Open UROP Positions (20)

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!

Safety Margin Characterization for ATR Experiments

Contact: Dr. Lin-wen Hu
Posting Date: 2017-05-22

Picture of the INL ATR reactor core

UROP Description: The project involves uncertainty quantification of thermal-hydraulic safety limits for a test reactor. The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has several locations for in-core irradiation of prototypical nuclear fuel. This facility allows new fuel designs to be tested before deployment in next-generation nuclear reactors. Currently, the operating safety margins are based on very conservative assumptions and correlations. As a result, ATR has to operate at a low power. The INL seeks a power uprate for the ATR. The candidate will write several scripts to compare thermal hydraulic correlations (CHF, ONB and OFI) that are available in the literature. These scripts will be coupled to a statistical analysis library (Dakota) to study propagation of uncertainties. The work will be used as a basis for the uprate of the ATR.

Ultra High Resolution Inspection of Integrated Circuits

Contact: Dr. Richard Lanza
Posting Date: 2017-04-13

Imaging a set-reset latch, a functional unit within an integrated circuit
from Holler et al Nature 543, 402-406; (2017)

UROP Description: Between 2011 and 2015, the semiconductor industry saw significant advances in both the scaling of integrated circuits and 3-D integration of multiple wafers, monolithically grown stacked circuits, and non-CMOS structures. Multiple flash memory manufacturers are fabricating 16+ stacked chips for memory and logic-in-memory applications. In addition, 2.5 D circuits mounted on an interposer die have become an industry standard. High-yield manufacturing of these structures will require unique capabilities for process verification and failure analysis.
Similarly, in keeping with Moore’s Law scaling, 14 nm microprocessors have been in production since July 2014 and 7 nm circuits were demonstrated at Albany Nanotech in early 2015.1 Samsung Corporation, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and GlobalFoundries have announced plans to ship production-quality 10 nm integrated circuits in late 20162, Intel plans to ship 10 nm integrated circuits in 20173, and TSMC plans to offer 7 nm chips in 2017. Manufacturing at these technology nodes will require high-speed and high-resolution image acquisition for process verification and failure analysis. The Rapid Analysis of Various Emerging Nanoelectronics (RAVEN) program, sponsored by iARPA, is focused on developing an analysis tool capable of imaging minimum size circuit features on a silicon integrated circuit chip. MIT is working on developing a method for imaging, in 3D, the features on integrated circuits to a resolution of 10nm or better. Recently, a Swiss group at the Paul Scherer Institute has demonstrated that this is possible using a large synchrotron radiation source. The figure below shows the results of their measurement. The logic diagram, circuit and 3D image of the IC are shown below. but we are implementing it with a desktop sized instrument which requires a combination of technologies and new computational imaging algorithms. NSE is working with labs and groups at MIT (EECS, CSAIL, ME, MTL) and others (MGH, SRL and Morgan State) to achieve his. As a preliminary proof of concept, NSE is developing a 10 nm resolution x-ray imaging system based initially on using the nanometer sized beam from an SEM.
This UROP project will be hands-on with a combination of experimental work and interaction with other members of the team, the goal being to produce simple 2D planar images with resolution of 10nm. As a further challenge, one might consider that imaging a 1 cm2 chip with a resolution of 10 nm produces an image of 106 x 106 pixels per layer, with a total of 102 layers, a total of 1014 voxels! Clearly some other approaches are going to be required to succeed!

Experimenting with the Neutron Diffractometer at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab

Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich
Posting Date: 2017-04-10

UROP Description: Neutron scattering is a powerful set of techniques for studying the structure and dynamics of matter. One of the most basic neutron-scattering instruments is a triple-axis diffractometer, which is used to measure Bragg diffraction for studies of crystal structures. MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab (NRL) has such diffractometer, which is currently being upgraded and calibrated. Once operational, this instrument will be used, for example, for examination of specimens irradiated at NRL. The student will have to become familiar with the theory and day-to-day operations of the diffractometer and conduct early experiments.

