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Sample Projects

The research project is central to the UROP experience; therefore, we offer a wide variety of research projects.  Admitted UROP students will have access to our available projects after their Mandatory Enrollment Seminar in early September and may apply to projects listed under the discipline they selected in their application.  Students are encouraged to look broadly for projects and to keep an open mind when perusing the project listings.  Many of the projects can be cross-listed and/or listed under more than one type of discipline.  One of the most important aspects our students take into consideration when looking for a project is the types of skills to be gained overall and the work environment. Many students choose projects which they think will compliment their academic interests, coursework and career aspirations.

All schools, colleges, and affiliated entities and units of the University of Michigan are active participants in UROP, thereby providing a wealth of research topics from which a student can choose from.  In general, research topics can be found in the following areas:

Click on the disciplines below to see just a small sample of projects that were available to UROP students in the past. 

Arts and Humanities

Chinese Cultural History

I am beginning a new book project that sets out to compare various aspects of Chinese and English literary culture in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are many intriguing parallels between these two societies at this time that have not yet been adequately explored.  The research methodology involves careful reading of primary and secondary sources (in English and Chinese) relating to the topic.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Identify, locate, and summarize (in English) relevant scholarly articles in Chinese books and academic journals.

 

Reading Shakespeare's Non-dramatic Poetry

I have been commissioned by Cambridge University Press to write a book on Shakespeare's Non-dramatic poetry that would be available to
undergraduates.  Working with an interested undergraduate could be a perfect way for me to register just what needs to be glossed for today's students.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  I would ask the student to read with me all of Shakespeare's nondramatic poetry (the Sonnets plus two narrative poems).  The student would primarily help me with library trips and with reading my accounts of Shakespeare's works.  It is my hope that this experience would help a student learn just what literary scholarship is about. I would ask the student to read with me all of Shakespeare's nondramatic poetry (the Sonnets plus two narrative poems). 

 

Passages in American Studies and Music

I am a cultural and intellectual historian who works on the twentieth-century US. I am currently writing a scholarly book entitled HEARING LOSS: THE DREAMLIFE OF MODERN JAZZ. This book involves original research and critical reflection on U.S. music, literature, film, and intellectual life, especially in the 1950-1970 period. The projects look at jazz music, fictional and non-fictional writings about jazz music, and cinematic reflections on the music life in that period. I am seeking a UROP research assistant. Research in archives and old periodicals is important to the project. In addition, I am also undertaking preliminary research on several other topics, including a study of US culture and film in the 1970s.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Students consult with the advising professor and then do research in campus libraries and collections and related resources of U-M. Students meet regularly with the advising professor to "process" the research, brainstorm new directions, and discuss methods and archives. Students will locate and retrieve (and often discuss) relevant sources in campus libraries, archives, the web, and so forth; photocopying or taking notes from said sources; retrieving books and materials from libraries; and related activities.

 

Latina Feminisms Archival Project

U.S. feminist historiography has tended to elide, diminish, or ignore the contributions of women of color to the theoretical formation of contemporary feminist thought. This is partially due to the fact that so much of what women of color have written has been lost to the archive, because women of color had minimal access to the mainstream publishing
industry, and because so many of their texts were published by small independent presses. These texts do exist. However, in most cases they reside not in libraries, but in the personal/private archives of women who are still living. I have spent the last few years collecting some of these texts and am currently working on a multi-pronged research and archival recovery project that will bring them back into publication as an edited series with contextualizing introductions (written by me) as well as essays by and quotes from Chicana
feminists.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  (1)Preparing
two short manuscripts (The Chicana Feminist by Martha Cotera, Diosa y Hembra by
Martha Cotera) and one long manuscript (Dorinda Moreno's collection, La Mujer
en Pie de Lucha) for future publication. (2) Contacting activists and authors
who contributed to Moreno's book. (3) Researching other out-of-print
publications by Chicanas and Latinas.

