Open UROP Positions (21)

Challenging research opportunities exist for undergraduates of all levels in Course 22, especially for freshmen, through MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Join our faculty, students, and staff on cutting-edge research projects for credit or pay, and get hands-on experience on the research that the NSE department has to offer. Our UROPs are all NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED unless stated otherwise.

You are encouraged to browse the research sections of the NSE website to learn more about the areas of research that Department faculty are engaged in. Undergraduate research opportunities may not always be listed with MIT's UROP Office. Heather Barry in the NSE Undergraduate Program Office and Prof. Matteo Bucci, NSE's UROP Coordinator, will help you find a UROP in Course 22.

Check out our Open UROP Positions to start your research career in Course 22 today!

Can We Utilize 6 Megawatts of Clean Energy on the MIT Campus?

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno
Posting Date: 2020-10-26


UROP Description:

Objectives
This project will study the techno-economic feasibility of utilizing 6 megawatts of carbon-free, low-grade heat (40-50 Celsius degrees) generated by the MIT Nuclear Reactor, located on the MIT campus in Cambridge. Possible uses include local heating (for adjacent dorms and/or nearby Zesiger center), electric production (using thermo-electric devices) and horticulture (greenhouse for research, urban farming, algae growth).

Background
Watch the MIT Reactor video!

Students
We shall hire 3 UG students. MIT students from all majors and all years are welcome to apply. Students can participate in this project for pay or credit, at their discretion.

Scope of Work
The team of students and faculty will:
• develop a detailed list of potential utilizations for the reactor heat;
• assess the environmental benefits (e.g., displaced CO2 emissions) of using nuclear heat for such applications;
• develop the conceptual thermal-hydraulic design and cost estimates for the heat delivery systems required by the various applications identified;
• present the outcome of the study to the MIT Senior Administration;
• pursue implementation of one or more solutions identified in the study.
The main deliverable for this project is a final report describing various utilizations of the heat from the MIT Nuclear Reactor.

Contact
Students interested in this project should contact Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno at jacopo@mit.edu

Nuclear Batteries: a New Form of Clean and Resilient Energy System for Urban Environments

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno
Posting Date: 2020-08-14

Cutaway rendering of a Nuclear Battery concept design

UROP Description: This project will study the techno-economic and regulatory feasibility of deploying a micro-grid powered by nuclear batteries (small nuclear reactors), to provide clean, reliable and affordable electricity, heat, food, medications and transportation fuels in urban environments, particularly underserved neighborhoods in inner cities. The environmental and economic justice value of this project is very high.

Students
We shall hire 3 UG students. MIT students from all majors and all years are welcome to apply. We have secured funding to pay the students on this project.

Scope of Work
The team of students and faculty will:
* identify example locations in the Boston metropolitan area where NB-powered micro-grids could physically be deployed;
* examine the economic feasibility of the micro-grid, i.e., quantify cost targets to replace conventionally produced goods and services with NB-produced goods and services;
* examine the regulatory feasibility of the micro-grid, i.e., nuclear regulations to deploy NBs in an urban setting, as well as environmental and urban constraints associated with in-city production activities; * engage community leaders and businesses to evaluate the attractiveness of the micro-grid model.
The main deliverable for this project is a final report describing the activities and commenting on the feasibility of the NB-powered micro-grid concept for urban setting.

Supervision
Students working on this project will be supervised by Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno (NSE) and Dr. John Parsons (Sloan).

(VIRTUAL) Machine Learning Augmented Quantum Experiments at State-of-the-art National Facilities

Contact: Prof. Mingda Li
Posting Date: 2020-08-05
UROP Description: Machine learning (ML) has profoundly changed our society and life, such as natural language processing and image recognition, yet ML on measuring quantum materials are at its infancy with exciting opportunities. This freshmen Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) sits at the intersection between data science and physical science, aiming to extract key information of quantum materials from scattering spectroscopic data at a few national labs, using advanced ML techniques. Typical questions we like to address include "how we can link a measured signature to an interesting physical property", "how to reveal hidden information of a material with the aid of ML." At the end this ELO, you will be able to:
- Apply existing and design new ML architectures to a data-intensive problem. - Understand the working principle of a few state-of-the-art spectroscopies. - Gain virtual hands-on experience on experiment planning, data collection and analysis.

