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Undergraduate Programs

Xerox Engineering Research Fellows

2020 Research Opportunities

Chemical Engineering

Professor Astrid Mueller
Department of Chemical Engineering

Research Project: electrocatalysis of Nano-bimetallics for Efficient Conversation of CO2 to Methanol

Energy decarbonization requires new materials that are active and selective towards a single valorized product. Electrocatalysis of carbon dioxide to the liquid fuel methanol at bimetallic nanoparticles is an attractive route but no material exists to date that meets the performance demands. The undergraduate research assistants will assess electrocatalytic activity and selectivity for methanol of novel bimetallic nanomaterials, consisting of combinations of Fe, Pt, Ga, Ni, or Ti with Au, Ag, Sn, or Zn, which will be prepared by pulsed-laser in liquids synthesis. This technique offers precise and independent control of size, morphology, and crystallographic phases and concomitant electronic and catalytic properties. Methanol production will be quantified by a colorimetric assay, and activities will be obtained from cyclic voltammetry. 

Professor Danielle Benoit
Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering

Research Project #1: Hydrogel Culture Environments for Regenerative Medicine Applications

We can interrogate and take advantage of the critical interactions between cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) to create bioactive materials capable of controlling cell function and tissue evolution. To determine the requirements of the microenvironment, we utilize hydrogels easily modified with respect to mechanical integrity, adhesive peptides, ECM molecules, degradability, and incorporation of drugs, to direct cellular differentiation through a variety of mechanisms.

In particular, we are interested in utilizing hydrogel microenvironments to direct encapsulated mesenchymal stem cell (adult stem cell) function for applications in musculoskeletal tissue engineering. A thorough understanding of how material properties effect cell differentiation and tissue evolution is essential to tailor ‘instructive materials’ to direct cell function.

Research Project #2: Targeted Polymer Therapeutics to Overcome Drug Delivery Barriers

Conventional small molecule drugs and large macromolecular drugs have significant and distinctly different delivery barriers. For example, small molecule drugs, such as the chemotherapeutic doxorubicin, is highly hydrophobic, thus administration requires toxic cosolvents to aid blood solubility. Macromolecular drugs, on the other hand, suffer from enzymatic degradation and inactivation, difficulty in targeting to the appropriate cells and transversing the cell membrane, and often become degraded intracellularly once endocytosed. We are investigating polymer-drug complexes or polymer-drug conjugates to overcome these barriers and modulate drug delivery.

Professor Marc Porosoff
Department of Chemical Engineering

Research Project: Synthesis and Characterization of Heterogeneous Catalysts for CO2 Hydrogenation

Precise control over reaction selectivity is a central challenge in the field of catalysis. For example, CO2 hydrogenation and Fisher-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) are both desirable pathways to produce synthetic chemicals and fuels via low-cost carbon oxide (CO2 and CO) resources; however, the reaction networks are generally unselective, yielding a wide range of hydrocarbon products. Recently, there have been attempts at producing valuable light olefins via these two reactions, but the materials required for precise control of catalytic selectivity have not yet been well-developed. The undergraduate research assistant will synthesize, characterize and perform reactor studies on novel tandem catalysts. Incipient wetness impregnation and hydrothermal synthesis methods will be used to make the catalysts. The student will characterize the materials through N2 physisorption, CO chemisorption, NH3 and H2-temperature programmed desorption, and reactor studies. The student should have a strong background in chemistry, chemical engineering and/or materials science.