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2018 Potential Projects

Below is a list of undergraduate research projects for summer 2018 suggested by faculty members, post docs and graduate students within the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. For example of last year's projects, please check out the 2017 project archive page. Projects are distinguished on the basis of their scope, duration, and location as appropriate for students applying to either the Stanford Earth Summer Undergraduate Research (SESUR) program or the Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) program.

SESUR applicants

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved in one of these projects, you should contact the faculty member directly.  This list is not comprehensive however, and many other projects are possible.  Please visit this page often for project updates.  Also, feel free to explore all our faculty research areas and contact anyone whose research interests you.  For your reference, you can also view the Project Archive for an overview of previous year's submitted projects.

SURGE applicants

If you are interested in getting involved in one of these projects, please indicate so on your application.  This list is not comprehensive however, and many other projects are possible.  Feel free to browse the list of faculty research interests and indicate, on your application, anyone whose research interests you.


Potential Projects (new projects at the top)

Biogeochemical Characterization in Soils of a Uranium-Contaminated Floodplain
Mentors: Dr. John Bargar, Dr. Bradley Tolar, Dr. Kristin Boye, and Callum Bobb

Microorganisms play key roles in mediating biogeochemical cycles, especially in soil environments.  Along with abiotic processes (such as chemical oxidation reactions), biotic processes mediate the availability of metals, nutrients, and other important chemicals.  Our project examines how different moisture and sediment conditions regulate biogeochemical processes in response to changes in moisture content, temperature, and oxygen availability. Experimental data will be used to develop predictive models for understanding water quality in impacted aquifers.  Our study focuses on a uranium-contaminated floodplain near a former uranium ore processing plant in Riverton, WY, where samples have been collected over multiple seasons under varying moisture and oxygen concentrations. Our goal is to determine which microorganisms are present, what are their functional roles (what reactions are they driving), and how water quality is impacted by these changes.  

The student will conduct microbial and chemical analysis of samples involving molecular biology (ex: DNA and RNA extraction, PCR, sequencing) and geochemistry approaches (ex: measurement of dissolved and solid-phase metals and carbon).  Prior laboratory experience is not necessary;  background knowledge in (micro)biology, (geo)chemistry, or Earth sciences is desirable.

Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Oil Production
Mentors: Prof Adam Brandt and Mohammad S. Masnadi

Record-breaking temperatures have induced governments to implement targets for reducing future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Use of oil products contributes ~35% of global GHG emissions, and the oil industry itself consumes ~4% of global primary energy. Because oil resources are becoming increasingly heterogeneous, requiring different extraction and processing methods, GHG studies should evaluate oil sources using detailed project-specific data. Unfortunately, prior oil-sector GHG analysis has largely neglected the fact that the energy intensity of producing oil can change significantly over the life of a particular oil project. Here we propose to perform a field-level time-series GHG and energetic analysis of global oilfields. The data available in the public domain from different countries (e.g. Norway, UK, Nigeria, Denmark, etc.) will be utilized for this analysis. Using probabilistic simulation, we will derive a relationship for estimating GHG increases over time, and compare it with previous models.

Using Satellite Data to Examine Tropical Peatland Hydrology
Mentors: Prof. Alexandra Konings and Nathan Dadap

Over the past 25 years, 71% of peat forests in Southeast Asia have been logged, drained, and converted to oil palm and pulp wood plantations. This has triggered widespread declines in the water table, which controls peat accumulation and soil carbon emissions. Once one of the world’s major carbon sinks, regional peatlands now emit an estimated 300 Mt CO2 per year, a rate equivalent to the 2013 fossil fuel emissions of India and Japan. The lowered water tables have also increased the severity and frequency of wildfires enormously, with the resulting smoke causing dramatic negative health effects for 70 million people across densely populated Southeast Asia.

Improved understanding of hydrologic conditions in this region would help to understand, monitor, and manage these changes. Dense vegetation in the region means that on the ground measurements are extremely sparse and difficult, and that many satellite observations aren’t able to sense the underlying peat in many locations. New satellite sensors making measurements at microwave frequencies are specifically sensitive to soil moisture and better able to penetrate vegetation.

In this project, we seek an enthusiastic student who will work closely with Nathan Dadap and Alexandra Konings to test whether these new satellite measurements can be used to detect where drainage has occurred and is affecting the surrounding peat. These measurements will be compared against ground measurements and previous coarse-resolution maps. While a background in earth sciences is not required, the student should have some prior experience with scientific programming, preferably with Python or Javascript. 

Understanding Effects of Water Stress on Trees at Stanford Farm
Mentors: Prof. Alexandra Konings, Nathan Dadap, and Patrick Archie

The amount of water stress experienced by a tree depends on both how much water it can take up from the soil, and how much water is lost from the leaves. However, the ability of the plant to keep turgor pressure from water in leaves also influences its ability to take up carbon dioxide necessary for photosynthesis. Thus, a variety of tree characteristics influence their ability to balance water stress and carbon uptake, including root growth, stomatal closure, and development of dense, embolism-resistant wood, and the shedding of leaves during the dry season. Furthermore, a phenomenon known as ‘hydraulic redistribution’ has been observed in a variety of plants in dry ecosystems, but is still poorly understood. Hydraulic redistribution occurs because water flows from high (equivalent) pressure regions that are very moist to low pressure regions that are drier at all times – including through roots. If there are gradients of water within the soil, such as soil being drier near the surface than further in the root-zone, plants occasionally take up water in one part of the soil, and then re-release it through root systems elsewhere in a drier region of the soil. This phenomenon has been repeatedly observed but is still poorly understood. The goal of this project is to determine how tree phenological strategies and hydraulic redistribution occurrence interact.

We seek a motivated student interested in both field work and data analysis. Advised by Nathan Dadap, Patrick Archie, and Alexandra Konings, the student will build and install a set of soil moisture sensors that can be used to study hydraulic redistribution (based on a new type of sensor recently developed by two Stanford undergraduates) near several tree species on the Stanford Farm with different rooting, phenological, and plant hydraulic traits. Several dendrometer bands – which measure stem water potential – will also be installed. The student’s primary role will be analyzing the different datasets to determine how hydraulic redistribution likelihood and water stress change between tree species. No prior experience is required, though a desire to improve data analysis skills will be helpful.

