4D Printing and Beyond
Aerosol-Enabled Nanomaterials Synthesis, Characterization & Applications
Autonomous Robotic Teams
Bioreactors for Mechanical Training of Engineered Tissues
Countermeasures for Microgravity Induced Musculoskeletal Dysfunction
Cyber Physical Systems and Trusted Autonomy
Developing Neutron Transport Code Framework and Beyond
Development of Augmented and Virtual Reality Applications for Surgical Planning and Training
End User Programming
Formula SAE at VCU
Intelligent Green-Powered Cities
Intelligent Vision Technology
Magnetocaloric Devices for Solid State Cooling & Energy Harvesting Applications
Medical Device Development and Prototyping
Optics and Photonics
Translational Engineering Approaches for Pulmonary Health Sciences
Traditional 3D printing are limited to prototypes or simulators with fixed shapes and limited functions. 4D printing, as an emerging new area in additive manufacturing, uses the same 3D printing technology with one big difference: the printed object can change its shape upon environment in a controlled and pre-programmed way, e.g. water, heat, light, electric field, etc. The shape transformation (or morphing) is realized through material selection, pre-programed shape designs and printing process. This VIP team will initiate multiple projects covering object design (AutoCAD or SOLIDWORKS), simulation (ANSYS) of morphing process, material selection, development of printing process of the functional materials, and interface to external circuits if applicable. Students will explore various 4D printing of functional materials, investigate the interactions of the printing material and the external stimuli to pre-program the shape-changing mechanism, establish signal processing and communication for functional devices targeting specific applications. The students engaged in this work will not only gain knowledge about science and additive manufacturing, but also obtain training in research methods and critical thinking.
Projects will include:
Interested? Contact Prof. Hong Zhao (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An aerosol, by definition, is a gaseous mixture of particles. Aerosol routes offer many distinct advantages in particles’ design and synthesis such as high rates of direct gas-to-particle conversion, high-purity products, as well as fast, continuous, and scalable processes. These processes are widely used in research and industry since they offer great control and flexibility in tailoring composition, and typically produce particles in one step, saving energy and cost. In a typical aerosol route, the precursors are atomized into fine droplets, which are then introduced into a reactor where evaporation, nucleation, crystal growth and sintering occur to form final particles. All of the above steps can be well controlled and monitored in a continuous manner. The next generation of aerosol-enabled manufacturing processes are expected to produce various structural nanomaterials having superior mechanical, electrical, optical, chemical and even biological properties for applications in energy, environment, sensing, and drug delivery.
The team will be working to develop novel aerosol processes to synthesize various nanoparticles, perform online and offline characterization, toxicity evaluation, and apply them for different applications, such as air purification, water treatment, and medical imaging and therapy. VCU’s School of Engineering has a strong team focusing on aerosol research, covering synthesis, characterization, transport, toxicity evaluation, and modeling. The projects will be designed and advised by the team to offer both fundamental aerosol knowledge and experimental skills.
The team is looking for interested sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate Mechanical, Chemical, Biomedical and Electrical Engineering students with a strong desire to participate in the process development, simulation, and nanoparticle synthesis and characterization. The students involved in the projects will gain multidisciplinary knowledge in materials science, particle characterization, process development, photocatalysis, transport, and toxicity evaluation techniques, enabling them to choose diverse career paths in the future.
Interested? Contact Prof. Wei-Ning Wang (email@example.com)
Autonomous robotic systems will transform commercial and public sector applications, such as intelligent transportation, agriculture, emergency response, and national security. To enable efficient human-robot teaming, we need new abstractions, architectures and algorithms that orchestrate heterogeneous teams. This team seeks to advance the state-of-the-art in human-machine teaming across distributed, heterogeneous robotic systems. Students will learn new theories and technologies that support autonomous robotic systems and implement them on actual robotic systems. They will present results regularly to other members of the team and author reports outlining their work. Through these activities, students will get the opportunity to publish new results at robotics and machine learning conferences.
