SURP 2022 Project Abstracts

Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Faculty Name: Long Wang


When most of the materials are stretched in one direction, they would shrink in another direction, as an example of Poisson’s effect. However, certain “auxetic” materials exhibit negative Poisson’s ratios, which indicate that they could expand transversally while being stretched longitudinally. Due to their unique mechanical behavior, auxetic materials have various application potentials, including aerospace structures, energy absorption, and biomaterial engineering. There has been research on computationally designing structures of controlled auxetic performance. However, limited work has been conducted on integrating the theoretical designs with practical additive manufacturing process and actual structural material properties. Therefore, this project aims to establish a framework for rationally designing, manufacturing, and characterizing auxetic structures. Specific research tasks include:

1)         optimizing stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing process to manufacture designed auxetic structures using different UV-curable resins, including brittle polymers and elastomers;

2)         conducting mechanical tests on 3D printed structures;

3)         quantifying the achieved Poisson’s ratios and analyzing the stress distribution in the structures using digital image correlation technique;

4)         performing linear and non-linear finite element analysis to computationally characterize the structural performance and compare with initial design as well as experimental measurements.

The students will be working with Dr. Wang’s research group and computational mechanics experts.

Faculty Names: PI: Franz J. Kurfess; Co-PIs:  Lynne Slivonsky, Sumona Mukhopadhyay


Building on a SURP 2021 project and work continued until now, the focus for this project is on the use of computer technology for locating a missing person. We developed digital versions of about 30 paper-based S&R forms together with the cloud-based infrastructure. At the core of such a search is the Lost Person Questionnaire, a lengthy and complex form that collects relevant information. 

Collaborating with two Cal Poly alumni with a long involvement in S&R activities, we will focus on the following aspects:

  • Lost Person Information: Relevant information is consolidated in a systematic manner. 
  • Intent: The intent or plans of the lost person offers valuable information.  
  • Scenario Analysis: Based on information like the lost person’s intent, their last known location, or their habits, an AI solution is developed. The search team analyzes multiple scenarios and ranks them according to plausibility and priority.
  • Search Plan: This AI based plan for the operational activities will include an assessment of priorities and probabilities for multiple scenarios. The planning scenario will be continually updated with information gathered from the ongoing S&R activities.

Strong candidates will be highly motivated, have some programming skills, and work well in a team.

Faculty Name: Joydeep Mukherjee


The goal is to build a comprehensive experimental framework for interdisciplinary research in smart and dependable Internet-of-Things (IoT). IoT technologies are becoming key enablers for building context-aware applications in important domains such as autonomous vehicles, smart buildings and smart healthcare. IoT-intensive applications introduce several new challenges, mainly, the problem of integrating large numbers of vastly heterogeneous sensors, networks, clouds, and connectors to form useful digital ecosystems. This project proposes to create an IoT framework that leverages state-of-the-art software services to enable experimentation at-scale, sharing of data and knowledge, and interdisciplinary research. We’ll deploy wireless light and temperature IoT sensors in Building 14 at Cal Poly. Next, we’ll build an IoT data acquisition and ingestion platform, where we periodically push the sensor data to a local buffer (Apache Kafka) that synchronizes the time-series data, followed by a streamer (Apache Spark) which then pulls a larger set of synchronized data from the buffer and inserts it in the cloud database (Cassandra) representing a longer timeframe. Finally, we will build a Web dashboard application that queries the cloud database to project meaningful aggregate information to the end users. This framework can be utilized in interdisciplinary research relevant to modern IoT platforms and applications.

Faculty Name: Stephen Klisch


Two SURP students will join an interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students that are currently working on a research project related to injury prevention biomechanics for youth baseball and softball pitchers. The general objectives of our current work are to 1) investigate associations between pitching arm kinetics (e.g., shoulder and elbow joint torques), whole-body kinematics, anthropometric body measures (e.g., body mass and height), and recent history of pitching-related injuries and 2) develop innovative IMU sensor technologies for obtaining accurate measures of throwing workload. This summer, the two SURP students will work with this team to recruit ~10-20 youth baseball and softball pitchers, conduct DXA scans (with collaborators from the Food Science & Nutrition Department), and conduct pitching motion analysis experiments. The two SURP students will work together to calculate pitching arm kinetics using inverse dynamics for ~10 youth baseball pitchers and, subsequently, conduct statistical analyses to investigate associations between kinetics, kinematics, anthropometry, and injury history. Students should indicate in their application if they are interested in continuing work on the project during next the Academic Year for independent study course credit.

