Independent Project Ideas

This Page is a listing of current faculty projects. If these look interesting to you, go ahead and contact the faculty member!

Ravin Bhatt

Although I have not yet listed specific project ideas, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring possibilities.

Minjie Chen

We explore all different ways to “electrify” the world. We manage electrical power for sensing, computing, and actuation. The research topics that may fall in my group’s expertise include:

  • Power management in all scale: from electric vehicles to more electric aircrafts/drones, from cellphones to IoT sensors
  • Power delivery in all frequency: from dc to 60Hz ac, from sub-Hz to radio frequency
  • Electrical actuation in all formats: mechanical, sound, wave, light, heat
  • Fundamentals of power electronics: device, circuits, systems, control, power magnetics
  • Design methods for power electronics: device modeling and abstraction, machine learning guided design tools
Yuxin Chen

Although I have not yet listed specific project ideas, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring possibilities.

Stephen Chou

Although I have not yet listed specific project ideas, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring possibilities.

Nathalie de Leon
  • New qubits for quantum communication: We are exploring making new defects in diamond to act as long-lived quantum memories for long distance communication. This is highly interdisciplinary project across quantum optics, atomic spectroscopy, confocal microscopy, materials science, and device physics.
  • Quantum nanophotonics: To enhance atom-photon interactions, we will also embed these defects in nanophotonic cavities, integrated in functional nanophotonic chips. This effort will explore novel fabrication methods in diamond to create these integrated nanophotonic devices, as well as methods for controllable interfaces between the nanophotonic cavity and the diamond color center.
  • Nanoscale sensing: Diamond color centers can have spin degrees of freedom with long coherence times at room temperature, and they are localized to the nm scale, making them excellent point sensors. We are developing technologies for using color centers for nanoscale NMR and MRI, and this project involves spin resonance and quantum control techniques, optics and microscopy, and surface science and device physics.
Jason Fleischer
  • Big sound from small speakers. We will use new methods of signal processing to improve the sound quality of small speakers, such as those in cell phones.
  • Removing speckle in biomedical ultrasound. This project focuses on enhancing images in clinical ultrasound.
  • Imaging blood vessels. This project will image blood vessels and flow using visible light.
  • 3D photography. We are developing methods to convert existing cameras into 3D imaging devices.
Claire Gmachl
  • Design and testing of Quantum Cascade lasers
  • Design, fabrication, and characterization of semiconductor devices, especially devices based on intersubband transitions
  • Mid-infrared photonics (materials, devices, systems)
  • Mid-infrared laser-based non-invasive in-vivo glucose sensing
  • Possibilities for “suggest-your-own” projects in the fields of semiconductors, lasers, optics, etc.
Andrew Houck
  • Building new circuit elements for quantum computers. We are interested in building the pieces for a quantum computer, and in particular need to build new and improved qubits to store quantum information, high quality directional couplers to route quantum information around a chip, and new types of isolators to protect fragile quantum information from environmental noise.
  • Optical quantum processors. We are beginning to look into optical properties of defects in SiC which could act as room temperature quantum sensors or quantum bits
  • I am always interested in exploring new directions and in engineering more broadly. If you have a crazy idea that you'd like to try, let me know and we might be able to put together a good and feasible project
Niraj Jha
  • Smart healthcare: Disease diagnosis based on wearable medical sensors, images, and videos: addressing the small dataset challenge.
  • Machine learning tools: Synthesis of neural networks and long short-term memories; accelerators.
  • Security of IoT devices and systems.
  • Causal inference: Counterfactuals, interventions.
  • Design of cyberphysical systems.


Antoine Kahn

Work in my lab revolves around new materials (semiconductors, oxides, insulators) for organic electronics, and ways these materials come together in organic-based devices. Below are two possible topics for independent work.