 

Worlds of the Prison in Eastern Europe

Worlds of the Prison is a cross-cultural comparison of poems, fiction, and memoirs that represent life in large, open-air, but restricted spaces, such as concentration camps, prison camps, ghettos, and besieged cities. These spaces and the texts that discuss them have played a conspicuous role in the historical consciousness and modern literatures of
Eastern and Central Europe, yet little scholarly attention has been paid to the features that connect these texts across national traditions or distinguish them from conventional prison literature. First-person prison-cell narratives generally describe the existential horrors of living in cramped isolation or awaiting execution; they are often meditations on the meaning of justice, and they draw very clear distinctions between the prison and the “outside.” Poems and stories about camps and ghettos, on the other hand, construct a
terrifyingly plausible world-within-a-world. Here, the daily lives of captives are a strange imitation of the world on the other side of the wall or barbed-wire fence. Most of the research for this project will occur in the library. Literature about concentration camps and gulags has had an extremely rich and complicated reception, both in Eastern Europe and in the English-speaking world. At this stage of the project, a major goal will be to use library
resources to reconstruct the critical reactions and polemics surrounding this
literature.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  (1) to locate and retrieve articles and essays responding to key texts in popular and scholarly periodicals. The student will be asked to take an active role in prioritizing which areas of a text's reception history require the most urgent attention. (2) To locate maps, photographs, and other visual resources relevant to key events and locales. (3) To engage in an ongoing discussion of how literature and history intersect.

 

Affirming Diversity at the University of Michigan after Proposal 2

While researchers have documented the many benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education, the use of race-conscious policies such as affirmative action (or the consideration of race as a plus factor in admissions) to achieve a racially diverse student body has been a subject of controversy in our nation. After years of litigation, in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the practice in its landmark decision Grutter v. Bollinger.  Despite the decision, in 2006, voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, which amended the state’s constitution to prohibit affirmative action at public colleges and universities in the state.  This research project will explore the University of Michigan’s efforts to maintain a racially and ethnically diverse student body and faculty after Proposal 2 was implemented in the state. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will be asked to conduct an online search of past studies that have addressed the topic, to research various organizations on campus targeted toward improving racial and ethnic diversity within the student body and the faculty, and to conduct interviews.

 

Conflicting Contemporary Attitudes about Homosexuality

The premise of this research project is that within the U.S. population there are generational differences in awareness of and sensitivity to homosexuality. The project examines the ongoing culture war and evolution of attitudes about lesbians and gay men within contemporary U.S. society. The format is observation and discussion of relevant feature and documentary films. Rationalization for such a vehicle is Hollywood’s general portrayal of homosexuals as “one-dimensional characters, alien to the American dream,” prior to the 1980s. The journey to and beyond that turning point closely parallels societal behavior. A syllabus is available at (www.univliving.com). Participants will include UROP students, elderly residents of a local assisted living facility dedicated to lifelong learning, and community-based older adult members of the UM Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: (1) attend 7:00p (usually Mon. & Tues.) film presentations and group discussions; (2)meet privately for at least one hour per week with at least one of the older participants to discuss relevant issues; (3)write one term paper
per semester; (4)provide weekly e-mail updates of participation.

Engineering

"As Built" Modeling with Real Time Videogrammetry

The objective of this project is to investigate the possibility of using real time videogrammetry to model buildings and the environment. The students involved will 1) Learn and test state-of-the-art close-range videogrammetry tools on the modeling of buildings and landscapes, 2) Monitor each step of the model generation process, and 3) Record the strengths and weaknesses encountered.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Assist Ph.D. students in a) testing the developed technology, b) modeling local buildings and landscapes, and c) keeping an accurate log of the process. Minimum Qualifications: Student needs to have experience programming in C++. Hours per week: 9


General Electric Turbojet Engine Combustor Experiment at Michigan to Reduce Nitric Oxide Pollutants from Commercial Aircraft Objectives and Methodology

GE Aircraft Engines has provided us with a combustor they will use in their new GE-90 jet engines; it produces low levels of nitric oxide pollutants to meet the FAA regulations. We have the ability to look inside the combustion zone and use laser light sheet flow visualization diagnostics to take photos. This information is used to develop even lower level pollutant levels.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Assist in running the GE jet engine combustor in our lab in the FXB building. Help to acquire data using commercial codes. Use MATLAB to plot the images in color pictures. Use MATLAB to analyze and compute the velocity field, temperature field. Assist in cutting new pieces to improve the combustor design. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: Desire to get hands dirty and do experimental work. Some MATLAB experience is preferred; new MATLAB tasks can be learned. Hours per Week: 9


