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Undergraduate Programs

Xerox Engineering Research Fellows

2019 Research Opportunities

Chemical Engineering

Professor Danielle Benoit
Departments of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical 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 Wyatt Tenhaeff
Department of Chemical Engineering

Research Project:

Solid state thin film lithium metal batteries represent the greatest success in energy storage miniaturization. They provide high energy and power densities (when neglecting packaging), remarkable rate performance, long lifetimes, and safe, flexible integration given their solid state construction. The undergraduate research assistant will synthesize and characterize new thin film electrodes for incorporation into these thin film batteries. Physical vapor deposition techniques will be used to synthesize the materials. Preliminary characterization will be achieved through the fabrication and cycling of full battery cells. The student should have a strong background in chemistry and preferably materials science.

Marc D. Porosoff
Department of Chemical Engineering

Research Project:

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.