Desirable prerequisites: basic solid-state physics, basic quantum mechanics or neutron physics, ability to code in Python or Matlab.
Faculty supervisor: Dr. David Moncton (
Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich (

Designing x-ray focusing mirrors for a novel compact x-ray light source

Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich
Posting Date: 2017-04-10

UROP Description: X-rays provide the most useful methods of studying the structure of materials. At MIT Nuclear Reactor, we are developing a constructing a novel x-ray source, which will be more powerful than available commercial lab sources. We are especially interested in applying this source for studying irradiatied nuclear materials. The UROP student will take part in designing x-ray optics for this instrument. The work includes conducting computer ray-tracing simulations and analyzing the results. The project is suitable for students interested in physics, optics, nuclear or materials science, or computational methods. Good programming skills and an interest in code writing are essential, including very good familiarity with Python or Matlab.

Faculty supervisor: Dr. David Moncton
Contact: Dr. Boris Khaykovich (
Type: Simulations

Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle For Liquid Fueled and Molten Salt-Cooled Nuclear Reactors

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2017-04-10
UROP Description: The S-CO2 cycle has been given increased attention of late. MIT played a key role in resurrecting interest in this power cycle (1). Our interest here is in evaluation of its efficacy for use with the FSR salt-cooled reactor under current study at MIT (2).
As noted in a recent review in Renewable Energy World (3), a DOE demo S-CO2 unit rated at 10 MW will be built in San Antonio to test applicability to a concentrating solar system at 700°C, which is also the design core outlet temperature for the FSR. This short article supports claims of higher efficiency, reduced cost and a more compact system than for a supercritical steam cycle.

(1) V. Dostal, M.J. Driscoll and P. Hejzlar, “A Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Cycle for Next Generation Nuclear Reactors,” MIT- ANP-TR-100 (2004).
(2) C. Forsberg and P.F. Peterson, “Basis for Fluoride Salt-Cooled High Temperature Reactors…,” Nuclear Technology, Vol 196, October 2016.
(3) Renewable Energy World; News: “Success Story – Supercharging Concentrating Solar Power Plant Performance,” March 8, 2017.

A Renewed Incentive to Evaluate Recovery of Uranium from Seawater

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2017-02-27
UROP Description: If the recent advances in the means to recover uranium from seawater can be implemented, namely:
- the Stanford University improvements on amidoxime type ion exchange fibers,
- Prof. Alex Slocum’s conceptualization of a seaborne contractor rig.
Then, even though in-situ leaching of terrestrial resources may predominate in the near term, an acceptable cap of costs (e.g., ≤ $300/kg vs. ~ $100/kg today) should be demonstrable. This would, in turn, make spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, recycle and the deployment of conventional breeder reactors unnecessary, with a consequential large savings in expenditures. The object of this project is to extend the analyses of prior work at MIT to predict the foreseeable future cost of uranium recovery from seawater.

Integrated Containment/Cooling Tower for Advanced Reactor

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2017-02-27

Integrated Containment/Cooling Tower for Advanced Reactor

UROP Description: The time appears ripe to re-evaluate the integrated containment/cooling tower approach to cost reduction and safety augmentation, building upon a 1994 study at MIT (see figure), which never gained traction at the time. Using small modular reactors (SMR) and filtered/vented containments having special surface coatings can conceivably greatly enhance concept benefits.

Infusion of High-Molecular-Weight Gases for Improved Neoprene Insulation for Increased Underwater Dive Persistence

Contact: Dr. Jeffrey Moran
Posting Date: 2017-02-12
UROP Description: We are developing a method to significantly enhance the insulating capabilities of foam neoprene by infusing high-molecular-weight gases into the material. Neoprene, the material conventionally used to make wetsuits, is a relatively good thermal insulator, but still conducts heat efficiently enough to limit the duration of cold-water dives to 30 minutes or less. We have promising initial results that show that infusing xenon into neoprene reduces its thermal conductivity by 45%, which could enable significantly longer dives even in water that is just above freezing.