No prior experience is needed, and anyone interested in both physical science and data science is welcome to apply.

5 positions available

Be Part of NASA’s Nuclear Space Flight Initiative

Contact: Prof. Koroush Shirvan
Posting Date: 2020-08-05

Particle bed nuclear reactor (courtesy of M. Houts – NASA NTP Project Manager)

UROP Description: It is widely understood that Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) has the inherent capability to dramatically expand our ability to explore the solar system, and to more safely transport human crews within interplanetary space. NTP technology features hydrogen as the propellant and nuclear fission reactor as the heat source. The hydrogen fluid is heated from liquid state to more than 2000K. However, since the Timberwind (TW)/Space Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (SNTP) program that focused on a particle-bed NTP concept (see Figure) was terminated in 1993, little progress has been made, and no nuclear fuels testing has occurred. Since the recrudescence of NASA’s NTP program, it is time to revisit the nuclear thermal propulsion technology with the latest advancement in computational tools and nuclear fuel testing capability at Nuclear Reactor Lab.

The following proposed tasks can be tackled by ~3 UROPs whom would work alongside team of researchers at department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) and MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Lab (NRL). The constraints for the design studies on the NTP will be provided by the NASA NTP project manager to ensure the work would be of practical interest.

Task 1 radiation transport
The transport of neutrons in a nuclear reactor, controls the fission reaction rate that generates heat at impressive power densities. The reactor material, particularly the fissionable material inventory (in this case Uranium-235 isotope) and geometry are crucial parameters that impact the sustainability of the fission reaction. During the first semester of the UROP, the UROP will create homogenized (smeared) geometries to perform parametric analysis of the reactor size and materials to search for optimum design (i.e. high power density while meeting 20% U-235 enrichment limit). The UROP will also gather detailed design information for a graduate student to support building a heterogeneous detailed model for neutron transport calculations.
No relevant experience is required (open to any engineering major) as the neutron transport simulations utilize an intuitive nuclear technology agnostic open-source simulation tool, OpenMC. Course 22 undergrads who have taken 22.05 are desired.

Task 2 Heat Removal and Thermal-Hydraulic
The motivation behind choosing a particle bed reactor concept is to achieve high power densities, a critical parameter to meet payload needs of a propulsion device. However, achieving high power densities would require a detailed thermal-hydraulic design that is capable of efficiently removing heat while maintaining its structural integrity. The UROP will initially setup 1D mathematical models to simulate heat transfer from the fission reaction to the hydrogen propellant (conduction, convection and radiation transport phenomena). As the UROP progresses, 1D formulation can be further developed to 3D formulation by leveraging commercial computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. The UROP will also assist a graduate student with the detailed design study.
2nd or 3rd year Course 2, 16 and 22 are highly desired with some introductory background for thermal fluids (e.g. 2.005/2.006).

Task 3 Structural design and Estimation of Payload
Operating any device with flowing hydrogen at greater than 2000K provides immense challenge to its structural stability. This is one of the primary motivation behind choosing the particle bed reactor concept as it can minimize the interaction of high temperature hydrogen with metallic structures and minimizes the creation of hot spots. Nevertheless, for such large operating temperatures range, thermal expansion strains need to be estimated and materials selection needs to be informed by the thermo-physical and chemical properties. After the UROP assists with material selection, the overall weight of the NTP based on findings from Task 1, 2 and other research on this topic will be estimated to assess its payload.
No experience is required. Experience in course 3/16 or Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is desirable.

Task 4 Nuclear Fuel Testing at MIT Reactor
The nuclear fuel of an NTP is not expected to run more than an hour for current targeted missions, therefore it is currently planned to test NTP representative fuel particles in hydrogen environment at the MIT Reactor (MITR) starting September 2020. The MITR is a 6 MWth reactor with a neutron flux that is comparable to a 4000 MWth water cooled reactor and is situated on campus in NW12 building. This one of the kind facility is equipped with proper infrastructure to provide rapid fuel testing. The UROP main work is to assist NRL research staff in capsule design, packaging, pre and post-examination of the fuel particles and shipment to offsite lab for detailed destructive examination of the irradiated fuel.
No experience is required, however, UROP must be on campus and willing to go through radiation and lab safety training.