  • Metal oxides for organic electronics: Growth of ultra-thin metal oxide films (e.g. TiO2) on organic semiconductors, via low temperature chemical vapor deposition in a dedicated reactor. Characterization will involve atomic force microscopy (morphology), photoemission spectroscopy and Kelvin probe microscopy (electronic structure), and current-voltage measurements (electrical behavior).
  • Gap states in organic semiconductors: Fabrication of metal/organic/metal structures to test the impact of electronic gap states and traps on transport in organic semiconductors. Charge carrier transport will be investigated as a function of chemical doping and purity in the organic layer.
  • Molecular dopants: investigation of new molecular dopants (n- and p-type) for polymer semiconductors. Fabrication of doped structures and investigation of carrier transport as a function of dopant concentration and temperature.
  • Organic thin film transistors: fabrication, characterization
  • Metal Halide Perovskites: fascinating new materials for PV and other thin film electronics; electronic structure, charge carrier transport

I am open to suggestions, if you have other ideas in mind.

Sun-Yuan Kung

With the information explosion in big data, there is an eminent need of new machine learning methods and novel computational paradigms to make the artificial intelligence tools more actionable, personalized and contextually relevant. More specifically, some relevant and relatively new research problems are as follows:

  • Dimension-Reduction techniques, Feature Selection and subspace projection are vital for big data analyses.
  • Unsupervised Cluster Discovery with application to the segmentation of social and media networks.
  • A hybrid learning model, named Ridge-SVM, which combines two classical models: KRR (Kernel Ridge Regressors) and SVM (Support Vector Machines).
  • Non-imputed kernel approaches to incomplete data analysis (IDA), where the data is likely to be collected from a divergent of sources and may be highly incomplete.

Generally speaking, the research projects will embrace their theoretical and/or application aspects. The preferred (though not necessarily required) academic backgrounds will involve multiple disciplinaries including matrix theory, signal processing, regression analysis, discrete mathematics, and optimization theory.

Ruby Lee
  • Smartphone security: How can we use the various sensors and/or various wireless connectivity in a smartphone to improve security for its owner? Or for the cloud data accessed through the smartphone?
  • Cloud Computing security: Improve the performance and/or security of important applications for the Cloud. This can be run and evaluated on our Cloud computing testbed based on the OpenStack cloud infrastructure.
  • More accurate than a doctor: Today doctors scan visually the past test records of a patient to try to see some trends: whether the disease is getting worse, or stabilizing, or perhaps improving. Can we write a program to scan these records, including simple images (but not MRI, etc.), to predict trends more accurately than the doctor's fast 5 minute visual inspection?
  • Model the "energy" flows in the human body. This is called "chi" in 5000 year old Chinese medicine, and has been very effective. Can we write a simulation model to model these energy channels?
Bede Liu
  • Watermarking of images and audio
  • I can also serve as a second reader
Steve Lyon

Much of the work in my lab is centered on figuring out how to build a quantum computer. We have a variety of projects, ranging from more EE-like to more physics-like. For example:

  • Designing and testing cryogenic silicon circuits. The quantum computers we are building will operate very close to absolute zero. We need regular silicon chips to work at these temperatures. We design specialized CMOS circuits, which we then need to measure, and we also test regular commercial CMOS chips to see which ones can be made to work at low temperature
  • Automating experiments and data acquisition. Lots of times we need to take a bunch of data or upload complicated instructions to instruments. Some of these projects are mostly software (we use Matlab to run some of the equipment), and some are a combination of software and hardware. Recently we used a Raspberry Pi (small single-board Linux computer) for automating a measurement, which worked well, and we plan to keep playing with the Pi's.
  • Simulating electron transport on superfluid helium. One of the approaches we are taking to building the quantum computer uses electrons "floating" on the surface of superfluid helium. As part of that we have been developing programs (combination of Python and C) to simulate their motion as we change the voltages on gate electrodes. Projects in this are would mostly be programming, though a longer project could involve both programming and experiments on electron motion.
  • Low-noise and precision circuits. We need to measure very small signals (for example, sensing the charge of individual electrons), and must control voltages with very high precision. We need to design and build circuits to do this, and then control them (probably with a Raspberry Pi).
  • Designing and building new resonators for Electron Spin Resonance experiments. Electron spin resonance is one of the ways we measure the "quantum bits" we might use in the quantum computer. These experiments use microwave resonators, and we want to develop new ones, both large "bulk" resonators(~ few inches) and superconducting micro-resonators. For example, we want to make resonators which allow us to excite our samples with circularly-polarized microwaves.
Sharad Malik

My research deals with methods for designing emerging computing systems. In particular, my focus is on designing correct and secure systems. This involves studying and developing techniques for debugging, finding security flaws, and proving functional and security correctness for these systems. Research projects typically involve system modeling, developing and implementing algorithms that can work for industrial scale designs, and running experiments to improve and check these algorithms.