Radiological Health Engineering Laboratory Objectives and Methodology

A new facility has been established which focuses on the measurement of small amounts of radiation in the environment and in laboratory samples. Unique, practical capabilities to solve actual industrial, medical, nuclear power, and national laboratory radiation safety challenges are to be developed through applied research. A variety of specific projects, relating to nuclear facility decommissioning, nuclear power plant emissions verification, geological research, radiotracer experiments, responses to radiological terrorist events, and the clean-up of contaminated environments are possible. Capabilities include alpha spectroscopy, portable and laboratory gamma and X-ray spectroscopy with HPGe and NaI, integrative and temporal radon and radon progeny measurement, and thermoluminescent dosimetry.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Student will assist in general with many of the projects ongoing in the laboratory. Among other tasks, this could include literature searches, data collection, and data analysis, building experimental rigs, writing or running software, organizing supplies and equipment, and testing equipment. Efforts will be made to assign each student or a team of students to a specific project relating to radiation measurements and radiation safety. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: Priority given to students seriously considering a major in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences or engineering physics. However, students in all areas of science, mathematics and engineering will be considered. Computer, writing, and experimental skills are considered important. Hours per Week: 8

 

Determination of Operational Limits and Stability Analysis of a Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition Engine Using 1-D Engine Cycle Simulation Objectives and Methodology

Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) combustion is under widespread investigation due to its potential for ultra low NOx and soot emissions, while maintaining high thermal efficiency. It accomplishes this by combining the best features of gasoline and diesel engines. Like gasoline engines it employs a relatively uniform mixture of fuel and air to reduce soot and particulates. Like the diesel engine it utilizes a high compression ratio to improve thermodynamic efficiency and employs autoignition to initiate combustion. One of the obstacles in the practical implementation of HCCI combustion in production engines is that HCCI can be used only in a relatively narrow speed and load range. The goal of this project is to investigate the behavior of an HCCI engine at the limits of its operational range and explore methods to extend these limits. Furthermore, the stability of the HCCI engine under thermal transients (load changes) will also be studied. The simulation tools that will be used in this project are GT-Power, a 1-D engine cycle simulation, and Matlab/Simulink.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The project will involve numerous parametric calculations and thorough post-processing of the results so that useful conclusions can be extracted. The software that will be used is GT-Power, a commercial 1-Dimensional engine cycle simulation, and Matlab/Simulink. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: The prospective student would benefit by prior experience with Matlab/Simulink and Excel; however she/he will be guided in the use of GT-Power. The prospective student will be expected to work independently on one of the Autolab computers and have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss her/his progress. Hours per Week: 9


Laboratory Astrophysics Objectives and Methodology

Our research group performs experiments to study, in the laboratory, physical mechanisms that matter for astrophysical phenomena including supernova explosions, supernova remnant evolution, and the collisions of shock waves with molecular clouds. We do these experiments at large laser facilities where we can create temperatures of millions of degrees and velocities of several hundred thousand miles per hour. Several UROP students join our group each year, where they help develop instrumentation for the experiments using our x-ray source, participate in building the microscopic targets we use for our studies, work on analyzing the data we obtain, and work on modeling the experiments. Some students stay with the group for several years; others leave after a year.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The primary task at first is to learn what you need to learn for your project. Whether this involves using computers to work with data, using x-rays in vacuum for measurements, or using high-precision tools to build targets, this takes time. Most students become productive only toward the end of the first semester. As a result, we only take on full-year students. It is typically in the second term that you would use your new skills and knowledge to actively. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: We have a range of tasks for students; the only minimum qualification is admission to UM and a willingness to commit 6 to 9 hours per week. We hold an open house each September for interested students. If you think this project might be a good fit for you, contact the advisor and come to the open house. You will have a chance to see what we do and speak with past UROP students and other group members.
 

Environmental Studies

Coming Soon

Health Sciences

Coming Soon 

Life Sciences

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Natural Sciences

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Public Health

Coming Soon

Physical Sciences

Coming Soon

Social Sciences

Parties and Pork: The politics of budgetary politics in Thailand and the Philippines

This project investigates the politics and political economy of budgetary politics in developing democracies, with a specific focus on Thailand and the Philippines. The study seeks to answer three questions. 1. How do political parties and institutions shape the budgetary process in Thailand and the Philippines? 2. What factors shape the mix of public goods and pork/patronage a government produces? 3. How do institutional changes affect budgetary processes and outcomes? The project will gather data on budgets and political bargaining (within the legislature, within the executive branch, and between the two branches) using qualitative methods.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Students will assist in gathering and analyzing budgetary data from Thailand and the Philippines and work on creating yearly political chronologies of the rough and tumble process of drafting and passing a budget. The intent will be to be able to put raw budgetary figures in some sort of political context. For example, in year X the government's budget for education spending was drastically cut, why? Who advocated this cut? Who opposed it?