Modeling the Temperature Dynamics of a Washcoated Gasoline Particulate Filter used for vehicle emission reduction
Mentors: Dr. Simona Onori and Dr. Harikesh Arunachalam, ERE

Recent years have witnessed increasingly stringent legislations being imposed on the fuel economy and exhaust emissions of ground vehicles to address global warming concerns. A notable advancement in engine technology to meet current and future regulation targets is the transition from port fuel injection (PFI) to gasoline direct injection (GDI) systems. GDI systems offer an enhanced fuel economy, increased power output, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to PFI systems. However, it under certain operating modes, GDI engines suffer from poor fuel-air mixing inside the combustion chamber. As a result, hazardous soot particulate matters (PM) are released into the atmosphere. As the number of vehicles using GDI engines increase, the reduction of PM emissions presents an increasingly significant technological and societal concern due to the health hazards they pose among humans and the environmental air quality.

Among different strategies to mitigate PM emissions, automotive manufacturers have identified gasoline particulate filters (GPFs) as the most promising and practically adoptable emission control devices in the exhaust system. As the exhaust gas enters the GPF, soot particulates are trapped within its channels. Over time, this accumulation of soot increases the back pressure on the engine. To minimize this negative performance impact, the soot trapped in the GPF is periodically cleaned. This is accomplished via regeneration, i.e. oxidation of soot at elevated temperatures and oxygen concentration. Recent advancements in GPF technology have led to the development of washcoated GPFs, in which a catalytic washcoat is applied across the channels. In comparison with uncoated GPFs, washcoated GPFs an enhanced soot oxidation ability at relatively lower temperatures. Research and development efforts until now have focused only on uncoated GPFs. Accurate, computationally efficient models must be developed for washcoated filters for on-board vehicle applications. This will enable future vehicles to benefit from the use of GDI engines without suffering from increased soot emissions.

The aim of this project is to capture the thermal and soot oxidation dynamics in a washcoated GPF during regeneration. We seek a highly motivated and meticulous student for this task. A physicsbased mathematical model that is used to predict the internal GPF dynamics will be provided to the student. The student will initially be involved in the understanding and analyzing data from experiments conducted using a washcoated GPF in a vehicle operating a GDI engine. Model parameter identification and model validation studies using different experimental data sets to develop an accurate GPF control-oriented model will be conducted. Previous experience in Matlab and Simulink is expected. The successful outcome of this project will help in the control and optimization of GPF performance, and develop strategies to enhance the longevity of GPFs through health monitoring and prognosis. This project is an excellent opportunity for the student to publish their research findings in conference proceedings, and showcase them in the form of a poster presentation. Finally, the student will have the opportunity to present his/her findings to an automotive industry partner.

Predicting rooting response to climate and environmental factors using a global analysis of rooting depths and volumes
Advisors: Professor Rob Jackson and Shersingh Tumber-Davila

Root systems have the ability to affect many different processes, and can alter the environment greatly. They also respond differently to certain climatic and environmental conditions. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand the importance of rooting systems to different processes such as soil characteristics, hydrology, climate, and carbon sequestration. This summer project will seek to give insight to and answer the following questions:  1). Do above-ground plant extents and functional traits serve as predictors for below-ground rooting extents? 2). Do large-scale climatic indices of water availability serve as predictors for relative rooting extents? 3). At the individual plant scale, which local and sub-climate factors most influence rooting extents?

Answering these questions will help us better understand the processes determining the coarse root distributions of plants globally. In particular, these analyses will examine the climatic and environmental mechanisms controlling below-ground investment. Understanding these mechanisms is necessary for predicting how this system may change in the future, the potential impacts to the global carbon cycle, the local hydrologic cycle, and may inform Earth Systems Models (ESM) on how plants invest their carbon below-ground.

The student will have the opportunity to test the relationship between root canopies, and the above-ground environment of an individual plant. This will include the analysis of a global database of individual plant root systems. The primary task of this project is to measure below-ground root system volumes and other root system measurements, as well as above-ground plant sizes by digitizing detailed plant profile drawings using the ImageJ software. Additional fieldwork to local California sites may be included as part of the project, measuring root systems directly. The student must have an interest in forest ecology, and a willingness to learn different field measurement, and analysis techniques. 

What is the impact of climate change on high elevation soils and ecosystems?
Mentors: Prof. Kate Maher and Sami Chen

Understanding the dynamics between soil moisture and trace gases (CO2, N2O, O2) is essential for predicting the response of high elevation ecosystems to climate change. Soil moisture influences both above- and below-ground productivity in complex ways, making it a critical determinant of the rate of carbon and nitrogen cycling. There is a key knowledge gap regarding the dynamics between soil water content and the diffusion of trace gases in alpine settings.  This project will evaluate the role of soil moisture in moderating oxygen availability and the effect of oxygen limitation on two key greenhouse gases, CO2 and N2O in the East River Watershed, CO. Products of this research will include (but not be limited to) time resolved depth profiles for soil gas flux, soil moisture, organic carbon and total nitrogen; which will lead to synthesis surrounding how topography influences nutrient dynamics within the East River Watershed. The findings of this research will contribute to our understanding of alpine watershed nutrient dynamics and their sensitivity to climate change. As a summer researcher, you will spend the summer hiking through the Rocky Mountains in Crested Butte, Colorado to collect and analyze soil, water, and gas samples alongside Sami Chen and other members of our research group. The ideal student will have a sense of humor, enjoy staying in a cabin with other students at a remote field station- the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory ( and be comfortable hiking for several miles in rugged terrain.

Investigating the detrital record of the Anthropocene in Central California
Mentors: Prof. Matthew Malkowski and Prof. Marty Grove

Geologists rely on the information stored in sediment and sedimentary rocks to understand the evolution of ancient landscapes (from mountains, to rivers, to ocean basins) and the dynamic forces that change them such as climate, plate tectonics, and the biosphere. Decades of studies have focused on natural sediment source-to-sink systems to understand depositional processes and environments under the assumption that the “Present is the key to the past”. However, in the age of humans (the Anthropocene) the natural signals from processes of rock uplift, erosion, transport, and deposition that govern the composition and distribution of sediment can be significantly altered by anthropogenic forces such as the construction of dams, levees, mining activity, urbanization, etc.

Perhaps nowhere does a human detrital footprint have the potential to be more profound than in Central California. Over the past 200 years, the combined effects of hydraulic gold mining in the Sierran foothills, the construction of large dams in the Klamath and Sierra Nevada mountains, levees along the Sacramento­–San Joaquin Delta, dredging in the San Francisco Bay, and enhanced sea-cliff erosion in response to sea level rise may have significantly altered patterns in sediment supply, sediment geochemistry, and provenance (source-to-sink) relationships. This project seeks to determine if and how the detrital legacy of the Anthropocene is recorded in Holocene-aged sediment in Central California.

