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SURF Research Opportunities for 2016

Application deadline is February 12, 2016.

Applied Chemicals and Materials Division


647-1 Nanomaterials for Battery-Inspired Water Desalination

Matthias Young, 303-497-4450, matthias.young[at]boulder.nist.gov

The shortage of clean water is a mounting concern throughout the world. Capacitive deionization (CDI) is an emerging technology which promises to improve the energy efficiency of water desalination using electrochemistry and provide clean water at a lower cost. In this research we aim to identify and understand new nanomaterial electrodes which improve the performance of CDI. The student will have the opportunity to learn techniques for nanoparticle synthesis, nanomaterials characterization, and electrochemical evaluation. Contact the advisor for more information.


647-2 Engineering Nanoparticles for Nanomedicine

Kavita Jeerage, 303-497-4968, jeerage[at]boulder.nist.gov

Next-generation nanomedicine will consist of nanoparticle-based therapies (e.g., drug or gene therapy) that penetrate targeted cell populations. We have developed new methods for locating and tracking gold nanoparticles in cells by correlating optical and electron microscopies. The student involved in this project will learn to functionalize nanoparticles and will investigate how these functionalized particles interact with novel cell models.


647-3 Alternative Energy: Storage of Hydrogen-Bearing Gases

Peter Bradley, 303-497-3465, pbradley[at]boulder.nist.gov

Alternative energy will take many forms in the U.S. in the future. Hydrogen will be a part of the overall alternative energy strategy, and hydrogen and hydrogen-bearing gases will increasingly be used as both fuels and an energy carriers. Hydrogen makes steel brittle, so we are measuring the extent of that embrittlement in a range of steels and determining why it occurs. If you don't mind danger and destruction, come and break steels in our high-pressure hydrogen chamber.


647-4 Alternative Energy: Hydrogen Transport

Elizabeth Drexler, 303-497-5350, drexler[at]boulder.nist.gov

Could hydrogen reduce our use of fossil fuels? Make the world safer? Use of hydrogen as an energy source relies on making hydrogen as economical as possible. Pipelines are the most economical way to transport hydrogen, but hydrogen is also known to cause embrittlement. Join our team as we study the effect of fatigue and fracture on pipeline steels in a gaseous hydrogen environment.


647-5 Structure-Property Relationships in Materials with Microstructural Gradients

Jeffery Sowards, 303-497-7960, sowards[at]boulder.nist.gov

Materials joining and additive manufacturing processes can result in non-uniform microstructural changes in metallic alloys. These local variations in structure correspond to steep material property gradients when used in the intended service application, whether it's a steel automobile chassis or a titanium hip implant. Microstructures in laser welds and additive manufactured parts will be studied using analytical electron microscopy and correlated to spatially varying weld properties using techniques such as two-dimensional hardness mapping, digital image correlation, and neutron diffraction. These structure-property correlations will be compared to, e.g., laser processing parameters to better understand how the manufacturing process relates to the final product.


Public Safety Communications Research Division


671-1 Mission-Critical Public Safety Broadband Communications

Tracy McElvaney, 303-497-5925, tam1[at]boulder.nist.gov

The public safety community has been using land mobile radio technology as a mission-critical capability for more than 30 years. As public safety increases use of broadband technologies for voice and data, standards and technology need to evolve to support mission-critical broadband communication. Students on this project will work along-side NIST engineers and aid in identifying gaps and solutions necessary to accelerate mission-critical broadband communications for public safety.


671-2 Next Generation Location-Based Services

Tracy McElvaney, 303-497-5925, tam1[at]boulder.nist.gov

Situational awareness during an incident is a crucial capability for first-responders and requires accurate and timely location information. A student on this project will work with NIST engineers and become an expert on state-of-the-art position and location technology. He or she will identify technology solutions necessary to accelerate the use of broadband networks to enhance situational awareness capabilities for first-responders.


RF Technology Division


672-1 MATLAB Simulations of Electromagnetic and Thermal System Models

David Walker, 303-497-5490, dwalker[at]boulder.nist.gov

The student will aid in various MATLAB programming tasks, some of which are partially completed. He or she should be fairly familiar with MATLAB, relatively self-sufficient, and able to navigate Mathworks forums and learn independently. Some of the programming tasks are small components of larger electromagnetic models. There may also be some work involving modifying thermal models and data processing tasks. Potential projects include curve-fitting of a set of data from antenna pattern measurements and simulation, numerical integrals over multiple dimensions, and linear algebra to solve large matrices. The student should have a basic understanding of MATLAB functional usage; this is likely more important than an in-depth knowledge of electromagnetic or microwave theory. The applications are in support of NIST's Climate Science Initiative; specifically, environmental remote-sensing instrumentation found on NASA and NOAA weather and climate-science satellites.


672-2 Electromagnetic Response of Nanoparticles in Microfluidic Channels

Nate Orloff, 303-497-4938, orloff[at]boulder.nist.gov

Personalized medicine and access to healthcare are driving forces in the global economy. We have developed a chip-based electromagnetic measurement technique that operates from 100 Hz to 100 GHz, which opens new research opportunities at the interface between bioengineering and physics. The student will perform high frequency measurements, learn microfluidic fabrication, measure novel materials (proteins, biomolecules, and nanoparticles), and gain hands-on experience with computer programing.