Interested? Contact Prof. Patrick Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Living engineered tissue vascular grafts (ETVGs) are potential alternatives to autografts and synthetic grafts in coronary artery bypass surgery by offering the possibility of natural integration and the potential for growth, remodeling, and self-repair. It has become axiomatic that mechanical conditioning promotes ET formation, either in vitro inside bioreactors, or in vivo post-implantation. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. Although a myriad of external stimuli is available in current bioreactors (e.g. oscillatory flows and/or mechanical training), there are significant bioengineering challenges in quantifying and predicting parameters that lead to optimal engineered tissue development and structure for the long term of obtaining ETVGs exhibiting architecture and functionality equivalent to native arteries.
The Engineered Tissue Multiscale Mechanics & Modeling (ETM3) Laboratory aims to develop highly-integrative experimental-computational approaches to improve our general understanding of how mechanical stimulation can be used to obtain better ETVGs and improve their outcome in coronary artery bypass surgery.
Interested? Contact Prof. João Soares (email@example.com)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are currently the most dynamic growth sector of the international aerospace industry. Industry predictions are that in the next 3 to 4 years, more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the UAV area with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion. By 2025, that could increase to more then 100,000 jobs and an economic impact of $82 billion.
Civilian applications for UAVs include such things as aerial photography and cinematography, for which UAVs are already in wide use, agricultural crop inspection and maintenance, wildlife monitoring and protection, land surveying, utility right-of-way inspection, fire fighting, disaster and emergency relief efforts, and search and rescue.
This team will work on cutting-edge research on flight control systems (“autopilots”) and data payload systems for these types of applications. This includes teams of multiple UAVs that use complex algorithms and artificial intelligence techniques to manage themselves as they perform their missions with minimal intervention by ground-based operators.
Interested? Contact Prof. Robert Klenke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Unloading of limbs due to prolonged exposure to microgravity in space decreases bone and skeletal muscle volume and strength, increasing the risk of injury. Countermeasures to prevent these decreases need to be developed for long-duration spaceflight, as will occur on NASA sponsored Artemis and Mars missions. The underlying mechanisms that lead to bone and skeletal muscle loss from unloading must be better understood to develop effective countermeasures.
One approach to identifying the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying unloading-induced bone and skeletal muscle loss is examining what role genetic diversity plays. Studies from our lab and others reported differential response of bone and skeletal muscle to unloading in different strains of mice. These studies used inbred strains or strains cross-bred for only two generations, limiting the amount of genetic diversity in the mice. Thus, the role genetic variation plays in the response of bone and skeletal muscle to disuse remains largely unknown.
The main goals of this team are to examine the effect of simulated microgravity on bone metabolism and fracture healing, identify novel countermeasures to mitigate microgravity induced bone loss, and examine whether microgravity induced bone loss is similar to age-related bone loss.
Interested? Contact Prof. Henry J. Donahue
In the past 10 years Cyber-physical systems (CPS) has emerged as the "new science frontier" at the intersection of computing and physical sciences. Cyber-Physical Systems are transforming how we interact with the physical world around us – much in the way the internet transformed our societal and economic world 25 years. This intimate coupling between the cyber and physical is manifested from the nano-world (MEMs devices) to large-scale wide-area systems of systems (Smart cities).
In this team, participants will study first-hand Cyber Physical Systems and autonomous systems technologies, working to develop devices, tools, and methods which may lead to commercial products, research papers, and technology demonstrations. Topic areas include smart city technology, secure and trusted embedded devices, Internet of Things, System Based Cyber Security, semi-autonomous vehicles, new methods for testing embedded SW, machine learning, and cyber-attack emulation. Through these pursuits, skills developed in areas of digital systems, computer architecture, programming, model based design, and systems theory will be put to use to study and develop CPS and autonomous systems as well as fundamental principles in Cyber Physical Systems, Digital systems, and SW engineering.