The student will prepare, analyze, and interpret geochemical and geochronological data from sand and mud samples collected from a transect along the Sierra Nevada mountains to the deep Pacific Ocean. The student will have the opportunity to simultaneously interpret existing data while acquiring new results. Lab work will consist of heavy mineral separations for zircon extraction as well as grain size separations for geochemical analyses. Samples will be analyzed by X-ray fluorescence and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Interpretation of the data will include identifying trends in the concentrations of major and trace elements in sand and mud, and comparing U-Pb age populations in detrital zircon extracted from sand. Ideally, the student will have at least a basic chemistry background, have taken a course in mineralogy and/or geochemistry, and some lab experience working with geology samples.

Predicting rooting response to climate and environmental factors using a global analysis of rooting depths and volumes
Advisors: Professor Rob Jackson and Shersingh Tumber-Davila

Root systems have the ability to affect many different processes, and can alter the environment greatly. They also respond differently to certain climatic and environmental conditions. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand the importance of rooting systems to different processes such as soil characteristics, hydrology, climate, and carbon sequestration. This summer project will seek to give insight to and answer the following questions:
I.          Do above-ground plant extents and functional traits serve as predictors for below-ground rooting extents?
II.          Do large-scale climatic indices of water availability serve as predictors for relative rooting extents?
III.          At the individual plant scale, which local and sub-climate factors most influence rooting extents?

Answering these questions will help us better understand the processes determining the coarse root distributions of plants globally. In particular, these analyses will examine the climatic and environmental mechanisms controlling below-ground investment. Understanding these mechanisms is necessary for predicting how this system may change in the future, the potential impacts to the global carbon cycle, the local hydrologic cycle, and may inform Earth Systems Models (ESM) on how plants invest their carbon below-ground.

The student will have the opportunity to test the relationship between root canopies, and the above-ground environment of an individual plant. This will include the analysis of a global database of individual plant root systems. The primary task of this project is to measure below-ground root system volumes and other root system measurements, as well as above-ground plant sizes by digitizing detailed plant profile drawings using the ImageJ software. Additional fieldwork to local California sites may be included as part of the project, measuring root systems directly. The student must have an interest in forest ecology, and a willingness to learn different field measurement, and analysis techniques. 

SNAKES! Snake biodiversity across the land-water boundary
Mentors: Prof. Jon Payne and William Gearty

Since their emergence nearly 100 million years ago, snakes have diversified into numerous ecological niches, encompassing various diets, habitats, and other life history characters. The most drastic shift, perhaps, is the invasion of water multiple independent times. Due to the differing physical and chemical properties between aquatic and terrestrial habitats, this could have dramatic impacts on the evolution of diversity and disparity within these aquatic clades. This study will quantitatively assess the impact of aquatic invasions on the evolution of various life history characteristics and extinction risk in a phylogenetic framework. Furthermore, this study will include formulating potential explanations for these impacts using ecological and biological mechanisms.

I look forward to collaborating with an enthusiastic student who will: compile IUCN threat rankings for snake species; search the scientific literature to compile data on body size, range size, and other life history attributes of snakes; conduct phylogenetic analyses of these data, using the statistical software R; and creatively combine modelling and theory to explain patterns. No familiarity with the methods is required, but some paleontology or biology background would be helpful.

Air-sea interaction in high-resolution ocean models
Mentors: Prof. Leif Thomas and Dr. Jacob Wenegrat

Air-sea interaction has important coupled effects on the properties of the upper-ocean and lower atmosphere and the flux of momentum, heat, and gases between the atmosphere and ocean. Much of our understanding of these processes was developed considering relatively large scales (100 km); however, new generations of high-resolution numerical models and satellites require improved understanding of these processes at scales ranging from 100s of meters to 10s of kilometers. In this project we will use high-resolution numerical simulations to explore the effects of air-sea coupling on the evolution of small-scale features (such as eddies and fronts) in the upper ocean--a poorly understood aspect of air-sea coupling with important implications for realistic ocean and climate modeling. The student will have the opportunity to gain experience with running ocean numerical models, scientific programming, and ocean and atmosphere dynamics.  Some prior programming experience (preferably in Python or Matlab) is required and a strong background in math and physics (differential equations, vector calculus, mechanics) is desirable. Prior experience in oceanography or atmospheric sciences is not required.

The future of rice yields in South and Southeast Asia: Impact of climatic and soil stressors
Mentors: Prof. Scott Fendorf and Tianmei Wang

Rice is a staple for more than half of the world’s population. Soils used for rice cultivation within South and Southeast Asia are derived from Himalayan sediments that have naturally occurring arsenic. Moreover, irrigation with arsenic containing groundwater is increasing the soil concentrations of arsenic. Of the major staple crops, rice is uniquely grown under flooded conditions, the outcome of which destabilizes arsenic bound to soil minerals and enhances its availability for plant uptake. Soil-borne arsenic thus combines with increasing temperatures to act as coupled stressors that may impede rice production and jeopardize grain quality.

The goal of this project is to assess to what extent elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 (parameters of climate change) combined with soil arsenic affect rice yields and grain quality within South and Southeast Asia. We will use soils from Bangladesh and greenhouse conditions emulating current and future climates to conduct this research. Our research will also assess how climate change impacts the mobility of arsenic in rice paddies of South Asia, and the forms and concentration of arsenic within specific rice plant tissues, focusing on rice grains. Porewater geochemistry will be coupled to rice plant physiology to determine arsenic plant accessibility, transport through the plant, and accumulation in rice grains.

The task of the prospective student will be to 1) maintain greenhouse pot experiment in fully climate-controlled chambers, 2) collect and analyze porewater samples, and 3) assess changes in rice physiology throughout the growth period. Previous laboratory experience in geochemical or environmental science would be useful.

Ice Shelf Seismology
Mentor: Prof. Eric Dunham 

The disintegration and break-up of several large ice shelves in Antarctica has prompted research efforts to monitor ice shelves using seismometers and GPS instruments on ice. The instruments record a wide range of wave motions, arising from forces exerted by incident ocean waves (storm swell, tsunami, tides, etc.) and seismic waves (e.g., from distant earthquakes). Our research group is developing computational codes for simulating waves in ice shelves and complementing simulations with pencil-and-paper analysis of wave modes (i.e., dispersion relations). There are several opportunities for summer interns to contribute to this overall effort. Students who enjoy mathematical analysis can help with derivations of dispersion relations; prior experience with differential equations, Fourier transforms, and (optionally) complex analysis would be useful. Students with strong programming skills can assist with code development and testing; prior programming experience in MATLAB, C++, or another language is required. In all cases, students must have a strong background in mechanics (but not necessarily continuum mechanics, though the project will involve both fluid and solid mechanics). It is possible that in addition to running forward simulations, students could also work with data from instruments on the Ross Ice Shelf, West Antarctica, to validate the simulations.