(VIRTUAL) 100-Gigawatt-Hour Heat Storage for Nuclear, CSP and Fossil-Fuels with CCS

Contact: Dr. Charles Forsberg
Posting Date: 2020-04-27
UROP Description: Fossil fuels are remarkable: low-cost, easy to store and easy to transport. All of the replacement technologies (nuclear, wind, solar, fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)) for a low-carbon future have high capital costs. Low-cost very-large energy storage is required to enable operating these technologies at full capacity while providing variable electricity and heat to industry. The UROP is to examine ultra-low-cost heat storage using crushed rock in an insulated trench (60 m by 20 m by up to a kilometer long) where heat is transferred from the nuclear reactor, concentrated solar power (CSP) plant or fossil plant with CCS using nitrate salts with peak operating temperatures of 600°C. The salt is sprayed on top of the crushed rock to heat it. To transfer heat to the power cycle or industry, cold nitrate salt is sprayed onto the hot rock and collected by the drain pan under the rock. The hot salt is sent to the customer. The goal is a heat storage system with a capital cost of a few dollars per kWh.

(VIRTUAL) Analysis of the microscopic structure and dynamics of molten salts for energy applications

Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich
Posting Date: 2020-04-27
UROP Description: Molten salts are fascinating liquids, which are important for many applications, such as nuclear and solar energy, and chemical engineering. Dr. Boris Khaykovich and his group are studying the microscopic structure of molten salts using neutron and X-ray scattering measurements and computer simulations. The student project is a part of this effort. The student will analyze the data from recent neutron and X-ray scattering experiments. Proficiency with Python (or Matlab) and interest in nuclear science and engineering, materials, or chemical engineering are required. This project is suitable for being done remotely provided a student is comfortable with working largely independently while relying on limited if regular communications using Skype or Zoom

(VIRTUAL) Focusing optics for neutron diffraction

Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich
Posting Date: 2020-04-27
UROP Description: Neutron scattering is a widely used collection of techniques with applications in materials science, physics, and chemistry. These techniques are severely limited by relatively low neutron fluxes. Consequently, we are developing neutron focusing optics, which will enable very efficient neutron diffractometers. Alloy or ceramic samples will be illuminated by a polychromatic neutron beam, and a multiplexing analyzer will reflect the diffracted beam towards position-sensitive detectors. The student will help developing specifications for bent Si-crystal analyzers by numerical simulations based on an existing theoretical framework, which uses matrix formalism of manipulating neutron-beam phase space. Proficiency with Python or Matlab, good linear-algebra skills and interest in optical and/or nuclear experimental techniques are required. This project is suitable for being done remotely provided a student is comfortable with doing a project largely independently while relying on relatively limited if regular communications using Skype or Zoom.

Measuring Antimatter Annihilation to Better Characterize Semiconductors

Contact: Julie Logan
Posting Date: 2020-03-04
UROP Description: Want to support a project that USES antimatter to characterize semiconductors? Positron annihilation spectroscopy (PAS) consists of a set of techniques that use the fact that positrons annihilate differently in damaged materials to characterize the types and concentrations of crystal defects. The spatial sensitivity of these techniques within samples is not well characterized experimentally – so here is where you could help! We will be using high precision translational stages, tungsten tiles from the old fusion accelerator Alcator C-Mod, and radiation detectors to measure where positrons annihilate in materials. This will give us the spatial sensitivity of PAS techniques.

Airship-Based Rapid Response to Reactor Incident Sites

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2020-01-28
UROP Description: Based on a review of the sequence of events at Fukushima, it can be inferred that prompt provision of various types of support could well have mitigated the worst of the consequences. Proposed for evaluation here is the use of modern versions of zeppelin type airships. Several commercial organizations are well along on projects to develop and deploy airborne transports of this type. A significant advantage from our perspective includes rapid access to virtually any reactor site, independent of the extent of damage to land or water transport facilities. The most apparent limitation is on deliverable loading per trip – i.e. about 50 metric tons.
The objective of this project is to carry out an in-depth assessment of this approach as another part of the FLEX program developed in the U.S. post-Fukushima.

