.  However, cities adopting such technologies continue to struggle with how best to utilize them.  However, one place where there is an immediate need to to provide city residents with means to sense their own cities to acquire data they can use to inform them.  Our project, Sensors in a Shoebox, aims to empower citizens to collect and analyze their own smart city data (as opposed to city governments and/or city businesses).  Students selected for this project will work on the design and deployment of wireless sensor arrays with various collaborative partners throughout Detroit and Benton Harbor, MI.   


CEE Project 18: Innovations at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus): Creating Fertilizers from Urine

Faculty Advisors: Nancy Love (, Krista Wigginton (     

Research Fellow/Graduate Student Mentors: William Tarpeh (, Heather Goetsch ( 

Prerequisite: Must be at least a junior with a focus in environmental engineering or chemical engineering

Project Description:

Nutrients in wastewater can lead to harmful algal blooms that affect 70% of U.S. waters. Current approaches to removing these nutrients from wastewater are energy-intensive, costly, environmentally harmful. Industrial fertilizer production processes also emit greenhouse gases and require scarce inputs. Urine-derived fertilizers overcome the drawbacks of existing nutrient removal and fertilizer production by recovering nutrients, not just removing them. Urine is an ideal “waste” stream because it is only 1% of domestic wastewater volume but contains the majority of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So far, Drs. Love and Wigginton have led a team of researchers to evaluate urine treatment processes, evaluate the fate of biological and chemical contaminants, and evaluate perceptions to advance communication about urine-derived fertilizers. The student will be involved in a field trial in which several urine-derived fertilizers are applied to different crops in Brattleboro, Vermont. Unique aspects of this opportunity include combining process engineering and agricultural studies, measuring nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) in the lab and in the field, and coordinating with a multifaceted project team including farmers, a non-profit research institute, and academics in engineering, public health, and social sciences.

CEE Project 19: The impact of aging infrastructure in shrinking communities on drinking water quality

Faculty Advisor: Nancy Love (

Prerequisite: Must be at least a junior with a focus in environmental engineering or chemical engineering

Project Description:

Shrinking urban populations result in less water demand in municipal distribution systems designed for a larger population, which means that drinking water spends more time in aging pipes and can change chemical properties in ways that also influence microbiological water quality.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the primary cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in drinking water has shifted dramatically over the last ten years.  Some of the emerging waterborne disease pathogens are particularly risky to immuno-compromised and vulnerable populations.  We contend that populations in shrinking cities, which suffer from higher rates of poverty and poorer health characteristics, are more likely to be vulnerable to community-acquired drinking water infections that go undetected, especially since the Safe Drinking Water Act does not require monitoring of the emerging pathogenic agents.  The student selected for this project will join a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit who are focused on this problem of water quality, aging pipes in shrinking cities, and public health.  The student will perform microbiological experiments focused on growth of non-pathogenic surrogate (i.e., non-harmful) bacteria under water quality conditions simulating different water qualities.

CEE Project 20: Green infrastructure in low-resource urban environments and its effects on zinc and antibiotic resistance gene pollution in transportation-impacted stormwater runoff


Faculty Advisor: Nancy Love (

Graduate Student Mentor: Andrea McFarland (

Prerequisite: Must be at least a junior with an interest in environmental engineering

Project Description:

Do you see plants for what they truly are: magical mechanisms of green glory? Or are you at least interested in what they are capable of, if placed thoughtfully? Transport your minds now from the lush, flourishing forest to a jungle of concrete – the urban environment – where plants can really shine… Green infrastructure uses bioengineered systems that take advantage of vegetation, soil, and/or infiltration to retain stormwater and filter out contamination naturally. Augmenting conventional stormwater infrastructure with green infrastructure in developed and developing urban settings is advantageous. A shrinking city (Detroit, Michigan) and growing city (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) have commonalities: low resources, untreated sewage watershed inputs, improper solid waste management (including tire piles), and flooding. These issues cause heavy metal (zinc) and antibiotic resistant gene (ARG) proliferation, where zinc is sourced from high-volume transportation corridors and ARGs are sources from the discharge of pharmaceuticals in human and animal use/excretion. Metal resistance and antibiotic resistance are strongly correlated because the removal mechanism of metals and antibiotics within a cell can be the same. Studies suggest the presence of zinc causes selection of ARGs in bacteria. Bioretention rain garden systems can reduce the concentration of both pollutants of focus, but the interactions between zinc and ARGs within the green infrastructure system are largely unknown. Together, we will characterize the environmental impact of tire dump sites, track the fate of zinc and ARGs through a traffic-adjacent bioretention rain garden, and determine how zinc influences ARG formation through a bioretention rain garden.

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