Expressing novel molecular fossil proteins from environmental metagenomes in a laboratory model system
Mentor: Prof. Paula Welander

Recent advances in sequencing technology have resulted in a wealth of genomic and metagenomic protein sequence data providing insight into the diversity of life, biogeochemical cycles and metabolic processes. In this study, students will take advantage of this sequencing data to experimentally address fundamental biochemical and evolutionary questions regarding one important class of lipids, the cyclic triterpenoids. These are important lipid molecules that can be preserved in sedimentary rocks over billions of years and are used as biomarkers or molecular fossils for ancient microbes and their metabolisms. Bacteria and eukaryotes produce these lipids through a cyclization reaction carried out by a specific type of cyclase enzymes. Analyses of environmental metagenomes reveal a large number of unique cyclase enzymes whose lipid products are unknown. Students will work with a laboratory model system in which they will express these environmental cyclases in a bacterial host (E. coli) and determine what cyclic triterpenoid they produce. These types of experiments will introduce students to bioinformatics analyses, molecular cloning, microbial culturing, and lipid analysis. In addition, students will be exposed to the interdisciplinary field of geobiology and is an excellent opportunity for STEM students to observe how research in biology can address geologically relevant questions. Prior experience in a microbiology lab would be helpful but not necessary.

Solar-generated steam for reducing oilfield’s carbon emissions
Mentors: Prof. Anthony Kovscek and Dr. Anshul Argawal

In California, heavy oil is produced by injecting steam into the reservoir to heat the oil so it can be pumped to the surface. This process, known as thermal Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), typically uses steam generated using natural gas. By harnessing the sun’s thermal energy to replace some of the combustion of natural gas, oilfield operators can reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the crude oil produced. The objective of this project is to devise creative steam injection strategies for a reservoir section taken from the South Belridge oilfield. We will use a commercial reservoir simulator to investigate several different strategies and their influence on cumulative oil production, energy consumption, and carbon intensity. The project involves building the simulation case using various sources of information and then analyzing the different scenarios. Prior knowledge of using reservoir simulation software would be beneficial, but not required.

Measuring the impacts of sea level rise
Mentors: Prof. Chris Field, Prof. Katharine Mach and Miyuki Hino

Communities around the world are struggling with a new challenge: sea level rise. The impacts are already visible and widespread. In towns from Virginia to Florida, residents move their cars at high tide to avoid saltwater corrosion, and impassable roads often cause missed work or school. Closer to home, damages from erosion and flooding - such as houses lost to erosion in Pacifica and flooding on the Embarcadero during king tides - have driven four Bay Area governments to sue major oil companies. This project aims to measure these impacts from sea level rise, providing critical information to help local governments develop and evaluate potential responses. We are looking for a student interested in exploring how flooding and erosion are already affecting communities in the US. Depending on the student's interest, specific projects may be location-based (e.g., a certain city or town) or sector-based (e.g., impacts on coastal agriculture). The student will compile and triangulate a wide range of social media, industry, geospatial, and meteorological data. Opportunities to visit and conduct interviews in the location of interest will also be explored. A student interested in building or expanding their data processing abilities (in R or another coding language) would be ideal. No prior experience in Earth sciences is required.

Are plants a window to the subsurface? Linking plant chemistry to soil chemistry in the Rocky Mountains
Mentors: Prof. Kate Maher and Dr. Dana Chadwick

Vegetation characteristics are intimately linked to soil characteristics, including soil organic matter composition. Carbon stored in soils is a significant portion of the terrestrial stocks of carbon, and shifts in the overlying vegetation or the form of chemical species that carbon takes can influence its storage and cycling. We are currently conducting research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory ( ; Gothic, CO) aimed at understanding the spatial distributions of vegetation and soil carbon characteristics along hillslopes in the East River watershed, and the implications this has for hillslope-scale carbon cycling processes. The research project employs research techniques across a range of disciplines, including foliar and litter collection and chemical analysis, biomass surveys, high resolution remote sensing, and stable isotope biogeochemistry.

We are looking for an enthusiastic undergraduate to spend the summer conducting field research at the RMBL field station in Colorado. You will have the opportunity to develop a range of projects to contribute to our ongoing research. Potential projects include (1) biomass surveys across topographic gradients and between vegetation types as ground truth for aerial surveys; (2) leaf and litter sampling across the East River watershed to characterize chemical variability between species and across elevations; (3) soil sampling paired with ongoing foliar sampling across the East River watershed to develop linkages between vegetation, topographic position, and parent material; and soil characteristics for improved soil mapping. Projects will all involve a strong field component with ample opportunity to explore laboratory work and learn about remote sensing and GIS datasets depending on your interests. 

Snail habitat suitability and nature-based approaches to schistosomiasis control
Mentors: Prof. Giulio De Leo and Andrea Lund

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection transmitted by freshwater snails across the tropics, with >240 million people infected and >800 million at risk worldwide. Occurrence of schistosomiasis is associated with development of water management infrastructure, particularly dams. While dams support food and energy production and attract people to new agricultural resources, they also constitute an impassible barrier for important migratory species, including snail predators of the genus Macrobrachium spp. Thus, dams have contributed to the loss of important ecosystem services, including biodiversity that naturally regulates agents of disease.

The InVEST models developed by the Natural Capital Project can be used to understand the degree to which land use and management affects species distributions. We synthesize literature on the hydrological, biological and socio-behavioral conditions associated with increased schistosomiasis transmission to extend such conservation decision-making tools to include the impact of landscape change on water-associated disease.

We seek a motivated, detail-oriented student interested in the intersection of health, development and the environment to help us synthesize literature on snail habitat suitability and the impact of anthropogenic landscape change on disease risk. We will use literature-derived data to process satellite imagery and identify opportunities for extending the InVEST habitat quality model in collaboration with scientists at the Natural Capital Project. Experience with remote sensing, GIS, R and/or Python is desirable but not required.