Interested? Contact Prof. Sherif Abdelwahed (email@example.com) or Prof. Carl Elks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The neutron transport theory is the fundamental theory describing the neutron flux distribution in nuclear reactor systems. The neutron flux can be subsequently used to determine the reactor criticality and reactor power. Linear Boltzmann transport equation (LBTE) is the single mathematical model that completely covers the neutron transport theory in reactor calculations. LBTE is an integro-differential equation that determines the neutron flux distribution as a function of seven independent variables, demonstrating the spatial, energy and angular decency of neutron in a reactor system.
The LBTE is in a nature of so many mathematical complexities that advanced numerical methods have to be used to solve it. Efficient and accurate numerical schemes for the LBTE will consistently and persistently pursued in the Reactor Physics Lab at VCU. The ongoing research topics of computational methods for LBTE encompass computational linear algebra, iterative methods, as well as many advanced numerical topics in solving partial differential equation (PDE). Students engaged in this work through the VIP program will be educated with well-round computational methods in solving the LBTE and trained with hands-on programming skills in developing LBTE code framework for solving realistic nuclear reactor problems.
Interested? Contact Prof. Zeyun Wu (email@example.com)
Great advances have been made in the field of medical imaging over the past decade. The instrumentation nowadays allow for greater resolution and faster imaging thereby greatly increasing their value in diagnosis as well as surgical planning. However, the advances made in instrumentation have not been mirrored in advances in the visualization of medical imaging. While techniques have been developed for 3D rendering of medical images, such efforts are still limited to 3D renders done on a 2D screens. Current advances in augmented and virtual reality provide great opportunities to finally break through this barrier of visualizing 3D medical images on 2D screens. Development of such AR/VR technology for true 3D visualization of medical images for surgical planning, training and implementation are ultimate goals of this team.
Currently, there are three types of true 3D virtual representations Virtual reality. The first is the type used by Oculus Rift and similar devices which project stereoscopic images to separate screens or a split single screen in front of each eye. At the other end of the spectrum are devices such as Microsoft HoloLens, which enable an augmented reality experience in that virtual objects are stereoscopically projected onto the edge of a see through screen. The third entry to this world are Mixed Reality devices, where virtual objects are superimposed on a streaming video of the outside world in real-time to obtain a more seamless integration of both worlds. All three techniques are applicable to the visualization of medical imaging. However, there has been very little concerted effort to fully utilize this capability in surgical planning, training as well as a reference during surgery.
The team is looking for Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Biology, Business (Innovation and product development), and Arts (human centered design) students who want to participate in leading efforts at VCU to innovate AR and VR based approaches for application in the planning of complex surgeries and surgical training.
Interested? Contact Prof. Dayanjan S Wijesinghe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Two trends are converging that will shape the future of computing. First, due to the growth in number and diversity of programmable devices, end-users (i.e., those not trained as programmers) are increasingly becoming de facto programmers, configuring and commanding their own systems. Second, computing is now interacting with the physical world, as consumer robotics and home automation are becoming commonplace. In this new context, where end-users program cyber-physical systems, both the programming languages they use to specify programs and the programming tools that help them avoid common mistakes will become vital to their productivity, security, and safety.
Our research strategy is to apply the hard-won lessons from traditional software engineering research to end-user programming, making improvements upon the relevant tools and languages, ultimately making end-user programs more robust, secure and easier-to-write.
Interested? Contact Prof. David Shepherd (email@example.com) or Dr. Kostadin Damevski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Formula SAE is an international racing series where 200 universities across the world meet in Michigan and Nebraska to pit their home-made vehicles against each other in a variety of time-trials and product presentations. The goal is to design and build a mini open wheel vehicle intended to be sold to an imaginary company owned by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the organizers of FSAE. Our team of students from engineering, business, and art disciplines at the university are dedicated to building a winning race car. With the culmination of different disciplines throughout the project, Formula SAE at VCU will strive to provide an extensive learning environment for each discipline. We encourage members to learn from students that differ in major and experience in an attempt to provide greater communication skills, teamwork, product design knowledge, and focused team vision towards the overall goal.