 

The Birth of Media Propaganda in France: 1935-1940

To investigate the strategic uses of broadcasting by Nazis and Soviets to debilitate and divide French public opinion.  Project relies on use of historical documents (news articles, editorials, and broadcast transcripts) and communications and cultural theory.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Translate and analyze primary source historical documents.  Perform some library research.

 

Democracy: Ethnographic Approaches

I am writing articles on democracy in Ecuador to submit to a number of journals.  The articles focuses on the relationship between democracy promotion programs of international development agencies on the one hand and local municipal governments’ processes for citizen participation, on the other.  My field research in Ecuador has involved fieldnotes, interviews, collection of written materials such as organizational reports, brochures, etc. I hope to be doing more interviews with development agencies in Washington, DC. I am also submitting several funding proposals.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Literature review of Andean ethnography and development studies; research on democracy promotion programs of international development agencies, including searching websites, brochures, and other documentation; following of news reports of the current events through on-line Ecuadorian periodicals (this requires Spanish language ability); transcribing interviews .

 

Environmental Regulations on the U.S. Cement Industry

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to further reduce emissions of both criteria air pollutants and toxics from U.S. cement manufacturing. The cement industry is currently responsible for a significant percentage of industrial emissions. There is growing concern that emissions “leakage” will undermine the effectiveness of environmental regulation limiting emissions from domestic cement production. If the United States imposes regulations to emissions from its cement producers, it is possible that cement production (and thus emissions) will “leak out” to less stringently regulated facilities in Canada and Mexico.  The main objective of this project is to understand how recently implemented environmental regulations have affected patterns of investment, production, and pollution in the U.S. cement industry. In the past 15 years, the introduction of both “market-based” and more conventional “command-and-control” regulation of emissions from domestic cement production has exacerbated the asymmetry in regulatory stringency across Canada, the United States and Mexico. The structure of the domestic cement industry has also changed substantially over this period.  This project will explore relationships between regulatory incentives, industry structure, and industrial activity in the interest of identifying causal relationships between environmental regulation and outcomes of interest (such as emissions intensity).

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Identify potential sources of publicly available industry data.  Summarize data on investment, production, emissions, and imports in the U.S. cement industry. Conduct a preliminary survey of relevant literature.

 

Emotion Regulation as a Complex System

We are running a series of cross-cultural studies examining patterns of word acquisition in infants and toddlers. Specifically, we are interested in how children learn specific classes of words such as nouns, verbs, and people terms across English-, Korean-, and Chinese-speaking populations.

Parents and their infants will be recruited to visit our laboratory and asked to complete a vocabulary checklist as well as watch a short videotape (for example, of a person performing a simple action on a small toy). During the presentation of the video, the child may hear some words or sounds presented with the videos.  By videotaping children’s reactions and measuring how long they looks at each of these scenes, we can learn more about patterns of infant language development. By observing infants' looking behavior and preferences for particular videos in experimental settings, we will probe young word learners' abilities to map new words to objects, actions, and people, as well as their understanding of objects, actions, and people themselves. Observing infants from 6 to 24 months will enable us to begin characterizing a developmental trajectory for noun, verb, and person term acquisition. In addition, by comparing across US English-speaking and Chinese Mandarin-speaking children, we will be able to gain a more representative picture of the word acquisition process, on a cross-cultural level.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will be involved in all aspects of the research -- from greeting parents and children as they come in to our lab, recruiting, coding looking behavior, running studies, and preparing audio and visual stimuli for the studies.  Students are also expected to attend weekly lab meetings.

 

Why Not Science? Career Choices of Americans

Recently both policy-makers and the scientific community have expressed concern that fewer American college students are choosing to pursue science majors, and an increasing share of U.S. scientists are immigrants.  This project explores reasons that American students choose not to pursue careers in science.  The researchers typically use large datasets from national surveys to test whether changes in Americans’ attitudes toward science, the prestige or pay of scientists, or other factors contributed to the decline in American participation in science.  The UROP student’s portion of the project, however, is different:  we will ask the student to help us to create our own small dataset, using cultural records.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: We are looking for a UROP student to help test the hypothesis that American popular culture is less interested in science and scientists now than in the past.  Using historical newspaper and magazines, the student will have responsibility for identifying and recording information from stories that feature scientists.  Additionally, we wish to measure American scientists’ access to positions of power.  We will provide the student with a list of contemporary powerful Americans and will ask the student to use the internet and other sources to identify which of the individuals have a background in science.  The student may also help with other research topics as time permits.