Ice on slippery slopes: understanding the processes that govern rapid ice loss from large ice sheets
Mentors: Prof. Jenny Suckale and Dr. Elisa Mantelli

Continental ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica contain over 60 m of potential sea level rise. Predicting their future evolution is thus essential to understanding the effects of ongoing climate change. One peculiar trait of large ice sheets is that they exhibit a highly dynamic behavior, and these dynamics influence the pattern of mass loss to the ocean. These dynamics are controlled primarily by processes that happen at the bottom of the ice, which are difficult to observe and thus poorly constrained in models used to predict the future evolution of ice sheets. One way to infer basal conditions is to look at the internal layering inside the ice. Layers are natural features of ice sheets formed through surface accumulation, and then advected and deformed by the motion of the ice. As a result, the geometry of the layers carries information about the nature of the flow and basal conditions as well. This research seeks to disentangle the relationship between layer geometry and basal conditions such as basal slipperiness, bed topography, and the geology of the substrate, with the ultimate goal to use the geometry of internal layer in order to constrain basal conditions. We seek an enthusiastic student to help us compare layer data from airborne radar sounding to the output of mathematical models that capture simplified basal condition scenarios. Work will consist of visualizing an existing radar data set, performing qualitative data analysis and organization, running numerical simulations and performing a parameter study. Strong quantitative skills and prior programming experience in MATLAB or a high-level programming language will be essential, and introductory level numerical methods and fluid mechanics is recommended.

Contaminant mobilization related to groundwater pumping
Mentors: Prof. Scott Fendorf and Randall Holmes

The use of groundwater for drinking water and agricultural irrigation is on the rise worldwide. In order to increase the availability of fresh water for these purposes, groundwater supplies are being supplemented in a process known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR) in which treated wastewater is either pumped into shallow ponds and allowed to percolate into the ground, or directly injected into deeper formations. The introduction of treated wastewater for the purpose of storage may lead to the mobilization of contaminants such as arsenic as the result of changes in the electrochemical properties in groundwater and surrounding sediments. In California, the water is required to remain in the ground for specific amounts of time before being pumped out for use. Likewise, the intermittent pumping of groundwater is also of interest, as it may induce similar changes in electrochemical properties that can lead to contaminant mobilization. The goal of this research will be to determine how changes in groundwater properties and pumping schedules can lead to contaminant mobilization from aquifer sediments. This will be accomplished through a variety of lab experiments to include setting up column flow experiments, in which water with carefully adjusted electrochemical properties will flow through sediments that have been packed into small laboratory columns. A variety of fundamental lab techniques will be used. Water samples will be prepared and analyzed for trace elements such as arsenic, chromium, uranium, vanadium, etc., using inductively-coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS). Tasks will include cataloguing and preparing sediment samples, preparing and maintaining sediment columns, analyzing sediments for carbon/nitrogen content on a Carlo Erba Elemental Analyzer, as well as determining trace element content using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and/or mineral content using x-ray diffraction (XRD). This project does not require any previous lab experience.

Developing a Water Sensing Network for the Educational Farm
Mentors: Prof. Scott Fendorf and Patrick Archie

Food production is the largest single use of water. Within California, nearly 80% of water use is for agriculture. Optimizing water use within cropping systems, as well as other irrigated landscapes, is thus one of the most significant means of curbing water needs. We are seeking to continue developing a soil moisture sensing network for the Educational Farm on the Stanford campus. A low-cost moisture sensor must be developed that can be deployed wirelessly; autonomous power and the ability to transmit data wirelessly is thus required.  Tracking soil moisture at multiple depths is a further attribute, and the sensors must be easily and rapidly deployable. Further, software that tracks soil moisture from the deployed sensors must be developed, and it needs to be placed in graphic design that allows ease of use for mobile or computer platforms. Finally, advancing toward an automated irrigation system that is based on soil moisture measurement, crop needs, and atmospheric conditions is our goal.  Students with backgrounds in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science with interest in agricultural systems are sought. 

How water markets actually work: A Colorado case study
Mentors: Prof. Steven Gorelick and Philip Womble

Drought, climate change, and population growth stress western U.S. water supplies. Water markets enable adaptation by facilitating water transfers between users in times of scarcity. Prior appropriation water law, the dominant water law regime in the western U.S. which has been in place since the late 19th century, establishes private property rights in water that are increasingly traded.

Exactly how these water markets have moved water over space and time remains unclear. Policy analysts, hydrologists, economists, and water lawyers frequently envision water market behavior as consisting of sets of economically efficient trades of individual rights between users. In practice, water markets do not follow such ideals. Legal and institutional rules that govern trading often yield substantial non-water costs for trades – often in the form of legal and engineering fees of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and years of legal approval processes. As such, economies of scale in these costs may lead water rights buyers to exhaust one source before buying elsewhere. Legal rules also include strict restrictions that trades must not reduce water available to other water rights, which often yields trades with complex sets of water exchanges to remain in compliance. Similar legal rules require groundwater users to offset surface water impacts. Finally, hydrology or infrastructure does not always connect potential buyers and sellers, which influences trading behavior. Each of these factors, common throughout states in the western U.S., may lead to meaningful geographic and temporal trends in water trading that diverge from idealized markets.

We seek a motivated student to perform a network analysis of water trading over the last ~100 years in the State of Colorado’s water markets. The student will develop a database for the network analysis by cataloguing empirical trading data maintained by the State of Colorado. The student will then perform the network analysis to describe how water rights trading occurs in practice, and how such trading diverges from idealized behavior. Such analysis can help researchers and practitioners to develop empirically grounded policies and management strategies.

No prior research experience is necessary. Excitement and willingness to learn about environmental and natural resources law and policy is important. Basic knowledge of statistics and experience with scientific programming would be helpful. 

The Locations and Frequencies of Different Wildfire Management Practices in California
Mentors: Prof. Chris Field, Prof. Katharine Mach, and Rebecca Miller

California experiences an average of 8,000 wildfires which burn 600,000 acres per year. 2017 has been a particularly bad year for wildfires in California, making adequate wildfire management all the more critical. Prescribed fires and timber thinning are the most common techniques used to manage wildfires. Wildfire management practices in California vary by landowner; for example, the Federal government conducted 98.5% of the total prescribed burns that occurred in California between 2002 and 2016. In order to understand how different types of landowners pursue wildfire management policies, it is important to determine where and when wildfire management does occur and how that wildfire management influences the likelihood of future wildfires.

In this summer research project, we propose using time-series visualizations in GIS to determine how differences in local terrain, slope, and ecosystem type combined with the locations of prescribed burns and logging influence the frequency and severity of wildfires in California. Based on data availability, we will attempt to determine the influence of Federal, state, and local wildfire management policies on subsequent practices and wildfires.