Computational Reactor Physics

Contact: Prof. Ben Forget
Posting Date: 2020-01-28

Pole representation of the first resonances of U-238 (left)
and 3D full core LWR peaking factors (right)

UROP Description: The MIT Computational Reactor Physics Group (CRPG) leads the development of open source nuclear reactor modelling software. To this end, we are continuously looking for motivated undergraduate students with an interested in experimental research, with a passion for hands-on work or computer coding. The list of research areas in which you can be involved includes but is not limited to:
-DDevelopment of novel nuclear data models and uncertainties
-Model development for advanced reactor designs
-Testing and verification of advanced modelling techniques
For any additional information contact bforget@mit.edu

Li-6 based thermal neutron detector for Time-of-Flight measurements

Contact: Prof. Areg Danagoulian
Posting Date: 2019-12-23

Picture of the detector setup

UROP Description: The Laboratory of Applied Nuclear Physics (LANPh) performs research in the field of nuclear security. We develop various nuclear physics applications for such societal problems as arms control, nuclear detection, and nonproliferation. In this UROP program we use a 6Li-based thermal neutron detector to detect epithermal neutrons in the 1-20 eV range from a moderated deuterium-tritium (DT) source, operating in pulsed mode. Using the time difference between the neutron pulse and the detected neutron arrival time can allow to reconstruct the elemental and isotopic composition of the medium that the neutrons traversed. The project will involve research in analog electronics and pulse processing. The analog electronics needs to be modified to produce a fast (~microsecond) pulse. Then, the signal will need to be digitized with (existing) digitizer electronics. The student will work on the detector, experiment with the electronic circuitry to achieve fast signaling, and use it to perform experiments at the NW13 Vault where the DT source is located. The student should have some familiarity with analog electronics and data analysis skills (e.g. via Python scipy/numpy toolkits, or the ROOT C++ data analysis toolkit). The desire to learn about nuclear instrumentation, electronics, and data analysis and simulation techniques is a must.

Theoretical and computational studies of turbulence and magnetic reconnection in plasmas

Contact: Prof. Nuno Loureiro
Posting Date: 2019-12-09

Turbulent magnetic fields in a plasma (supercomputer simulation; credit: Ms. Muni Zhou).

UROP Description: Prof. Loureiro’s group carries out analytical and computational research in nonlinear plasma dynamics, with a focus on turbulence and magnetic reconnection (the explosive reconfiguration of the magnetic field topology in plasmas that leads to solar and stellar flares). Ongoing topics of research include energy dissipation and the role of reconnection in magnetized plasma turbulence; the onset of magnetic reconnection and the role played in it by a variety of plasma instabilities; advanced computational methods for plasma simulation.

Prof. Loureiro is continuously looking for motivated undergraduate students with an interest in analytical theory and computational simulations.

For any additional information, contact nflour@mit.edu

(VIRTUAL) Application of Laser Printed Nuclear Fuel For Advanced Reactors

Contact: Prof. Koroush Shirvan
Posting Date: 2019-12-06

(a) Detailed section views of the modeled fiber structure; (b) schematic of the “fiber forest” embedded in the SiC matrix forming a fuel element within a pressurized water reactor 17×17 fuel assembly.

UROP Description: As part of an ongoing collaboration with Free Form Fibers company, the initial production of laser printed fissile fuel form has now been demonstratd for the first time. The concept is currently being investigated to improve accident toelratance and high burnup capability of water cooled reactor fuels. The initial experimental testing and simulation findings show such concept has unique advantages realized only through use of the modern additive manufacturing technique. While the water cooled design work continues, it is of interest to also explore the implication of such novel fuel form for use in advanced reactors including Sodium, Lead, Lead-Bismuth, Salt, organic, helium, CO2, air and hydrogen cooled concepts. The work involves reactor physics simulation of the laser-printed fuel form to optimize the solid fuel proposed concepts to understand the benefits of integrating the laser printing technology with advanced reactors. No experience is required as the reactor physics simulations utilize an utuitive reactor agnostic simulation tool, SERPENT. For any additional information, contact kshirvan@mit.edu