Faculty Name: Ayaan M. Kazerouni


Program comprehension is the process of making sense of a codebase, often in order to modify it in some way. This process can be challenging if the codebase is confusing or unfamiliar. Program comprehension is an important aspect of software development, both for professionals and for novices learning to program for the first time. Decades of research have revealed much about how humans make sense of new information, and many of these findings are transferrable to the comprehension of computer programs. However, tooling that builds upon these advances to support the cognitive processes at play during program comprehension remains relatively sparse. In this project, we will design and develop IDE extensions to help support programmers’ cognitive processes as they make sense of programs. All the tooling that we create will be grounded in what know about human cognition. Following a period of tool design and development, we will iteratively refine these tools based on feedback from students and instructors. Additionally, we expect this work to uncover fresh insights about program comprehension. Future work will involve making this suite of tools available in coursework here at Cal Poly, and examining the impact that they have on learning.

Faculty Name: Pauline Faure


The project main objective is to write flight software components configuration, code, and unit test. This will include writing educational documentation to record the flight software development, engineering design decisions, and their rationales to increase flight software accessibility beyond software-savvy individuals. As a secondary objective, the work achieved is expected to be published as a conference paper for the International Astronautical Congress. The project is part of the advancement of a small spacecraft mission named PowerSat that is under development within the Educational Technologies for Open and Interactive Learning via the Engineering of Small Spacecraft research laboratory in the Aerospace Engineering Department. Since Fall 2021, the flight software high-level architecture and a component tutorial were developed. The flight software development is based on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) open-source framework named F Prime. The proposed project is a continuation of the work achieved since Fall 2021 and the work accomplished over the summer intends to be submitted to NASA’s JPL’s F Prime working group for it to be accessible and usable by the small spacecraft community.

Faculty Names: PI: Sumona Mukhopadhyay; Co-PI: Franz Kurfess


This project focuses on developing a Machine Learning (ML) system for monitoring of livestock using aerial images. There are several challenges: (a) large sized aerial images with few pixels of the livestock object often occluded by artifacts; (b) poor resolution of aerial images; (c ) Identification of livestock from a herd and thus inconsistencies in recognition. We will focus on the following aspects:

  • Improve quality of the captured images and labeling: Use state-of-the art ML techniques for denoising the aerial images followed by determining the ground truth.  
  • Address the imbalance dataset: Since the availability of aerial images not occluded by artifacts are rarely available, a technique needs to be designed so that the decision of the model is not skewed. 
  • Semantic Similarity based Learning: Based on information extracted from the denoised images, an ML technique for classifying the livestock will be developed using the hash codes. 
  • Monitoring: A classifier will be trained to recognize the livestock based on the hash codes.

Candidates will learn the latest trends in ML through this collaboration. Candidates having knowledge in ML and programming skills are encouraged to apply.

Faculty Name: Stefan A. Talke 


One SURP position is available during the 2022 summer for a student to help develop, build, test, and deploy low-cost water-level sensors in the coastal ocean. Most oceanographic instruments measure either waves or tides; our prototypes measure both, at a fraction of the cost of a commercial gauge. Students will help put together off-the-shelf components, program the instrumentation, perform calibration tests, install/deploy instrumentation at the Cal Poly pier and at Morro Bay, and process/analyze/quality assure data.  Preferred qualifications include experience working with electronics (e.g. Arduinos, sensors, solar power, and similar), programming experience, and/or practical experience with tools, 3D printing, soldering, and instrumentation. If interested, please send a short cover letter and a resume to Stefan Talke at  The position will remain open until filled.   

Faculty Name: Joseph Callenes-Sloan


Computing hardware is entering an open-source renaissance, which includes open source ISAs, CAD tools, processors, and libraries.  Due to physical limitations, a radical rethinking of computer design, with new computing devices and systems (e.g. biological, neuromorphic, and quantum) is already under way.  New application domains are being enabled not by Moore’s Law but by new domain specific languages, that make parallel compilation more tractable and new parallel compute fabrics that attain significantly greater energy efficiency.  This project aims to develop a hardware architecture and set of tools that supports a wide range of future research and teaching efforts at Cal Poly and the College of Engineering. The hardware architecture and tools will enable students and faculty across the College to build and explore new custom computing applications.  The hardware architecture will be flexible and easily tailored for embedded (low-power) systems, large-scale high-performance systems, System-on-Chip (SoC) designs, ML/AI/graphics and other data-intensive applications, and other application-specific designs.  The computing systems will also support multiple targets, including ASIC fabrication, FPGAs, and cloud-based FPGA/accelerators.  This project will also propose new extensions that enable users to easily integrate security, privacy, reliability, and energy efficiency techniques into their systems.