Applicants should be interested in the intersection of science and public policy. Experience with or an interest in GIS or coding preferred. No prior experience with earth sciences is necessary. 

Sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Upper Cretaceous Pigeon Point Formation, California
Mentors: Prof. Donald Lowe and Chayawan Jaikla

Deep-water depositional system comprises sediments that were transported under gravity-flow processes and deposited in the deep-marine environment from the slope to the ocean floor. Since the system cannot be easily reached, observed, and studied in the modern environment, outcrop study of ancient deep-water deposits is the key to understand how sediments were transported from land to seafloor and their characteristics.

The Upper Cretaceous Pigeon Point Formation, which outcrops along the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco, California, contains a full spectrum of coarse-grained deep-water deposits that are well exposed despite being heavily faulted and structurally deformed. Although the outcrops are widely visited by geologists, the stratigraphy, sedimentology and tectonic implications of the formation are still poorly resolved. Correlating the formation across San Andrea Fault system will contribute to an understanding a complex history of plate convergence.

The enthusiastic undergraduate will help conduct some components of the project, including fieldwork, detrital zircon geochronology, and petrographic interpretation. The student will develop fieldwork skills as well as an understanding of deep-water deposits and their depositional processes. Previous experience with fieldwork and basic knowledge in sedimentology is preferred but not required. 

Landscape Controls on Metal Biogeochemical Cycling in a Floodplain
Mentors: Prof. Scott Fendorf and Hannah Naughton

Floodplains serve an important role in regulating the transport of metals, which can act either as environmental toxins or micronutrients.  Transient flooding after large storm events or spring thaw leads to saturated soils and reducing conditions, whereas dry periods often lead to oxygenated soils.  This cycling in soil aeration in turn regulates the oxidation state of redox-active metals such as uranium and iron, determining their toxicity and propensity to precipitate versus remain in river and groundwater.  Additionally, organic carbon compounds can bind metals and form soluble complexes, while also fueling microbial activity that contributes to metal cycling in floodplains.  We seek to understand the relationship between the floodplain landscape and biogeochemistry underpinning metal release and movement from soil into the river of a pristine montane floodplain in Colorado, which has implications on water quality in downstream settlements.

In collaboration with a team from several institutions, the student will spend half the summer performing routine field sampling at the East River in Crested Butte, CO.  In-field analysis for dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, iron and sulfide content, and redox potential will be performed regularly.  Samples will be collected and sent to Stanford where half the summer will be spent in lab analyzing carbon and metal chemistry using a Total Organic Carbon analyzer and Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrophotometer.  Previous lab experience is a plus but not required; moderate athleticism and love of the outdoors are a must.

For SURGE, project will have more of a lab component. 

Carbon and Nutrient Source and Fate in a High-Altitude Floodplain
Mentors: Prof. Scott Fendorf and Hannah Naughton

Soils store more carbon (C) than the atmosphere and earth’s biota combined, with wetlands responsible for more than 10% of this carbon.  As the atmospheric C content increases and societies plan how to adapt to and mitigate climate change, it is critical to have well-constrained predictions of future carbon pools.  While soils serve as an important C sink, the mechanisms retaining soil carbon are incompletely understood, limiting our ability to predict quantities and even the sign (are soils losing or gaining C) of the terrestrial-atmospheric C flux over time.  We will test the hypothesis that anaerobic conditions in soils, largely an outcome of flooding conditions, result in low-energy regimes that inhibit microbial respiration and thus cycling of soil carbon into the atmosphere. The East River Floodplain near Crested Butte, CO lets us constrain inputs of carbon (from plants and upriver) and outputs (downriver, back into soil, and as gas), allowing us to reconstruct the soil processes responsible for mobilizing it.

In collaboration with a team from several institutions, the student will spend half the summer performing field sampling of groundwater and gas fluxes along the East River Floodplain near Crested Butte, CO.  In-field analysis for dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, iron and sulfide content, and redox potential will be performed regularly, along with gas sampling of carbon dioxide and methane.  Samples will be collected and sent to Stanford where half the summer will be spent in lab analyzing carbon processing via soil incubations and carbon analysis via Gas Chromatography and a Total Organic Carbon analyzer.  Previous lab experience is a plus but not required; moderate athleticism and love of the outdoors are a must.

For SURGE, project will have more of a lab component.

Understanding lead chromate adulteration of turmeric
Mentors: Prof. Steve Luby, Prof. Scott Fendorf and Jenna Forsyth

As a potent neurotoxin, lead poses a serious threat to public health and human intellectual capital worldwide. While there is no safe level of lead exposure for anyone, lead is most detrimental to children when their central nervous systems are still developing, before birth through three years of age. Even low levels of lead can irreversibly lower IQ. Our past research in Bangladesh has identified lead chromate-adulterated turmeric as one important exposure route. Ultimately, this will benefit child health and development in Bangladesh, South Asia, and the world. We are looking for a motivated student to assist with 1) assessing the prevalence of lead chromate adulteration in turmeric, 2) assessing the bioaccessibility of lead in turmeric, and 3) assessing low-cost quick lead tests for field suitability. The student will use Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry and X Ray Fluorescence techniques at the Environmental Measurements Laboratory at Stanford. Previous wet lab experience is desirable but not necessary. Jenna Forsyth will be the primary mentor, but this is a collaborative effort with Professor Scott Fendorf and Professor Steve Luby.

Plantation forestry and soil sustainability
Mentors: Prof. Rob Jackson and Devin McMahon

Plantation forests, in which trees are grown as a crop, are planted worldwide in order to produce wood for lumber, fiber, and bioenergy, and to restore tree cover to degraded land. The fast-growing trees extract soil nutrients which are repeatedly removed from the site when wood is harvested, and increasing reliance on fertilizer inputs may threaten the plantations' sustainability. We are studying the world's most productive plantation forests, huge expanses of genetically identical, fast-growing eucalyptus trees in southeastern Brazil. We have collected soil from industrial eucalyptus plantations, abandoned plantations, pastures, and native vegetation reserves in southeastern Brazil in 2004 and 2016, and are analyzing the soil samples to determine how these systems alter nutrient stocks and future vegetation growth over multiple harvest cycles. A summer research assistant will gain hands-on experience in laboratory techniques for measuring nutrient content of soils, and will work with a graduate student mentor to develop their own research question as part of a larger analysis. Techniques will include X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and carbon/nitrogen analysis by combustion. The ideal student will pay close attention to detail and maintain interest in land use issues, plant-soil interactions, and problem solving. Prior laboratory experience is not necessary but would be helpful. A SURGE student who worked on an earlier phase of this project in summer of 2017 just presented a poster at a major scientific conference, and offered rave reviews of the summer experience.