672-3 Novel On-Chip Measurement for Telecommunications

Christian J. Long, 303-497-6559, christian.long[at]nist.gov

Demand for mobile data, the implementation of new wireless devices, and an explosion of users has stressed our telecommunications infrastructure to its limits. In an effort to address the problem of spectrum crunch, there is a need for new materials and measurements to disrupt convention. The student will develop new electromagnetic characterization techniques, use various imaging tools, measure novel adaptive materials, and gain hands-on experience with finite-element simulations.


672-4 Testing Wireless Devices in Reverberation Chambers

Kate Remley, 303-497-3652, kate.remley[at]nist.gov

The student will assist NIST researchers in developing new test methods for wireless devices such as cell phones and "machine-to-machine" devices such as parking meters and automated teller machines (ATMs). The tests will be carried out in highly reflective reverberation chambers. Data from measurements will be used to refine test procedures used by the cell-phone industry.


672-5 Channel Measurements at 28 GHz and 83 GHz

Kate Remley, 303-497-3652, kate.remley[at]nist.gov

The student will assist NIST researchers in conducting measurements of wireless propagation channels in several interesting environments, including public buildings, offices, and outdoor urban environments such as Denver, Colorado. The data from these measurements will be collected with NIST's new robotic system and will be used to develop standards for the next generation of wireless cellular communication systems.


672-6 Measurements for Spectrum Sharing and Wireless Coexistence

Paul Hale, 303-497-5367, hale[at]boulder.nist.gov

Various measurements are required to quantify the uncertainty in spectrum-sharing and radio-frequency-coexistence experiments. We are particularly interested in problems related to the 3.5 GHz Citizens Band shared between U.S. Navy radar and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless communications. The student will participate by writing data acquisition software and acquiring and analyzing data. One possible output would be the receiver operating characteristic of a channel occupancy detector.


672-7 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) Wireless Technology as a Measurement Tool

Dan Kuester, 303-497-4420, dkuester[at]nist.gov

The wireless industry and federal regulators are pushing toward more spectrum sharing, where different kinds of users and technologies share the same frequency allocation. This could ultimately increase the wireless data capacity available to users, but it cannot proceed without fundamental advances in measurement science geared toward wireless coexistence. We are working to address this challenge by developing the ability to measure wireless signaling from multiple transmitters simultaneously. The student will get hands-on laboratory experience in our radio-frequency (RF) laboratory and learn about distributed MIMO beamforming while helping us explore this capability further. The candidate is most likely be majoring in electrical engineering, computer science or engineering, or physics, with experience in Python programming (LabView would be a plus).


672-8 High-Speed Signal Measurements for Next-Generation Communications

Tasshi Dennis, 303-497-3507, tasshi[at]nist.gov

Next-generation optical and electrical communications will require accurate characterization of complex modulated signals in the gigahertz range and beyond. This project will use an electro-optic sampling technique in equivalent time to characterize an electrical comb generator in the time domain. This topic involves working with pulsed lasers, optics, high-speed electronics, phase-locked loops, data acquisition, and signal analysis.


Applied Physics Division


686-1 Instrumentation for Bio-Imaging and Metrology

John Moreland, 303-497-3641, moreland[at]boulder.nist.gov

This project develops new instrumentation for medical imaging and biomedical research. Some examples include novel probe microscopes, ultra-sensitive magnetometers for bio-assays, high-resolution magnetic resonance spectrometer probes for developing new kinds of contrast agents, new technology for magnetic resonance imaging, and biological applications of magnetic particles in microfluidics and imaging.


686-2 Microcontroller-Based Positioning System for Precision Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Karl Stupic, 303-497-4564, karl.stupic[at]boulder.nist.gov

This project entails developing a high-magnetic-field-compatible positioning system for the NIST magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The NIST MRI is a precision measurement tool, and sample position within the magnetic field is a critical parameter to control. The applicant will be expected to design and develop the positioning system based on microcontrollers (Arduino/BeagleBone) and is expected to have experience in computer programming and interfacing with hardware. The applicant will learn to use the NIST MRI to verify the results of the positioning system.


686-3 Micro-Engineered Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast Agents and Sensors

Gary Zabow, 303-497-4657, zabow[at]boulder.nist.gov

Microfabricated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents are a new class of imaging and sensing agents based on magnetic micro- and nano-structures that add color imaging and new sensing capabilities to nuclear magnetic resonance and MRI. The student will experiment with new microfabrication techniques and materials aimed at adding functionality to such structures. He or she will gain experience in microfabrication, MRI, and possibly magnetic simulation. This project would ideally suit a student interested in biology but with a strong background in chemistry and/or physics.


686-4 Standards for Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Michael Boss, 303-497-7854, michael.boss[at]boulder.nist.gov

Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) can identify cancerous lesions, allowing for improved diagnosis and treatment monitoring. However, significant variation in DW-MRI exists across MRI scanner vendors, sites, hardware, and software versions. The student will analyze MRI data collected as part of a multi-site study of the reproducibility of DW-MRI using a NIST reference object; optimization of analysis workflow is a major goal of this opportunity. He or she will also alter other physical properties of the diffusion media to make more biomimetic materials.