Interested? Contact Prof. Charles Cartin (email@example.com)
In July 2019, U.S. House Committee leaders announced a bold vision to move the U.S. to 100% clean energy by 2050. Achieving this goal will require a massive scale deployment of renewable energy generated from clean, non-polluting, and renewable sources. In the past decade renewable energies especially distributed solar photovoltaics (DPV) have been developing rapidly, making solar the fastest growing renewable energy in the U.S.
This team aims to develop highly-integrative experimental-computational approaches to improve DPV integration and achieve energy efficiency and resiliency using data-driven modeling, intelligent demand management, and wireless energy harvesting. Through these pursuits, skills developed in areas of electrical power system, renewable generation, optimization algorithm, machine learning, wireless communication and networking, will be applied to solve real-world problems.
Interested? Contact Prof. Zhifang Wang and Prof. Yan Zhao
Imaging is ubiquitous. Today we see CMOS cameras everywhere including in cell phones. Every year, more and more pixels are added to the cell phone cameras for taking better and higher resolution images and videos. However, these cameras do not work in the dark. What if we can see in the dark? Infrared (IR) technology allows us to design cameras and imaging systems that can see in complete darkness. Beyond being able to see in dark, more importantly, IR technology is making tremendous impact in many commercial and military sectors such as medical, manufacturing, transportation, surveillance, security, agriculture, arts and a multitude of other areas. In the near future IR technology will be an important driver in automation, smart cities and military bases, biometrics, safety and security, medical diagnostics such as sudomotor responses for assessing PTSD, depression and cancers, smart manufacturing and a plethora of other important applications. Advances in infrared sciences is now emerging as the “new frontier in imaging sciences” at the intersection of arts, neuromorphic computing, materials by design and artificial intelligence (AI).
In this VIP team, students will work first-hand with infrared science and technology, helping to develop IR materials, detectors and focal plane arrays (FPAs), camera optics, system design, metrology and practical applications of IR. Topic areas include but not limited to advanced IR materials, detectors and FPAs, methods to test components, cooled and uncooled camera technologies, cryogenics, camera optics design, characterization, Read-out circuit design, applications of AI and image processing, practical understanding of camera electronics as well as other areas.
Interested? Contact Prof. Nibir Dhar
It is well known that energy efficiency is one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century. To reduce energy usage and its associated dependence on limited natural resources, it is of utmost importance to engineer new energy efficient technologies and resolve specific critical issues that inhibit the transition of these technologies from the lab into society. To this end, development of novel devices enabled with the “magnetocaloric” class of functional materials is proposed for two sustainable energy-related emerging technologies: (a) magnetic refrigeration - an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vapor-compression cooling; and (b) magnetocaloric energy conversion - a thermal energy harvesting technology with an estimated energy efficiency of 30–60% of that of an ideal Carnot cycle.
There are a number of magnetic refrigerator and thermomagnetic energy harvesting device designs being developed today that are anticipated to provide high efficient energy transformations, provided that appropriate working materials can be developed. This team will conduct research to evaluate, optimize and predict the magnetocaloric and thermal response of select rare-earth-free intermetallic compounds. Promising materials systems will be used for testing home-built prototypes designed for magnetic cooling and energy harvesting applications in large-scale platforms such as data center infrastructures, hybrid vehicles and chemical industries.
Interested? Contact Dr. Radhika Barua (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Ravi Hadimani (email@example.com)
Overactive bladder (OAB) occurs during bladder filling and affects ~20% of the adult US population. The current tool for evaluating bladder filling is a urodynamics study which uses a catheter to fill the bladder while pressure is measured. Tension sensitive nerves in the bladder wall are responsible for providing bladder fullness information to the brain and increased bladder wall tension during filling is thought to be a critical factor in OAB. However, pressure often increases little during bladder filling and does not accurately reflect changes in bladder wall tension. Therefore, effective assessment of OAB using standard clinical urodynamics testing is difficult or impossible, and a new diagnostic test for OAB that includes the evaluation of bladder wall tension is needed. In addition to pressure, the biomechanical parameters that can directly affect the load on the bladder wall tension sensors during filling include bladder geometry, acute changes in bladder elasticity, and spontaneous rhythmic bladder contractions. Our team has discovered that the bladder is a smart material that can acutely regulate its preload tension, and we have clinically quantified this “dynamic elasticity” in patients with OAB.