We seek an undergraduate researcher to help with the design and execution of experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique in multiple settings. In addition to helping create effective demonstrations, you may also help us design a scalable method to infuse the gas into an entire wetsuit (e.g., using a pressure vessel). Finally, you will also work with us to address the challenge of limiting or stopping the “leakage” of gas from the neoprene once the gas has been infused. Accordingly, we will explore a variety of coatings together, such as metallized skins or graphene.

The first priority for this project is to have a reliable demonstration of the technique (ideally with a human subject) by May 2017. The second priority is to develop a whole-wetsuit infusion technique by that time.

Designing a Multi Layer Security System for a Novel Nuclear Reactor Plant: the Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant (ONP)

Contact: Prof. Neil Todreas
Posting Date: 2017-02-05

Diagram of the Offshore Nuclear Plant

UROP Description: The concept of the Offshore Nuclear Plant (ONP) has several advantages over typical land plants. It uses the ocean as an infinitely available heat sink and offers inherent protection from earthquake (if it is a floating design) and tsunamis. Offshore siting can also eliminate the need for evacuation, minimize the degree of land contamination in the event of radioactive release. The use of a steel cylinder with the nuclear plant mounted upon it reduces the amount of expensive concrete needed. The project has been ongoing at MIT for about three years now. Two designs for ONP are being developed in parallel. A high level diagram of the ONP is shown in the image provided above.
This UROP project would focus on the security aspects for the plant.
The goal of this project is to design the security system and test its effectiveness with an industrial simulation system. The simulation system we have available is a state of the art numerical tool that has been developed by the industry company, ARES, for safeguarding security at nuclear and defense installations.
Work on designing the security system will involve looking into physical barriers, instrumentation ranges of sonar and radar, and security force weaponry ranges. An initial system layout has already been designed by the ONP group at MIT, and will serve as an initial guide for using the simulation system to direct and track multiple intruder attempts. Additionally there is an undergraduate NSE student who has been working on the security system working with ARES in the use of their AVERT code for over a year. He will finish his work at the end of the Spring term 2017 and the new student being solicited by this announcement will take over his role. The existing student will however be available during Spring 2017 to help orient and help the new student start working effectively on this project in Spring 2017.
Based on simulation results of intruder success rates, you will next decide on how to alter the security system layout and components to enhance its effectiveness. This will require work with the industrial simulation system designer since their current product does not well cover underwater attack scenarios.
This UROP project can evolve into your senior thesis project. There have been 2 NSE UROP students who have worked on the security aspect of this project. The first wrote and delivered a paper at the ICONE international nuclear engineering conference series and the second, working thru May 2017, is also preparing a paper to be delivered at a forthcoming international nuclear engineering conference.
Though this security system project will be largely an independent effort on your part, you will meet regularly with the faculty advisor, Prof. Neil Todreas, in his office at Blg. 24. After getting acquainted with the project and simulation tools, UROP research and work in this project can be remote using your personal laptop and, starting in May 2017 when the current project student finishes, using the more powerful project workstation. In addition to these meetings with Prof. Todreas, there will be regular team ONP meetings in which project students (currently 2) and one post doc each report their findings to the whole group which includes 3 NSE professors.

Optimizing Nanostructured Ceramic Coatings to Mitigate Hydrogen Embrittlement

Contact: Dr. William Bowman
Posting Date: 2017-01-11

Oxide compositions were predicted to optimize
thermodynamic properties and surface reaction characteristics
(from Youssef et al. Phys. Rev. App. 2016)