Faculty Names: PI: Shams Tanvir; Co-PI: Mugizi Rwebangira


Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) have the potential to revolutionize the transportation system. However, proper integration of CAV in the existing transportation system requires rigorous testing, characterization, and piloting. A digital twin is a virtual replica of a real-world system. This can be used to design and test a physical system at much lower cost. In this project we will develop a digital twin that will serve as a virtual proving ground for CAV. We will use real-world traffic and pedestrian inputs on simulated automated vehicles. The digital twin will include two components of Cooperative Driving Automation (CDA) – 1) a vehicle dynamic simulator, 2) a traffic simulator. The co-simulation will utilize an open source traffic simulator (SUMO), and autonomous driving simulator (CARLA). The co-simulation tool will be capable of simulating the communication among vehicles and infrastructure using the ns-3 network simulator. The digital twin will be capable of providing optimized routes and trajectories for different scenarios involving the driver, vehicle, and the environment. One of our contributions will be to use real world data from the Cal Poly environment. Another contribution will be to research novel machine learning algorithms for autonomous vehicles to improve traffic flow.

Faculty Name: Britta Berg-Johansen


Individuals with abnormal gait biomechanics and postural stability (balance) have an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury. Previous work has suggested that playing soccer improves balance, which in turn may improve gait biomechanics. An ongoing study in the Human Motion Biomechanics (HMB) lab focuses on investigating whether a significant relationship exists between soccer-playing and improved gait and balance biomechanics in 13- to 15-years old females. For this project, 1-2 SURP students (BMED, ME, KINE, or other relevant majors) will join our interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students in the HMB lab to lead female youth participants through various gait and stability experiments. Students will use the HMB lab’s motion analysis system, along with a novel smartphone approach, to calculate and compare kinematic parameters of balance and gait between soccer players and non-soccer players. The SURP student(s) will specifically focus on analyzing the biomechanical parameters of non-soccer players, and will work with current HMB lab members to conduct statistical analyses to assess whether their results differ from those for the soccer players. Students should indicate in their application if they are interested in continuing work on the project during next the Academic Year for independent study course credit.

Faculty Name: Amro El Badawy


Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels is the major contributor to climate change. Despite the need for resorting to renewable clean energy sources, other strategies have to be pursued concurrently in order to achieve immediate and significant reductions in the atmospheric CO2 levels. Carbon capture, from air or flue gases, is an attractive short-term approach to help the world achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Metal organic frameworks (MOFs), synthesized using organic linker molecules and metal joints, are among the most promising solid adsorbents for CO2 capture applications. However, the CO2 sorption performance of MOFs is compromised under real-world conditions. The overarching objective of the research is to overcome some of the limitations with MOFs through functionalization with polyethylenimine of varying molecular weights and arrangements to enhance MOFs’ CO2 sorption capacity and selectivity. A quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) assembly will be used for quantifying the CO2 captured using the modified Ƴ-CD-MOFs. This reserach is a step towards moving MOFs form lab-scale studies to real-world, large-scale applications for capturing CO2 emitted from power plants burning fossil fuels.

Faculty Name: Christopher Heylman


We are currently working to create a microfluidic “tumor-on-a-chip” device that will allow for the growth and maintenance of 3D vascularized human colorectal cancer tumors. These tumor tissues will be used for screening the effects of novel drugs on human colorectal cancer. These devices are created by injecting a mixture of human fibroblasts, endothelial cells, colorectal cancer cells, and extracellular matrix proteins into a central incubation chamber in a microfluidic device.  Cell culture medium is then perfused through the tissue using the fluidic channels of the device.  Given the appropriate ratio of cell types, nutrients in the medium, and flow rates, a 3D tumor with an integrated network of blood vessels can be grown.  This summer research project aims to optimize existing protocols for growing these 3D vascularized tumors on a chip and develop new methods for characterizing them using fluorescent microscopy. The skill sets that students will develop in this project include human cell culture, microfluidic device fabrication, fluorescent microscopy, and image analysis using ImageJ software. Successful completion of the aims of this project will open the door for further research and use of these devices to screen drugs for efficacy in treating colorectal cancer.  