686-5 In-Situ Magnetic Resonance Thermometry

Michael Boss, 303-497-7854, michael.boss[at]boulder.nist.gov

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can measure many physical parameters. These parameters are often temperature dependent, which impedes efforts to provide reference materials with known ground-truth values, since temperature varies across MRI scanners. However, temperature itself can be measured with MRI. The student will identify materials for use as an in-situ magnetic resonance thermometer in reference objects. Candidate materials will be characterized using a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer and an MRI scanner. He or she will also pptimize NMR analysis code and image analysis routines.


Quantum Electromagnetics Division


687-1 Ferromagnetic Thin Films for Spintronic Devices

Eric Evarts, Bill Rippard, Matt Pufall, and Mike Schneider, 303-497-4835, eric.evarts[at]nist.gov

A thin film of a material can have properties completely different from its bulk properties. Even sub-nanometer changes in thickness can cause substantial changes in behavior, as can an interface with another material. The student will use sputter deposition to fabricate thin films of magnetic materials with interfacial anisotropy, which are used in new devices that use the spin-orbit interaction to generate pure spin currents. These films will be characterized at temperatures ranging from room temperature down to 4 K with superconducting-quantum-interference-device (SQUID) magnetometry, vector-network-analyzer ferromagnetic resonance (VNA-FMR) spectroscopy, and magneto-optical Kerr effect.


687-2 Graphene Beyond the Microscale

Mark Keller, 303-497-5430, mark.keller[at]boulder.nist.gov

The excitement generated by graphene's exceptional properties led to the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. We are pursuing graphene synthesis over millimeter length scales with the performance and uniformity required for practical electronic, mechanical, and chemical devices. A student will learn chemical vapor deposition techniques, use various characterization tools (scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy), measure graphene transistors, and gain hands-on experience with the strongest known material.


Time and Frequency Division


688-1 Optical Atomic Clocks

Chris Oates, 303-497-7654, chris.oates[at]boulder.nist.gov

The student will aid in the development of next-generation optical atomic clocks. Many techniques of atomic physics will be introduced, including laser cooling, magneto-optical trapping, optical lattices, laser stabilization, and ultra-high resolution spectroscopy. The student will gain experience with different laser systems, including diode lasers, green and yellow light sources based on nonlinear conversion of infrared fiber lasers, and red Ti:sapphire lasers.


688-2 Development of Compact Atomic Clocks Based on Laser-Cooled Atoms

Elizabeth Donley, 303-497-5173, edonley[at]boulder.nist.gov

Portable, high-performance atomic clocks in battery-operable packages could bring about dramatic new timing applications in navigation and communications systems. Toward this goal, we are developing compact atomic clocks based on coherent population trapping. A student working on this project will practice a broad range of techniques needed for the long-term development of compact atomic clocks, including lasers and optics, measurement methods, electronics, atomic theory, and vacuum systems.


688-3 Quantum Information Processing with Ion Arrays in Penning Ion Traps

John Bollinger and Justin Bohnet, 303-497-5861, john.bollinger[at]nist.gov

The high level of control developed for atomic systems enables the implementation and study of otherwise unsolvable many-body interactions. In this project the student will assist with experimental efforts to engineer quantum magnetic interactions between a few hundred ions that form a crystal in a Penning trap. Depending on the project, the student will gain experience with lasers and optics, ultrahigh vacuum techniques, or general instrumentation and experimental control.


688-4 NIST-on-a-Chip: Putting SI Units on a Chip using Atomic Vapor Cells

John Kitching, 303-497-4083, kitching[at]boulder.nist.gov

This project is focused on miniaturizing SI-traceable standards, such as time references and wavelength references, using microfabricated alkali vapor cells. The student will be part of a growing team of scientists and engineers working in this area and will learn how to stabilize diode lasers to atomic transitions and measure the performance of compact instruments.


688-5 High Precision Time Distribution

Joshua Savory and Stefania Romisch, 303-497-6023, joshua.savory[at]boulder.nist.gov

This project will offer opportunities to develop technology for improved distribution and monitoring of timing signals on the NIST campus. This work will be done in the context of suppling high fidelity and accurate timing signals for upcoming experiments by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).The student may gain experience with atomic standards, microcontroller technology, lasers and optics, analog and digital electronics, and general scientific instrumentation.


688-6 Laser Frequency Combs for Finding Exoplanets

Scott Diddams, 303-497-7459, sdiddams[at]boulder.nist.gov

A powerful technique for finding exoplanets around distant stars is to measure periodic changes in the stellar spectrum due to an orbiting planet. A student working on this opportunity will develop a laser frequency comb for precision astronomical spectroscopy that will ultimately enable the measurement of wavelength shifts of only 0.0000005 nanometers. This topic involves experimental research in laser physics, nonlinear fiber optics, ultrafast optics, and astronomical instrumentation.


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SURF student in lab