UROP Description: This project will help us design, fabricate and optimize novel ceramic coatings intended to mitigate hydrogen embrittlement of metals. Addressing this problem could have implications in areas such as nuclear reactor materials, materials for geothermal systems, and infrastructure for a hydrogen economy. You will gain practical research experience performing materials synthesis, structural and chemical characterization (e.g. X-ray diffraction, molecular absorption), and data analysis. This UROP is well suited to students interested in materials science and engineering, nuclear science and engineering, physical chemistry, and/or similar. Our aim is to understand the water dissociation reaction occurring at surfaces of solid oxides, and the molecular absorption/solubility characteristics of the reaction products in the oxide. These processes are critical to the hydrogen uptake process that leads to hydrogen embrittlement—and ultimately failure—in many metals and alloys. Based on recent theoretical simulations, the materials selected for this work are predicted to be promising coating candidates, and are considered for integration into technology currently under development.
Prerequisites: We will give preference to candidates who can commit to working at least 12 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters for at least a year and at least 20 to 40 hours per week during the summer and IAP.
Faculty supervisor: Prof. Bilge Yildiz
Contact: Please send your resume to William Bowman, PhD (

Be the First To See Critical Heat Flux (CHF) in Nuclear Reactor Conditions

Contact: Prof. Matteo Bucci
Posting Date: 2016-09-28

Simultaneous signals showing two phase fluid behavior in subcooled flow boiling

UROP Description: The NSE Reactor Thermal-Hydraulics group is looking for motivated students to assist with a first-of-a-kind experimental study. Our group uses high-speed video and infrared cameras to visualize boiling heat transfer in a flow boiling facility, which duplicates the thermal-hydraulics conditions of a PWR sub-channel. The goal of this particular study is to improve the understanding and gather data on Critical Heat Flux (CHF). CHF is characterized by the formation and growth of large vapor patches on the boiling surface. When this occurs the fuel cladding temperature in the region of the vapor patch increases sharply and the fuel cladding can reach its melting point in a very short time. This phenomenon is called burnout and is a major safety concern in nuclear reactors, since it can lead to fission product release.

In this UROP project, you will have the opportunity to participate in every facet of the project, working with one or more graduate students and/or post-docs. Beginning with the modification of an existing flow loop, you will be able to gain hands-on experience in building an experimental facility and learning many practical skills related to equipment construction, design and machining. Next, you will learn to operate the newly constructed facility including the use of state-of-the-art infrared and high-speed-video cameras. Lastly, you will work with the newly acquired data and apply advanced post-processing techniques to fully analyze the data and gain tremendous insight into the physics of boiling heat transfer.

This UROP is a unique opportunity to gain experience and develop skills in many different disciplines including experimental thermal-hydraulics, design and construction, operation, data acquisition, uncertainty quantification and MATLAB/LABVIEW competency.

This project also requires some manual labor during the construction phase. Additionally, we anticipate this project taking one year or more and ask you to participate for a comparable amount of time. Experience with MATLAB, LABVIEW or flow loop mechanical equipment is a plus but a strong motivation to learn is equally valuable! For information about this UROP please contact Prof. Matteo Bucci ( or Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno (

Defeating Terrorist Attack with High Energy Explosive Blasts against the Security System of the Offshore Floating Nuclear Reactor Plant (OFNP)

Contact: Prof. Neil Todreas
Posting Date: 2016-09-13

Rendering of the OFNP concept, which you will protect from explosions

UROP Description: Interested in testing your own security system layout with a state of the art industry numerical code which computes blast effects on the hull of our floating nuclear plant? The Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant is the novel nuclear design receiving broad public attention which is being developed by a team of UG and Grad students and professors in NSE which places an advanced, developed reactor on a floating platform of the type being used in the offshore oil and gas industry.

In this UROP you will evaluate/redesign as needed the security system with the blast code system being offered for our use by an industrial organization. Look up the October 2000 explosive attack by adversaries on the USS Cole while docked in Aden, and the earlier but failed attack also in Aden on the USS The Sullivans. Lethal damage by terrorist blast attack is a real threat that our reactor plant must be safeguarded against. Our reactor plant is an offshore (8 to 12 miles), floating (cylindrical shaped structure equivalent to a gas or oil drilling rig upon which a nuclear reactor is mounted) nuclear plant (OFNP).