Studying the uptake of water by plants using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)

Mentors: Prof. Rosemary Knight and Alex Kendrick

In the agricultural Central Valley of California, contaminants such as arsenic and can be found in the groundwater. It has been observed that some plants take up these contaminants, while others do not. It is well known that plants differ in the size of pores from which they can extract water. Our hypothesis: there is a link between the pore-scale location of the contaminants, the region of the pore space from which a plant extracts water, and the uptake of contaminants by plants. Very simply, if a plant cannot extract water from pores smaller than a certain size, and the contaminant resides in those smaller pores, the plants will not take up the contaminant.  We plan to explore the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to measure the range of pore sizes accessed by plants to obtain water as they grow in the lab. These measurements will help us understand the sizes of pores containing water that are available to different plants at different stages of growth. 

The proposed project will use NMR to monitor how a proxy for water-filled pore size, known as the transverse relaxation time (T2), changes in response to the growth of plants in the lab. The student will prepare the plant samples and systematically measure T2 as the plants grow using a 2 MHz NMR rock core analyzer in the lab. These measurements of T2 will reveal the pore sizes from which water cannot be extracted by the plant.

We are looking for a student to conduct most of the lab work. The student will prepare the plant samples, grow the plants, collect the NMR data, and analyze the corresponding results. Most of the data analysis will be done in MATLAB. No prior lab experience is required, but a basic understanding of programming is recommended.

What effects do changes in fire regimes have on ecosystems in California?
Mentors: Prof Rob Jackson and Postdoc Adam Pellegrini

The frequency of fire is changing rapidly, and in some cases is increasing due to climate change creating drier and warmer conditions favorable to fire. This project aims to understand how changes in fire frequency (that is, the rate at which fire recurs) will influence the productivity and biogeochemistry in ecosystems. Specifically, the postdoctoral fellow Adam Pellegrini in the Jackson lab group is investigating how fire changes plant species composition, plant physiological traits, and soil properties by sampling a network of sites that have manipulated fire frequency for decades. This particular project will allow students to work in both field and lab settings, with frequent trips being made to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California to sample areas of the forest that have experienced different fire frequencies. A large amount of the work takes place in wilderness areas that are not accessible to tourists, allowing for a unique experience of the park. Field work will consist of taking samples of plant and soils over multiple five to seven day trips during which we will be camping in the park (no backpacking is needed). Students will also engage in lab work upon returning from the field, where they will help perform chemical extractions and analyses on the collected samples. Moreover, students will be taught data analysis methods to statistically analyze the data collected. In sum, this project is a balance between field and lab work, with the potential to learn a number of skills and be exposed to incredible ecosystems. Independent projects are welcome, as well, and can be developed dynamically as the student gets exposure to the system. Students with backgrounds in biology, chemistry, and/or environmental science are highly encouraged to apply. Laboratory experience is favorable.

Did environmental change cause the Ordovician radiation?
SESUR or SURGE Proposal
Mentors: Prof Erik A. Sperling and Richard G. Stockey

This project will combine data and approaches from geology, geochemistry, evolutionary biology, and animal physiology. The results will be applicable to understanding how marine animals responded to climate change in the ancient past, and how animals in the modern ocean may respond to current/future environmental change.

The Paleozoic is one of the most interesting times in Earth history. Important evolutionary transitions during this geologic interval include major increases in animal body size and species-level diversity, the appearance of the first coral reefs in the geological record, the rise of fish, and the colonization of land by marine vertebrates and plants. One of the most significant evolutionary events during this time period was the Ordovician radiation, when animal diversity more than doubled. Recently it has been suggested that this evolutionary radiation may have been spurred by increases in marine oxygen levels, or decreases in global temperature. These data are mainly based on information from carbonate rocks, and this project seeks to test these hypotheses using the complementary shale geochemical record. The long-term goal is to apply these data to global ocean models and evaluate the potential impact of these environmental trends on marine ecosystems.

In this laboratory-based sedimentary geochemical study, the student will work as part of a group project to analyze shale samples from the Road River Group in Yukon, Canada. The student will analyze shale samples for their iron, carbon and sulfur geochemistry, and major- and trace-element composition. The student will learn to interpret their data against the stratigraphic record and other geochemical and paleobiological trends at that time. The student will learn the basics of sedimentary geochemistry and paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and learn how animals respond to changing paleoenvironments. They will ultimately compile their data with other data from the Road River Group for a comprehensive understanding of early Paleozoic global change. There are no formal requirements for the research project, but a general geological background will be useful.  

Ice penetrating radar design and data analysis
Mentors: Prof Dustin Schroeder

The Stanford Radio Glaciology research group focuses on the subglacial and englacial conditions of rapidly changing ice sheets and the use of ice penetrating radar to study them and their potential contribution to the rate of sea level rise. In general, we work on the fundamental problem of observing, understanding, and predicting the interaction of ice and water in Earth and planetary systems

Radio echo sounding is a uniquely powerful geophysical technique for studying the interior of ice sheets, glaciers, and icy planetary bodies. It can provide broad coverage and deep penetration as well as interpretable ice thickness, basal topography, and englacial radio stratigraphy. Our group develops techniques that model and exploit information in the along-track radar echo character to detect and characterize subglacial water, englacial layers, bedforms, and grounding zones.

In addition to their utility as tools for observing the natural world, our group is interested in radio geophysical instruments as objects of study themselves. We actively collaborate on the development of flexible airborne and ground-based ice penetrating radar for geophysical glaciology, which allow radar parameters, surveys, and platforms to be finely tuned for specific targets, areas, or processes. We also collaborate on the development of satellite-borne radars, for which power, mass, and data are so limited that they require truly optimized designs. Student projects are available in support of both ice penetrating radar instrument development and data analysis.

Automating groundwater data extraction through machine learning
Mentors: Prof. Rosemary Knight and Ryan Smith, Noah Dewar, and Aakash Ahamed

Recent droughts in the Central Valley of California have cost the agricultural industry over $1 billion. Increased drought resilience can be achieved through sustainable use of groundwater, which is the main source of water during times of drought. In order to be sustainable, we must effectively model groundwater flow. Modeling groundwater flow requires an understanding of subsurface geology, which, in the Central Valley, is poorly known.