The team will be working to develop improved clinical biomechanical diagnostics for OAB and other bladder disorder and to understand the complex biomechanical and biochemical mechanisms responsible for dynamic elasticity in humans and animal models of OAB.
The team is looking for interested sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate Mechanical, Biomedical, Electrical, Computer, Chemical & Life Science Engineering, Computer Science and other majors interested in biomechanical modeling, bladder & smooth muscle experimental biomechanics, ultrasound image & cine analysis, signal processing, software and GUI development, biochemistry, physiology and urology.
Projects may include:
Interested? Contact Prof. Speich (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Medical device development is a growing industry, with a total revenue of about $110 billion and a projected growth rate of 5%. Electro-medical/therapeutic devices currently occupy about 33% of that market. In the Electromagnetics lab, researchers apply electromagnetic principles to the design and development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools, primarily in the area of cancer and diabetes research. Ongoing research includes using hyperthermia as a direct or collateral approach to cancer therapy, glucose monitoring and delivery systems, the development of bio-mimicking gels, and other projects that result as a direct collaboration with the medical or dental communities. Students engaged in this work through the VIP program will be trained in the fundamentals of electromagnetic theory as well as relevant software and hardware that will be used in the execution of their research and development projects.
The team is looking for energetic and motivated sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate and graduate students in ECE, CS, BME and CLSE with a strong desire to participate in the design, building and testing of medical devices and systems.
Interested? Contact Prof. Erdem Topsakal (email@example.com)
There is a critical need to automatically extract and synthesize knowledge and trends in nanotechnology research from an exponentially increasing body of literature. New engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), such as nanomedicines, are continuously being discovered and Natural Language Processing (NLP) approaches can semi‐automate the cataloging of ENMs and their unique physico‐chemical properties. Although lagging behind the discovery of biomedical relationships, the proposed applications of ENMs can also be linked to their physico‐chemical properties using NLP techniques. The potential for unintended consequences resulting from the commercialization of any emerging technology, including nanotechnology, underscores the need for risk assessment to keep pace with ENMs discovery and application. NLP approaches can be used to automatically aggregate studies on the exposure and hazard of ENMs as well as link the physicochemical properties to the measured effects.
The team is looking for interested sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate Computer Science, Chemical and Life Science Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering students with a strong desire to participate in the creation of machine learning technologies.
Interested? Contact Prof. Bridget McInnes (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Prof. Lewinski (email@example.com)
Optics and Photonics technologies are flooding into our lives at the speed of light. In fact, many leaders within the photonics community believe that light-based technologies will be as fundamental to 21st century society as electronics was to the 20th century. In this team, participants will study first-hand the vast potential of light-based technologies, working to develop numerous ground-breaking devices which may lead to commercial products. Topic areas include fully-integrated laser characterization systems, new methods for low-cost rapid prototyping of optical/electrical devices, flexible photonic sensors, low-cost photovoltaics, nanoscale optical switches, and high-speed optical communication links. Through these pursuits, skills developed in areas of semiconductor device theory, electromagnetic fields, and digital devices will be put to use to study the interaction of light and matter as well as fundamental principles of lasers and photonics. Don’t miss the wave!
Interested? Contact Prof. Nathaniel Kinsey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The field of space exploration and space exploitation is becoming more and more popular and mainstream. The rising of a number of commercial space companies, both for crewed and uncrewed rocket launches, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Orbital has created a strong demand for engineers that have experience and interest in rocketry. This particularly includes engineers with a background in Mechanical engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Science.
The focus of RAM Rocketry is to give students experience in the field of rocketry and aerospace design by participating in High-Powered Rocketry and student rocketry competitions. These student competitions include the Battle of the Rockets, the NASA Student Launch Initiative, and the Spaceport America Cup. The team has a goal of attending the Spaceport America Cup in the next several years.
