College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Undergrad research takes flight: MSE’s Jun Cui mentor in Boeing research fellowship program

Two researchers stand in a lab next to a melt-spinner instrument

Two researchers stand in a lab near a melt-spinner instrument

Jun Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering, was a faculty mentor in the new Boeing Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

Hands-on industry partnerships

The partnership with Boeing pairs undergraduate students with College of Engineering faculty and Boeing engineers to get hands-on research experience in cutting-edge projects in aerospace engineering, cyber security, autonomous systems, machine learning and more.

“The Boeing Undergraduate Research Fellowship has created opportunities for undergrads to learn research by doing, work on high-impact projects, and get familiar with the intellectual property considerations of industry-backed research,” said Arun Somani, associate dean for research, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, and Philip and Virginia Sproul Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“What makes this program unique is that each undergrad researcher has two mentors. One is a Cyclone Engineering faculty member in whose lab the student works and gets experience. The second is a mentor from Boeing who advises on the project direction and the practicality of the project for actual industry use,” said Somani. “Boeing Undergraduate Research Fellows also benefit from Innovate at Iowa State’s programming on entrepreneurship, IP management and ethics. Fellows also may get opportunities for summer industry internships.”

“Experiential learning and building relationships are essential to an engineer’s development. This program is another great example where Iowa State students and Boeing engineers come together to jointly learn and research new technologies and approaches to some fascinating aerospace challenges,” said Ben Nimmergut (’01 mechanical engineering), vice president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Engineering Functions.

New materials for tunable noise cancellation

Cui was a faculty mentor for Yoke Qi Ho, a junior in chemical engineering, on a project to develop new engine noise cancellation technology based on the special properties of shape memory alloys.

Right now, noise cancellation is designed for a fixed range of frequencies, but new innovations could tune noise dampening to varying noise frequencies in real time. Ho, under Cui’s mentorship, is developing a shape memory mesh that’s able to change its porosity according to the input electrical current, making its resistance to air flow tuned at aircraft takeoff, cruising and landing.

“This was my first time I’ve been involved in research and this project really helped me realize my passion for engineering,” said Ho. “I’ve learned how to generate big new ideas to explore.”

“The experiences I’m getting in the Boeing Undergraduate Research Fellowship took me beyond what’s in a textbook and put me in the right place to learn from Iowa State faculty and Boeing engineers,” said Ho.