Faculty Name: Jennifer Mott


While we have guidelines to design to for thermal comfort, we all know of buildings and spaces that are not comfortable and people are either too cold or too hot. When people are not comfortable—if they have access to a thermostat, most will adjust it without thought for the overall building energy usage. This research project investigates occupant satisfaction and what influences their perception of thermal comfort in classroom settings—specifically the psychological influences on thermal comfort. It asks the question of whether we can influence people to believe that the room conditions are acceptable. The ultimate objective for the research is use the thermal comfort data to be able to reduce energy usage in buildings for heating and cooling. For the project this summer we will: analyze data from thermal comfort surveys given in the AY21/22 and corresponding measured room conditions. A new part of the project this summer will be to design an apparatus that can be used to change and measure room conditions, such as radiant temperatures or air speed and be used to see the effect on a person’s perception of thermal comfort.  

Faculty Name: B. Hawkins


The current push toward alternative energy sources for both centralized generation and distributed application requires new approaches to energy storage; both for surging demand and for localized utilization. Current battery technology struggles to meet the demand for energy density and endurance. Fuel cells and hydrogen storage, with an energy density of 140 MJ/kg, have been explored, but existing technologies provide only modest advantages due to low energy and power density. This is because existing hydrolysis and fuel cell systems rely on ion selective membranes and electrolyte solutions to achieve hydrogen generation to overcome the transport limitation of generated hydrogen and hydroxide ions.

Electrolysis of pure water – the first critical step in energy storage – can be improved by bringing the anode and cathode reactions close enough to overcome charge accumulation limitations and allow continuous electrolysis – on the order of 100 nm. This project aims to close this gap (literally!) by demonstrating a “nanogap electrolyzer”. Key milestones for this project include: i) fabrication of a nanogap electrolysis device using Cal Poly’s Microfabrication Laboratory, ii) demonstration of hydrogen generation by electrolysis, and iii) design and fabrication of a microfluidic network to capture electrolysis products for characterization.

Faculty Name: Trevor Cardinal


Students in my laboratory and in the laboratory of Dr Philip Costanzo (Chemistry & Biochemistry) will collaborate on developing a novel thermally-responsive polymer for transplanting therapeutic cells to treat vascular disease. Specifically, students in Dr Costanzo’s Lab synthesize copolymers of poly(n-isopropylacrylamide) and characterize. pNIPAM-based polymers are liquid at room temperature to facilitate cell injection, and then transition to semi-solid at body temperature to embed the cells and provide a surface for attachment. Therefore, after physical characterization, students in my laboratory will determine the optimal parameters for consistent polymer injection, including evaluating the syringe needle gauge, syringe needle type, syringe material, injection velocity, and cell mixing and distribution.

Faculty Name: Leo Torres


The operational life of a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spacecraft – a 3U CubeSat carrying a flexible solar panel – will be simulated to accurately account for systems’ power consumption, solar panel power generation, GPS based localization limitations, and ground base communication constraints. The simulation will also provide information on the satellite’s attitude with respect to the International Space Station (ISS) from where the real spacecraft will be launched sometime between 2024 and 2025. This investigation is crucial in determining: i) daylight and eclipse times, perturbation effects associated with the deployment of the flexible solar panel, environmental disturbance torques, and feasibility of passive stabilization by magnetic hysteresis rods. The results will also be used to inform the design team in the ETOILES Lab research group on the best mounting locations for GPS receiver antennae.

Faculty Name: Lily Laiho


The red meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of US agriculture.  To prepare the meat required for customers, animal carcasses need to be broken into different types of cuts, and a bandsaw or slicer is essential, regardless of animal species and processing plant sizes.  As a result, it is critically important to improve cutting efficiency, product shape, safety, quality, and waste reduction.

Using an innovative cutting system from a partner company, animal meat can be cut with less protein and bone debris, less bacterial attachment, structural damage, and debris attachment.  As a result, the resulting products will have a superior visual appearance, higher cutting efficacy, no surface scrape, and less denatured/destroyed meat surface for less purge and oxidation. The objective of this research is to assess the effect of the new cutting system on cutting performance, visual appearance, and structural damage during cutting.  
Students working on this project will utilize scanning electron microscopy as well as histological analysis to characterize meat tissue.  In addition to developing microscopy and image analysis skills, students will perform sample preparation of tissue for both techniques.  Successful completion of this project will provide the company with scientific data about the innovative cutting system.