Experimental heat transfer and surface engineering

Contact: The Red Lab in NSE
Posting Date: 2019-12-05

Heat Flux distribution on a surface during boiling heat transfer

UROP Description: The Red Lab in Nuclear Science and Engineering investigates advanced heat transfer solutions to empower present and future nuclear energy systems, as well as any applications where thermal management is a limiting factor, e.g., high-power density electronics. We develop and use advanced diagnostic tools to probe the physics of heat transfer at high spatial and temporal resolution (see figure: heat flux distribution on the boiling surface obtained using an infrared thermometry technique developed by The Red Lab), to improve the understanding of heat transfer processes, and to learn how to enhance them. To this end, we are continuously looking for motivated undergraduate students with an interested in experimental research, with a passion for hands-on work or computer coding. The list of research areas in which you can be involved includes but is not limited to:
- Development of experimental devices and diagnostics;
- Experimental investigations of boiling and quenching heat transfer;
- Development of surface engineering techniques to enhance heat transfer efficiency;
- Development of image analysis tools (also leveraging Machine Learning and AI).
For any additional information, contact redlab@mit.edu

Gigahertz Laser Ultrasound Analysis of Fusion Reactor Materials

Contact: Ben Dacus, Prof. Mike Short
Posting Date: 2019-11-21
UROP Description: A significant problem today in the nuclear industry is how to monitor material degradation without delaying plant operation or cutting physical samples out of reactors to test. Nuclear companies have lost millions in the past from shutting down operation in order to replace/test materials. If there existed a way to characterize materials without touching them and without destroying them, it would have a huge impact on the whole industry. Luckily the answer may lie in Transient Grating Spectroscopy! This method, which has only been applied to nuclear materials over the last several years, is capable of tracking material properties as they have been exposed to radiation and high heat loads. This project will expose the student to materials research on current nuclear materials, or potential materials for advanced reactors in the design phase.

We want YOU to help us watch fusion reactor materials degrade using our TGS laser system. This UROP involves learning how to use our TGS system, and applying it to monitor material degradation during and after heating and ion irradiation. It's got lasers AND radiation, need we say more?

No prior skills needed!

Power Plant Component Monitoring and Prognostics

Contact: Prof. Michael Golay
Posting Date: 2019-11-20
UROP Description: This UROP project involves working with a graduate student in dealing with power plant component and system operational data to develop techniques for performance monitoring and prognostics. In this work risk-important components will be analyzed to identify failure modes and symptoms of their progression toward failure. These inputs to an artificial reasoning system will be used to provide assessments of failure probabilities and times to failure via different modes. The results will also be used to provide plant operators with an assessment of the net benefits of alternative actions that can be taken. This system is intended to support improved production and safety results in power plant operations.

Ultra-High Temperature Heat Pump

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2019-09-19
UROP Description: The goal of this project is to evaluate the feasibility of serving high temperature heat loads (e.g. ~600°C) using LWRs (which generate steam at ~280°C). The suggested approach uses a heat pump having sulfur or mercury as its working fluid (or a better alternative, if one can be found). A preliminary scoping study suggests that, compared to using electric resistance heating, one could reduce reactor core thermal power by about 30% and Rankine power cycle rating by a factor of about 3.

A Waterborne Post-Accident Mitigation Response Scheme

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2019-09-19
UROP Description: Most nuclear power plants are sited close to large and navigable bodies of water. This suggests evaluation of a shared mobile waterborne post-accident response employing the equivalent of high-speed diesel-electric ferry boats (or something similar to an LST, as a less-sophisticated alternative). In addition to directly providing supplementary on-board electric power to cure station blackout incidents, the ferries can transport several types of useful support vehicles. For example:

• Amphibious “duck boats” which contain mobile cadres of supplementary personnel
• Portable diesel-electric generators and shipping-container-size storage batteries
• Portable housing for first responders
• Fuel tankers
• Many other vehicle types, whose identification will be a major subtask in the proposed work scope

This proposed project will involve fleshing-out an overall system design, including a rough estimate of the magnitude of expenditures and savings. As a specific example, it may be worthwhile to frame a response based on the Fukushima incident.