Millions of well completion reports have recently been made publicly available by the state of California. These reports contain valuable geologic information, which could greatly improve the modeling of groundwater resources. However, the vast majority of these reports are scanned pdf’s which need to be copied manually to extract useful information, a process which could take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Recent advances in image and text recognition and in machine learning algorithms have made data extraction from large volumes of records feasible. The project we propose is to apply these methods, and develop new ones, to extract geologic data and location information from the millions of available well reports in the Central Valley.

The successful applicant(s) should have a quantitative and computational background—preferably with experience in python, Matlab or R, and some experience with machine learning or signal processing techniques. No prior experience in geology or the Earth sciences is necessary

Climate change and water availability in the Western US
SURGE only
Mentors: Prof. Page Chamberlain and Tyler Kukla

A critical, unresolved question regarding modern climate change is how the water cycle will respond to anthropogenic forcing. Today’s most advanced climate models do not agree on whether the evolving water cycle will create a wetter or drier world. This uncertainty is particularly problematic in the already water-limited Western US.

Sedimentary rocks that formed during the hottest and coldest periods of the last 65 million years retain the chemical fingerprint of the ancient water cycle. This fingerprint, in the form of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, tells us about precipitation patterns and allows us to reconstruct ancient temperatures.

We are seeking an enthusiastic student to conduct laboratory measurements of hydrogen isotopes and develop computer simulations that predict ancient temperatures and precipitation. The student will acquire all necessary skills during the program; no prior experience required.

How do slab properties affect mechanisms of intermediate-depth earthquakes?
Mentors: Prof. Greg Beroza and Shanna Chu

Intermediate-depth earthquakes are still a mystery to seismologists because they occur in a region of the earth where rocks ought to deform in a ductile fashion, hence earthquakes, which are in general brittle fractures, should not occur.  Two commonly proposed mechanisms for such earthquakes are dehydration embrittlement, in which metamorphic reactions release water and enable earthquakes, and thermal shear runaway, in which ductile strain is accommodated in a highly localized region that loses strength as it is heated.  Seismologists are interested in calculating and interpreting source properties from intermediate-depth earthquake data, since earthquake source behavior might help elucidate between these competing mechanisms. 

Some have suggested that these earthquakes may behave differently in tectonic regions.  So far, however, there has not been a comprehensive study done to correlate physical properties of tectonic plates with the energetic properties of intermediate-depth earthquakes.  We are looking for an undergraduate to participate in a study of intermediate-depth earthquakes, using the new Slab2 tectonic model set to be released in January 2018.  The intern would help analyze a large dataset, performing statistical and uncertainty analyses, and using existing code to compute earthquake source parameters.  Some background in statistics and programming (MATLAB or Python, though other languages are fine) are preferred, but more importantly the candidate should be excited about finding patterns in large, complex data sets.  Prior experience in Earth sciences is welcome but not required, and the project is very suitable for a student with computational background seeking to learn about applications to earth science.

Whale low frequency sound generation
Mentors: Prof. Eric Dunham and Leighton Watson

Large whale species, such as blue and sperm whales, have been observed to generate low frequency calls that sweep down in frequency. These calls are thought to be used for communication between animals as low frequency sound can propagate for long distances in the ocean before being attenuated. Despite significant interest in whale sound generation, the exact mechanism of low frequency sound generation remains unknown. Our group, in collaboration with Professor Jeremy Goldbogen at the Hopkins Marine Station, is testing the hypothesis that the low frequency calls are generated by resonance of the air filled cavities within the whale. Through numerical simulations, we have shown that resonance of whale lungs can explain the dominant frequency of the calls. We have not yet been able to explain the variation in frequency of the calls.

This project is to extend our previous work to account for airflow into the lungs from the laryngeal sac. Airflow into the lungs should cause the lung volume to increase and the sound frequency to decrease, explaining the down-swept nature of the calls. The project will require working with and extending existing Matlab code. In addition, the project will involve reviewing existing literature to estimate parameter values such as the elasticity of the whale lungs. Depending on the student, it may also involve processing and analyzing data of whale calls. Previous programming experience (Matlab or similar language) is required and a strong background in math and physics (differential equations, mechanics) is desirable. No prior experience in earth or biological sciences is required.

Modeling lithium-ion batteries for advanced battery
management system applications in electrified vehicles
Mentors: Dr. Simona Onori and Dr. Harikesh Arunachalam, ERE

Technological advancements and globalization have been responsible for the ever increasing energy and power demands across different industry sectors. This has led to an extensive use of fossil fuel based resources. In the transportation sector, significant concerns are derived from the excessive emission of greenhouse gases and degradation of air quality. Vehicle electrification can mitigate the negative effects on climate change using electrochemical storage devices, such as lithium-ion batteries, as either secondary or primary energy source. The last decades have seen enormous strides in battery technology and the adoption of lithium-ion batteries in large-scale applications; yet, the largest obstacles for widespread adoption of electric vehicles are cost, safety, performance degradation due to aging, and lack of a comprehensive understanding of battery behavior.

The current practice to optimize battery performance is oversizing the in-vehicle battery pack to meet lifecycle targets. Mathematical models play an important role in the design and utilization of batteries with existing technologies, thanks to their ability to virtually sense battery behavior under various operating conditions.

Advanced electrochemical modeling and estimation of battery internal states are vital to push batteries to operate at their physically permissible limits. Utilizing physics-based models can lead to the development of a sophisticated battery management system for the efficient, safe, and optimal utilization of batteries. Optimal usage of battery hinges on how accurately the mathematical equations describe lithium transport, and how precisely the corresponding model parameters are measured, estimated, and identified.

In this project, we seek a motivated student who will work closely with Harikesh Arunachalam and Simona Onori to design a reduced-complexity model and fully identifying its parameters across variables of operations and chemistry. The student will use experimental data to conduct the identification and compare the reduced complexity models against the high fidelity electrochemical models. The initial part of this project will require the student to get acquainted with the model and the experimental data sets. The student will then perform identification studies for the parameters of the model and conduct model verification. The successful outcome of this project will eventually lead to physically meaningful control-oriented model and higher accuracy virtual sensors for real-time BMS applications. While a background in battery electrochemistry is not required, the student should have some prior experience with Matlab. The student will have an excellent opportunity to publish their research findings in conference proceedings, and do an in-situ presentation of his/her accomplishments to a local automotive industry partner.

Projects for summer 2018 will be added to this page continously until the end of January 2018.