The first task is to become acquainted with the security system--physical barriers, instrumentation ranges of sonar and radar, and the security force weaponry ranges--which a previous UROP has specified based on traditional security system practice. With this done, you will use the blast numerical code to assess damage from multiple intruder small boat attack attempts which allow the attack boat to reach various ranges from the OFNP. Based on intruder success observed, you will next decide how to alter the security system layout and components to enhance its effectiveness. This will require work with the industrial blast code with which we have already done preliminary calculations and have access to the industrial company’s specialist to guide and answer questions that arise.

Limited numerical code experience is required but a strong interest in numerical code calculation is needed. This UROP could be also executed as the Senior Thesis required by NSE.

Voltage-Sensitive MRI Microprobes

Contact: Prof. Alan Jasanoff
Posting Date: 2016-09-13

UROP Description: This project involves highly innovative interfacing between live neurons and nano-fabricated probes for the magnetic resonance imaging of neural activity. The project includes primary neural cell culturing on nano-fabricated devices and magnetic measurements of cells. The student's role involves performing the neuron culture growth on the devices, participation in magnetic recordings and modeling. Nano-fabrication is also a possibility for motivated students.

Build an Android & iOS Geiger Counter App

Contact: Prof. Michael Short
Posting Date: 2016-04-19

This is pretty much what we want to happen

UROP Description: We need someone who can build us an NSE-branded app to turn our new micro-Geiger counter kit into a fully functional teaching tool. You don't have to already know Android or iOS programming, though knowing some programming will help a lot. We want this app to allow the user to plug the GC into the phone's headphone/microphone port, at which point the phone will count digitized pulses. The app should also perform onboard statistical analysis, to show the count rate, the equivalent human dose rate, and a live uncertainty. Users should be able to either accumulate count rates in "live" mode, or run a timed experiment to either count for a certain time or reach a specified uncertainty. This is a great opportunity to put your 22.01 skills to the test. No need to be a nuclear engineer to fulfill this UROP, all students are welcome! We're perfectly willing to hire two UROPs, one for the Android app, and one for the iOS app.

Variable Electricity from Base-Load Nuclear Power Plants Using Thermal Storage Technologies

Contact: Dr. Charles Forsberg
Posting Date: 2016-03-02

UROP Description: In a low-carbon world electricity will be produced by nuclear and renewable energy sources. These are high-capital-cost low-operating-cost energy producers; thus, it is required to operate them at full capacity to minimize the cost of energy. However, no combination of base-load nuclear and renewables match electricity demand. There is the need for storage. Electricity can be stored as work (batteries, pumped storage, etc.) or heat. Heat from the nuclear reactor is (1) stored at times of low electricity demand and low prices and (2) used to generate peak electricity at times of high electricity demand and high prices The cost of heat storage is a factor of ten to 100 times less per kWh. There are many heat storage technologies—some that have been deployed and many others have been proposed. We are looking for students to investigate (literature review) several proposed heat storage options including geothermal heat storage and analysis of electricity markets to determine economics.

A new method to calculate the temperature dependence of nuclear reactions cross sections

Contact: Prof. Benoit Forget
Posting Date: 2015-09-01

UROP Description: What keeps the nuclear industry in business is the power released from fission within a core of a reactor. Each time a neutron interacts with a uranium nucleus, it has a probability to either cause fission, or to be absorbed and reemitted as a photon, or as a new neutron, or any other nuclear reaction. Because the uranium is hot, the atoms vibrate and the nuclear reaction probabilities – represented by cross sections – change. This temperature dependence of nuclear cross sections can be modeled by the Doppler broadening operation. It is crucial to calculate this operation correctly in order to accurately predict the power of a nuclear reactor. In present Monte Carlo neutron transport codes, Doppler broadening is calculated in a memory-intensive way, and improving it would have a direct impact on the industry. We have recently developed a new approach to deal with the Doppler broadening operation, which promises to outperform present methods. The goal of the UROP project would be to fine-tune the method by establishing the optimal set of parameters to implement it, and to study its performance on a set of important isotopes for industry applications. The perfect fit candidate is someone who has some experience in solving numerical problems computationally, and wants to expand their knowledge and practice of linear algebra and optimization. No physics knowledge is required. This UROP project is a great opportunity to put one’s knowledge to work to help solve a real-world, hot-topic in industry, and would lead to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Elastodynamic Surface Response Functions - Theoretical Modeling