I am also open to advising projects where the ideas are initiated by students-these could involve hardware, software or theory-I am very open!

Prateek Mittal
  • Internet security and privacy: The insecurity of Internet protocols and services threatens the safety of our critical network infrastructure and billions of end users. How can we defend end users as well as our critical network infrastructure from attacks?
  • Trustworthy social systems: Online social networks (OSNs) such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have revolutionized the way our society communicates. How can we leverage social connections between users to design the next generation of communication systems?
  • Privacy Technologies: Privacy on the Internet is eroding rapidly, with businesses and governments mining sensitive user information. How can we protect the privacy of our online communications? The Tor project ( is a potential application of interest.
Vince Poor

Professor Poor will be on sabbatical for A/Y 20/21 and will not be able to advise during this time.

Although I have not yet listed specific project ideas, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring possibilities.

Paul Prucnal
  • Information security in optical networks: trustworthy communication with “noise”
  • Photonic neuron and neural networks: brain-inspired computing with lasers
  • Interference cancellation in wireless communications: optical noise-cancellation for radios
  • Adaptive beam forming with phased array antennas: making smart antennas using light
  • Also willing to supervise “non-research” project
Peter Ramadge
  • Analysis of functional MRI data: spatial localization, pattern detection, machine learning.
  • Analysis of time series data: trend detection, prediction, pattern learning.
  • Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring other possibilities in machine learning.
Barry Rand
  • Work on a new class of photovoltaic materials: metal halide perovskite semiconductors. We have >20% in our lab, and are investigating ways to improve this as well as understand material and device stability.
  • Study the crystallization processes of organic semiconductors and their thin films - link these material properties to electronic and optical properties
  • Study epitaxy (growth) of crystalline organic semiconductors
  • Within the "Campus as a lab" initiative, I would like to analyze data from Princeton's solar farm on the other side of the lake, looking at variability and intermittency issues. Let me know if interested. Could be joint with various other departments.
  • If you have other ideas within thin film electronic and optoelectronic devices, please feel free to contact me.
  • I would be happy to work with students interested in robotic systems and/or aerial vehicles - one example: methods for compact, multispectral imaging systems and their broad applications (solar module imaging, wildlife tracking, ...)


Alejandro Rodriguez

We engage theoretical questions in the field of nanophotonics—the study of light in wavelength-scale structures—at the intersection of classical and quantum electromagnetism. Current research problems revolve around fluctuation electromagnetism (quantum and thermal phenomena such as Casimir forces, heat transport, and fluorescence) and nonlinear optics. We employ a combination of analytical and computational techniques to study fundamental properties of novel thermal emitters/absorbers, opto-mechanical and microfluidic systems, dispersion forces, and low-power nonlinear devices. Potential research directions/projects include:

  • Inverse design of photonic nano-structures for controlling light-atom and nonlinear optical interactions
  • Investigation of thermal radiation and heat transfer in semiconductors at high temperatures
  • Study of Casimir forces on liquid surfaces
Kaushik Sengupta

Currently, we focus on the next-generation integrated electronic and photonic circuits and systems to address various emerging and high-impact applications, including high-frequency and high-speed communications, sensing, imaging, and onchip bio-sensing and actuation. Everything which is integrated, small yet powerful and sophisticated, that pushes the boundary of science and engineering through innovations, often by exploring the spaces between traditionally different fields, interest us. Our research approach is to leverage concepts from different fields and merge them together to create high-performance systems. The broad themes of research are:

  • CMOS based biosensors: We are developing novel techniques that leverage CMOS chip-based technology to be used as diagnostic tools. The project involves conceptualizing new technologies for bio molecular detection on chip, design and biomolecular measurement of fabricated systems-on-chip.
  • Terahertz silicon chips: We are investigating new techniques, architectures and systems that can push operation frequencies of silicon based systems to 100s of GHz, opening up opportunities for 10s of Gb/s of wireless communication. This can open up a world of exiting applications in communication to imaging and wireless sensing.
  • Programmable RF chips: Silicon transistors have shrunk into dimensions, where variation in the countable number of dopant atoms cause significant change in performance and behavior. Added to this, parasitic and process variations, modeling inaccuracies, aging, environmental changes cause a severe degradation in system performance. Imagine a self-healing chip which has onchip sensing mechanisms that monitor the `health' of the circuits and systems and takes appropriate actuation measures to automatically `heal' and optimize system performance by itself without external intervention. Imagine such a flexible radio which can be programmed to replace all different radio receivers in your cell phone into one Master wireless chip. This needs fundamental rethinking of conventional wireless architectures and circuits.
Mansour Shayegan
  • Fabrication and characterization of low-dimensional semiconductor structures (quantum wells, quantum wires, quantum dots, etc.)
  • Low temperature magneto transport measurements of low-dimensional semiconductor structures.
Jim Sturm

Although I have not yet listed specific project ideas, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring possibilities.

Jeff Thompson

We work on nanophotonics, quantum optics and atomic physics, both with laser-cooled atoms and impurities in solids. Possible projects include:

  • Design, fabrication and characterization of nanophotonic structures
  • Design and construction of laser systems and associated electronics, in fiber or free space
  • Quantum optics calculations, exploring new directions for quantum networks based on quantum repeaters
  • Experimental control hardware and software (we use a lot of FPGAs, DDSs, various microwave electronics, etc.)
  • Lastly, I am happy to discuss any crazy physics- or engineering-related idea that you might have, to see if we can turn it into a well-posed project that I could advise
Hakan Türeci

We are looking for curious and motivated undergraduates to carry out research with our group on following projects. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions. 

  • Development of hybrid quantum-classical algorithms on cloud-based superconducting quantum computing platforms (e.g. IBM, Rigetti). Requires minimal exposure to quantum mechanics [a basic quantum mechanics/engineering course such as ELE342 or ELE396 is perfectly sufficient].
  • Research into neuromorphic computing with physical systems — Hardware examples: Coupled microlasers, superconducting non-linear oscillators, optical parametric oscillators [requires only competency with basic engineering mathematics e.g. solving coupled ODEs in python; will employ in-house developed computational solvers for accurate modeling of the physical system]. 
  • Hardware-based Reservoir Computing for forecasting — (you likely have never heard of it. If so, read this recent research from UMD researchers for fun:[basic engineering mathematics e.g. solving coupled ODEs in python; will employ in-house developed computational solvers for accurate modeling of the physical system]. 
  • Several other projects on quantum information processing systems also are available for more advanced students [exposure to quantum master equations is helpful for these projects] 
  • Theoretical and computational research into frequency comb generation with microlasers and superconducting oscillators —  dynamics and coherent-feedback based stabilization [will work with SALT (Steady-state Ab-inito Laser Theory), an in-house computational modeling tool for dynamics of complex lasers. If you are curious read this commentary on SALT:]
Naveen Verma

The research in my group explores integrated circuits and systems for advanced sensing applications. Basically, we are interested in creating electronic systems that can perform extensive and sophisticated interactions with the real world. Since the signals presented by the real world are numerous and physically complex, electronic systems must overcome major challenges. Our research spans the areas of emerging electronic devices (flexible, large-area electronics), new circuit architectures, advance algorithms for signal analysis (machine learning, statistical signal processing), and full-system synthesis. The applications we focus on are medical sensors (for neurological and cardiovascular diseases), smart cities (infrastructure monitoring), smart homes (highly sensorized spaces), ubiquitous energy harvesting...