Faculty Names: PI: Siyuan Xing; Co- PI: Charlie Refvem


The Cal Poly Legged Robot Group has been developing legged robots that can perform agile locomotion with high energy efficiency. Over the past two years, the team has prototyped a single-legged robot that can achieve stable vertical hopping. This project will continue our efforts and deploy the legged robot on our recently developed testing platform for sagittal plane motion. 

 The objectives of this project are  

  1. to model and simulate the sagittal plane motion of the robot in MATLAB’s Simscape environment, 
  2. to develop a controller to stabilize the locomotion of the robot,  
  3. to optimize the controller through real-time simulation and testing powered by a Speedgoat real-time machine.  

Faculty Name: Kristen O’Halloran Cardinal


The goal of my research lab is to grow tissue engineered “blood vessel mimics” to use as early-stage living testing systems to evaluate vascular devices such as stents and flow diverters.  These tissue engineered vessels consist of a tubular polymer scaffold lined with human endothelial cells, and cultivated in a bioreactor system.  My lab has always used a customized, student-built electrospinning system to create the polymer scaffolds.  However, we recently acquired a new, commercially-available benchtop electrospinning system, called the “Spinbox”, with several enhanced capabilities that should allow scaffolds to be fabricated in new geometries and with new parameters. The goal of this SURP project is to fabricate and characterize novel scaffolds using the Spinbox.  The SURP student will perform electrospinning, SEM imaging, image analysis, and more.

Faculty Names: PI: Mohsen Kivy; Co-PI: Xuan Wang


In this project, we will investigate the laser parameters (scan strategy) of selective laser melting (SLM) for thin-walled structures. SLM is one of the most promising metal additive manufacturing (metal 3D printing) state-of-the-art techniques. However, building thin-walls using SLM is known to be difficult, since the walls will most likely warp and/or they may contain holes from high heat in a singular region. For this project, the samples will be made on Cal Poly’s SLM 125 using 316L stainless steel powder, and a Snoop leakage test setup including plastic hose, and argon gas will be developed. The built metal samples by the SLM 125, with different fill contours and hatching patterns, will be subjected to leakage test. The parameters will be analyzed to determine the key factors that influence leakage of thin wall structures. This research project is defined after discussion with our collaborators at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). So, not only students will have opportunity to work with top experts during this project; this project will also be corner stone for next year’s renewal of research contract with LLNL. Moreover, this is an interdisciplinary collaboration between MATE and IME faculty. The students will gain experience in both fields.

Faculty Name: Jacques Belanger


We have developed a model of the Gold Tree solar field with the ultimate goal of optimizing the field energy generation. The model is at this point very accurate, but we have recently discovered some temperature discrepancies between the temperature predicted by the energy generation models and the actual temperature measured in the field. The first task of the students chosen for the project this summer will be to investigate those temperature discrepancies. The students will perform a number of field measurements and compare temperatures measurements with the different temperature models used in our model and by the industry in general. The goal will be to identify one model that could accurately represent the temperature of the panels in the field and that could be easily integrated into our energy generation model. Another task assigned to the students this summer will be to increase the number of sections of the solar field that are accurately mapped in our 3-D model of the field. At this time only two of the twelve sections of the field are accurately mapped and consequently they are the only two that can be optimized by our model at this time.

Faculty Name: Mugizi Rwebangira


Providing equitable opportunities for all researchers regardless of their demographic background is an important objective for the state of California. To make progress on this goal we first need to have a clear understanding of the current situation. One of the obstacles to doing so is the lack of demographic information in citation databases such as PubMed, Mathscinet and Scopus. The goal of this research project is to develop machine learning algorithms for inferring the demographic characteristics of authors using only publicly available information.  We will collect information from faculty webpages and use face recognition algorithms to infer race and gender. In addition, we will use name recognition software such as Namsor to infer demographics from the names. We will then develop algorithms for combining these various sources of information to get the most accurate inferences. Students will learn cutting-edge machine learning algorithms and develop practical skills in using popular web-scraping software like Beautiful Soup. They will gain an understanding of the power and limitations of current machine learning software.