Research Projects

Participants will advance fundamental research in societally-important materials and technologies relevant to advanced manufacturing, transportation, water filtration, energy storage, catalysis and drug delivery.

Research Focus

Innovations in materials development and refinement have played a crucial role in advancing most technologies of importance to humanity. These include major structures, transportation, information processing, mobile communication, energy generation and aspects of health technology and science. The materials in these applications can be very different – consider the profound differences between high-temperature ceramics and polymeric soft matter.

Materials science and engineering provides a unifying paradigm that forms the technical focus of the REU: the process-structure-properties relationship. The University of Virginia Advanced Materials Synthesis REU Site will feature this classic paradigm as the thematic core of its featured research projects. The materials under investigation are important to the national interest, including 2D materials, metal organic frameworks, polymers/soft matter, ferromagnets, structural metals and high entropy alloys. The synthetic techniques span additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, colloidal chemistry, oxidation, electrochemistry, and solid-state phase transformations.

We have selected twelve state-of the art, federally funded research projects involving advanced materials synthesis of metals and polymers/soft matter Collectively, these projects represent technical diversity within the field of materials science and engineering, where the processing-structure-properties paradigm shines through the faculty mentor's fundamental research methodology. Each offers experience in some aspect of materials synthesis. Some projects are embedded in collaborative grants and centers, so that participants benefit from exposure to the wide range of research endeavors and interacting with a broader base of faculty.

Projects at a Glance

Additive Manufacturing and Printing is a disruptive technology that introduces design flexibility in complex builds, rapid-prototyping, and on-demand manufacturing. This is a rapidly growing research priority at UVA, with three recent faculty hires, each of whom are serving as faculty mentors to REU participants. 

Nanomaterial Synthesis has featured prominently at UVA in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical Engineering. The selected projects investigate the formation, structure and new functionalities of patchy nanoparticles, 2D materials, and metal organic frameworks. 

Materials Development and Discovery builds on expertise at UVA in solid-state phase transformations, oxidation, and polymeric synthesis. The projects feature novel nanocomposite ferromagnets, high entropy alloys for oxidation resistance at high temperatures, and polymer membranes for water filtration.

Electrochemical Processes projects explore flow batteries, alternative approaches to synthesis of 2D materials, and corrosion of additively manufactured materials. UVA is home to the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering (CESE), one of the premier electrochemistry/corrosion centers in the country.

Faculty Advisors

Twelve faculty members from the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Chemical Engineering serve as advisors to the participants. They are editors of leading journals; winners of prestigious research, teaching and mentorship awards; professional society fellows and officers; national conference program chairs; publishers of highly-cited papers in numerous high-impact journals; and leaders in STEM outreach to groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the field.

What to Expect

Students will begin their 10-week program working alongside a graduate student mentor. In the second half of the session, each student will exercise ownership of a specific track within the assigned research project. Throughout, students are invited and expected to participate in group meetings, lunches and outings, to experience being part of a coherent team. In the final week of the program, participants will present their research results at an REU symposium.

Additive Manufacturing and Printing

Ji Ma

Assistant Professor

Ji Ma's research explores using additive manufacturing to create materials with novel properties and incorporating these materials in designed geometry to produce functionally unique parts, focusing on the additive manufacturing of metallic alloys and control of solidification, porosity, residual stress, and micro-to-nano-scale microstructure.

Tao Sun

Adjunct Associate Professor, Materials Science & Engineering

Supervised by Prof. Vinayak Dravid and Dr. Jin Wang, my doctoral research at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory was focused on fabrication and characterization of nanostructured oxides.

Liheng Cai

Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering (by courtesy)

My lab’s research lies at the interface of soft (bio)materials and biology. We seek to understand and control the interactions between soft (bio)materials and living systems to solve challenges in sustainability and health. We do this using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches.

Nanomaterials Synthesis

David L. Green

Associate Professor

Our group focuses on the synthesis of well-defined nanoparticles, their dispersion into polymer solutions and melts, and their suspension rheology. With our fundamental studies, we seek to optimize processing to achieve a desirable microstructure in industrial suspensions, and to set a foundation for developing constitutive rheological models.

Gaurav Giri

Assistant Professor

Prof. Giri graduated from Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, working on the crystallization control of organic semiconductors for flexible electronic applications. His postdoctoral work focused on the use of microfluidics and continuous flow processing for pharmaceutical industry.

Materials Development and Discovery

Jerrold A. Floro

Associate Chair for Academics Professor

Jerrold Floro's research is to investigate and exploit nanoscale self-assembly and pattern formation in inorganic materials, to enhance properties and develop material functionality. Techniques include vapor phase thin film growth, laser processing, melting and rapid solidification, powder processing, and solid-state phase transformations.

Elizabeth J. Opila

Department Chair, Rolls Royce Commonwealth Professor of Engineering Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Director, Rolls Royce University Technology Center on Advanced Material Systems

Our research focuses on materials for use in extreme environments and can be applied to materials for use in aircraft engines, rocket engines, energy conversion technologies, and thermal protection systems.

Geoffrey M. Geise

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering (by courtesy) ChE Undergraduate Program Director

Geoffrey M. Geise, associate professor at the University of Virginia, earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and an M.S.E. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. At UVA, his research focuses on studying the fundamentals of chemically- and electrochemically-driven small molecule transport.

Electrochemical Processes

Gary Koenig

Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering Graduate Program Director

We are interested in the tailored synthesis of new materials at multiple length scales. At the molecular scale, the physical properties of materials are largely dependent on the stoichiometry and stable structures that can be formed. 

Giovanni Zangari's research interests focus on the fundamental understanding of electrochemical deposition phenomena and how atomistic processes determine microstructure and properties of materials.