  • System for electroencephalogram (EEG) replay: In my lab we build devices that perform functions on physiological signals (such as EEGs). To test these devices, we would like to perform digital-to-analog conversion on EEGs we have previously recorded from patients, and replay the signals so that they can be used to test our devices. This project involves the use of bench-top laboratory equipment, LabView software, and custom devices built in the lab.
  • System for real-time EEG acquisition and streaming: We have a system for many-channel EEG acquisition in my lab. We would like to adapt this to stream EEG recordings in real time to the custom electronics we build in our lab. This project involves the use of a EEG-recording system, Mac drivers and system software, and FGPA platforms.
  • Application design for specialized machine-learning processor: In my lab, we have build a custom microprocessor that includes a CPU (capable of executing software compiled from C) along with custom hardware accelerators for machine-learning functions. This project involves using this microprocessor to implement applications for advanced embedded sensing that were never possible before. Think about performing gesture recognition using a cell-phone camera for gaming applications, etc.
  • Algorithms for computing using 'broken' hardware: As CMOS technology continues to scale, it is becoming impossible to ensure the correct operation of the transistors underlying our computing systems. The question is whether a system can 'learn' and compensate for its own faults, performing high-value computations despite highly-broken hardware. We have discovers some algorithms that can enable this. This project involves emulation of such systems and algorithms on FPGAs by injecting models for various physical faults.
  • Audio processing using a large array of microphones: We are developing flexible sheets that integrate arrays of microphones with active electronics. Using microphone arrays, we can perform beam forming, where our array effectively 'listens' to specific points in a room. This project will involve using the acquired audio data to perform speech recognition.
Sigurd Wagner
  • Mechanical flexibility of zinc oxide thin-film transistors.
    Field-effect transistors based on zinc oxide are the up-and-coming technology for flexible display screens. ZnO TFTs made on plastic substrates are tested to ensure their functionality in roll-out displays for cell phones. Evaluate the electrical characteristics of these transistors, while they are bent to defined radii of curvature.
  • Dielectric-elastomer minimum-energy structures.
    Dielectric-elastomer minimum-energy structures are pre-stretched dielectric elastomer membranes adhered to thin flexible frames. The shape of the system can be varied by applying a voltage. Explore the shapes that a system made of three cells can attain, when the voltages applied to the three cells are different. Co-advised by Sigurd Wagner (ELE) and Sigrid Adriaenssens (CEE).
Mengdi Wang
  • Machine learning for single-cell genomics and cancer therapy
  • Applied reinforcement learning to control of physical systems


David Wentzlaff
  • Tracking and photographing near earth objects and in-orbit objects such as artificial satellites has remained a challenge. This is primarily driven by the problem that these objects move quite fast across the sky and are typically not very bright. To solve this challenge, we propose to construct a computer controlled camera mount to track and photograph interesting objects which have otherwise been impossible to photograph. A successful student or team of students is sought to create such a camera mount to photograph objects such as satellites whose configuration is currently unknown.
  • Construct and modify a open source 3D printer which is then used to print biodegradable motherboards and computer cases.
  • In our research group, we are building a new manycore microprocessor, we are looking for an undergraduate to study whether it is possible to use Crowd-sourcing to test the functionality of this new microprocessor. This would involve working with Amazon's Mechanical Turk along with setting up experiments to see if Crowd-sourcing can be effective at finding bugs. This would involve using untrained labor to to write test cases for a processor. Finally, we would like a student to use crowd-sourced computing to help verify the chip by using altruistic peoples' computer power. Think of SETI-at-Home for chip verification.
Gerard Wysocki
  • Multi-heterodyne spectrometers based on quantum- and interband-cascade lasers – performance analysis and spectroscopic applications
  • Field deployment of remote methane sensor based on chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy
  • Development of interference fringe-free multi-pass gas absorption cell for trace-gas sensing applications.
  • Laser spectroscopic wireless sensor networks for chemical detection
  • Field deployment of water vapor isotope analyzer for study of water cycle in urban environment
  • Telescope with fully automatic active Sun-tracking system for laser heterodyne spectro-radiometry.