Design and Development of User Interface for Data Management Projects

Contact: Joshua Stillerman
Posting Date: 2019-01-08
UROP Description: Modern science generates large complicated heterogeneous collections of data. In order to effectively exploit these data, researchers must be able to find relevant data, and enough of its associated metadata to understand it and put it into context. This problem exists across a wide range of research domains and is ripe for a general solution.

Existing ventures address these issues using ad-hoc purpose-built tools. These tools explicitly represent the data relationships by embedding them in their data storage mechanisms and in their applications. While producing useful tools, these approaches tend to be difficult to extend and data relationships are not necessarily traversable symmetrically.

We are building a general system for navigational metadata. The relationships between data and between annotations and data are stored as first class objects in the system. They can be viewed as instances drawn from a small set of graph types. General purpose programs can be written which allow users explore these graphs and gain insights into their data. This process of data navigation, successive inclusion and filtering of objects, provides powerful paradigm for data exploration.

The student will work on a project dealing with annotation and data relationships in science applications. Information on the project is available at https://ndm.mit.edu/.

Initial commitment: 5-10 hrs / week. This could be a long term project.

Skills needed: javascript, VUEjs, basic GIT source code management, docker. The ideal candidate is a good javascript front end developer capable to work on a VUEjs based SPA.

Multiple UROP positions at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Contact: Jessica Coco (PSFC UROP coordinator)
Posting Date: 2018-02-03
UROP Description: An important part of the PSFC's activities involves training students who make valuable contributions to the research conducted at the Center. Undergraduate students have an opportunity to work closely with PSFC researchers on projects ranging from experiment design and technology development, to data analysis at all stages throughout their time at MIT, from Freshmen to Seniors. These opportunities are participate in solving the physics and engineering challenges of the future are usually coordinated through the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) or by doing a Senior Thesis in plasma science and fusion.
To learn more about UROPs at the PSFC, contact : psfc-urop@mit.edu.
To find UROPs working on the SPARC project visit : http://www.psfc.mit.edu/sparc/urops.
To learn more about doing a Senior Thesis with a PSFC advisor, contact: psfc-info@mit.edu.

(VIRTUAL) Flexible Siting Criteria and Staff Minimization for Nuclear Batteries

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno
Posting Date: 0000-00-00


UROP Description: The economic potential of micro-reactors (a.k.a. nuclear batteries) is vast and underestimated. Nuclear batteries could be used as flexible energy generators for large markets, such as mobile and containerized agriculture and manufacturing facilities, district heating, micro-grids for data centers, sea ports, airports and hospitals. The implication is that nuclear batteries may have to be deployed also in non-remote locations. The primary goal of this project is to develop siting criteria that are tailored to nuclear batteries deployable in densely-populated areas, e.g., urban environments. To achieve that goal, we will compare the characteristics of the MIT research reactor (MITR) with those of leading nuclear battery concepts (e.g., eVinciTM, HOLOS), and evaluate whether and how the MITR design basis (e.g., inherent safety features, engineered safety systems, source term, emergency planning and emergency operating procedures) and associated regulations may be applicable to these new nuclear batteries as well. What makes MITR a unique analogue in this context is its small power rating (6 MWt) and physical size, mode of operations (24/7 with a somewhat more commercial flavor than typical university reactors), and especially its urban location. A second goal of the project is to conceptualize a model of operations for nuclear batteries that would minimize the staffing requirements, and thus reduce the cost of electricity and heat generated by these systems. Here too our approach will be to systematically review the MITR experience and requirements, as well as survey the innovations in autonomous control technologies and monitoring (e.g., advanced sensors, drones, robotics, AI) that would permit a dramatic reduction in staffing at future nuclear battery installations. MIT through its CSAIL and Media Lab organizations is at the forefront of the advanced informatics and robotics communities.