Contact: Cody Dennett
Posting Date: 2015-09-01

Angular slowness surfaces of surface acoustic waves on (111) silicon

UROP Description: The Mesoscale Nuclear Materials Lab is interested in studying the acoustic response of materials, modelled as semi-infinite media, to particular forms of surface excitations. Theoretically, this is accomplished by numerically computing the values of the elastodynamic Green's functions to identify the number and speeds of the allowable acoustic modes for given single crystal materials. These calculations produce "slowness surfaces" from which information about the surface acoustic modes of interest can be derived. At present, we have a working code written in Fortran90 to compute these slowness surfaces that we would like to update to a more modern language, Matlab or Mathematica preferred, with an intuitive user interface and material parameters as inputs. This project will involve a significant amount of coding, but will also require gaining an understanding of the underlying physics of surface response functions for anisotropic media.

Study of preconditioners optimization for use in MOOSE/FALCON Deep Boreholes simulations

Contact: Emilio Baglietto
Posting Date: 2015-08-13
UROP Description: MOOSE is a framework for solving computational engineering problems in a well-planned and coordinated way, leveraged across multiple programs. The goal of using a preconditioner is to transform an original system of equations to be solved to a new one which has the same solution, but is easier to solve, so that iterative methods will have better efficiency and robustness. Many options exist for implementing improved preconditioning in MOOSE. The aim of this project is to study preconditioning options currently available in MOOSE and to determine the optimal for fluid and heat transport and mechanical equations applied to the analysis of performance of a nuclear waste repository.

Designing a Low Cost Gamma Spectrometer for the Masses

Contact: Areg Danagoulian
Posting Date: 2015-06-05

UROP Description: Would you like to help design a low cost spectrometer (LoCoS) for gamma particles, to make gamma radiation spectroscopy affordable for the masses? A number of low cost particle detectors can be built using online kits and instructions, e.g. Geiger counters, cell-phone based CMOS cameras, etc. However, none of these can determine the energy of the gamma. By determining the energy one can also identify the isotopes which are producing the radiation. Most commercially available spectroscopic devices are very expensive (>$1k), and as such are not suitable for personal educational purposes. Let's design an open source spectroscopic gamma detector which is cheap enough (<$100) for a motivated high school student to be able to build and learn from! A simplified schematic of the detector can be seen in the picture below. A diode detects the scintillation light from a crystal which was hit by a gamma. Its signal is sent to a transimpedance amplifier. This amplified signal is then integrated, producing an energy spectrum. The spectral analysis will then allow the user to determine whether the radiation is coming from naturally occurring materials (e.g. 40K, 208Tl), a medical radioisotope (e.g. 99Tc), or something like plutonium or uranium!

Gas Turbine Topping Cycles for PWRs

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 0000-00-00
UROP Description: In the US, future expansion of nuclear power is limited by the competition with combined cycle plants fueled with the inexpensive natural gas produced by fracking. Forsberg and his collaborators (1) have shown that by combining an open cycle gas turbine with a liquid salt-cooled graphite-moderated reactor a very competitive system is produced that can load follow and prosper when peak electricity can be sold at high prices. Our goal here is to determine whether a similar synergistic hybrid can be realized using an LWR as the nuclear system.
(1) C. Forsberg and P.F. Peterson, “Basis for Fluoride Salt-cooled High Temperature Reactors with Nuclear Air-Brayton Combined Cycles and Firebrick Resistive-heated Energy Storage,” Nuclear Technology, Vol. 196, October 2016.