Interested? Contact Prof. Frank Gulla
In the state of Virginia, nearly 1 in 5 (19.6%) adults living in communities have a disability . Additionally, disability disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority groups. Rehabilitation engineering is “the systematic application of engineering sciences to design, develop, adapt, test, evaluate, apply, and distribute technological solutions to problems confronted by individuals with disabilities.” The focus of rehabilitation engineering is to restore or improve the functional capacity of an individual with a disability. Functional areas addressed through rehabilitation engineering may include mobility, communications, hearing, vision, and cognition, and activities associated with employment, independent living, education, and integration into the community.
The main focus of Rehabilitation Lab is to critically and systematically study current issues that negatively impact the functional capacity of individuals living with disability and develop agile, elegant solutions to address these problems. Rehabilitation Lab projects will address the needs of individuals with disabilities. The initial focus of Rehabilitation Lab will use collaborations between engineering, occupational therapy, and the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center to design and implement rapid prototyping solutions to address the needs of the individual.
The team is looking for Engineering students with a strong desire to apply rapid prototyping techniques and design thinking approaches to developing solutions that demonstrate impact on the individual and community level.
Interested? Contact Prof. Thea Pepperl, (email@example.com)
Smart cities have become an increasingly popular idea for better managing shared and limited resources. By using advanced technology, smart cities build networks comprising humans and various systems that work collaboratively to solve problems in governance, society, and infrastructure. Smart cities analyze large amounts of data to improve efficiency in a variety of areas including transportation systems, building management, and electrical infrastructure.
In this team, students will work hands-on with various aspects of smart city research which may lead to commercial products, research papers, and technology demonstrations. Application areas include building management, traffic management, self-driving cars, and data processing systems. Students on the team will demonstrate and improve their skills in software engineering, electronics, data science, machine learning, and communication. Students are expected to have a background or interest in the following (or similar) areas: machine learning, control theory, robotics, data processing and visualization infrastructure, and sensor networks.
Interested? Contact Prof. Sherif Abdelwahed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Smart fabrics (e.g. integrating responsive materials, sensors, filters, energy generating materials, etc.) could protect human health and/or improve human quality of life.
The overall aim of the Smart Fabrics team is to apply fundamental engineering principles to create smart fabrics that solve practical problems to impact human quality of life. The initial focus of the Smart Fabrics team will be to achieve smart fabrics with temperature responsive reflective properties as the next generation of thermal comfort textiles. Temperature-responsive properties will be achieved by incorporating liquid crystals into the polymer fibers.
The team is looking for Engineering students (all majors) with a strong motivation work in cross-disciplinary teams to create smart material approaches to practical problems.
Interested? Contact Prof. Christina Tang (email@example.com)
Technology and communities can have direct or indirect consequences that adversely affect quality of life. The SustainLab concept is to critically study current issues that negatively impact human quality of life and develop solutions that can be immediately deployed to help address these problems. SustainLab’s overall goal is to make long-term positive impact to communities by designing and implementing solutions that combine function and aesthetics.
The initial focus of SustainLab will use collaborations between engineering, art, and biology to design and implement a Green Wall on the VCU campus as an urban solution for carbon sequestration. In addition to the design and implementation of Green Walls, this project will investigate various aspects of urban ecology including interactions and impact of humans on natural environments. The team is looking for engineering students of all disciplines with a strong desire to participate in cross-disciplinary approaches to developing solutions for local, immediate problems.
Interested? Contact Prof. Stephen Fong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In vitro testing of aerosol delivery has been found to be effective in predicting behavior of particles in an in vivo setting, making it possible to evaluate and quantify characteristics of certain drug delivery methods without the uncertainty of in vivo testing. The benefits of realistic in vitro testing allow direct comparison and quantification of factors that ultimately define how aerosol will be deposited in specific regions of the airways. It also allows for the evaluation of a wide range of innovative inhalation delivery methods, which could be utilized for different drugs and age groups. By having several in vitro models, it is also possible to determine the effects of intersubject variability and develop methods to include the anatomical differences to optimize the delivery techniques for different individuals
Interested? Contact Prof. Laleh Golshahi (email@example.com)