Skip to content

Potential Student Research Projects

Below is a list of potential research projects for students joining the Bredesen Center. Please note these are only a few of the projects available for students admitted to the program. Please feel free to contact any ESE or DSE faculty researcher with questions.

For more information or to apply to the Bredesen Center follow these application instructions:

Application Info

Dr. Chad Duty

Dr. Duty’s research group is investigating new materials that are suitable for 3D printing (additive manufacturing). In contrast to conventional desktop printing of simple thermoplastics, Duty’s group focuses on printing of high temperature reinforced composite materials and novel printing techniques, including Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) which prints structures on the order of several meter at a rate of 200x faster than conventional techniques. Duty’s research group works closely with ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on projects such as:

  • “Printability” Model: A viscoelastic model that maps appropriate processing conditions for printing of high performance polymers and reinforced composites.
  • Liquid Nails: A patent-pending approach for 3D Printing that uses “liquid nails” to improve the bond between printed layers, which has traditionally been the weakest link in 3D printed structures.
  • Controlling Distortion: As plastic solidifies, it shrinks. For 3D printing, this produces a large amount of distortion, especially for large parts. Duty’s research is working to change the print paths and the local material composition to develop methods for controlling distortion in a printed part.
  • High Temperature Tooling: Aerospace and automotive companies use large and complex molds (or “tools”) to define the shape of composite parts, which are formed at high temperatures and pressures in an autoclave. In collaboration with ORNL, Duty’s group is using the high temperature materials they’re developing to print and test these tools for production, cutting the time and money required for making components significantly.
  • Fatigue Life: Several applications where 3D printing of metals is attractive are limited by fatigue behavior. Duty’s group has been investigating how different printing conditions affect the microstructure of the material, and how this in turn affects the fatigue life of high performance titanium parts.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Chad Duty at

Dr. Melanie Mayes

Wetland Soil Biogeochemical Cycling Project

This work will focus on soils, geochemistry, and microbial communities. Research topics will be experimental in nature and will be designed to improve the model representation of redox-active microbial functions in tropical wetlands and soils. Expertise or interest in microbial community function, wetland biogeochemistry, greenhouse gas emissions, and redox reactions in subsurface materials is desired. Students will have the flexibility to explore interests in microbial community function, wetland biogeochemistry, greenhouse gas emissions, and redox reactions in subsurface materials.

Students will have the opportunity to interact closely with a team consisting of soil biogeochemists, modelers, and a bioinformaticist to investigate relations between geochemical and microbiological features of wetland soils and greenhouse gas releases. The research will involve lab- and field-scale measurements of greenhouse gas emissions, microbial metagenomics, and soil geochemistry. Students are expected to work closely with modelers who will utilize experimental data and observations to improve and develop microbial models. Research will involve literature review and data analysis. Participation in scientific conferences and publication of results is expected.

Qualities essential for this position are:

  • A real passion for understanding the natural world
  • The ability to communicate clearly and effectively, in oral and written forms
  • Competence in statistical techniques
  • Self-motivation and goal setting skills
  • Ability to work in a collaborative environment
  • BS or MS in Environmental Science, Biogeochemistry, Microbiology, Soil Science, or a related discipline

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Melanie Mayes at

Dr. Bruce Pint

Dr. Pint leads the Corrosion Science and Technology Group in the Materials Science and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  The group covers all forms of corrosion for power generation and transportation but specializes in high temperature issues.

Current projects include:

  • Molten salt compatibility for concentrated solar power thermal storage and working fluid for nuclear energy.  Critical issues remain to be addressed to define economical operating windows for this technology.
  • Supercritical carbon dioxide compatibility is of interest for concentrated solar power, fossil energy and nuclear energy.  This technology offers much higher efficiencies but compatibility with affordable structural alloys is needed to lower the cost.
  • Development of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) models for high temperature oxidation performance.  This is a critical missing link in the development of the next generation of high temperature materials for transportation and power generation.
  • Lifetime performance models are needed in a variety of areas including thin-walled heat exchangers.  National laboratories are able to generate longer-term data sets than universities but the key next step is to harness this information into a predictive model for the design of next generation systems for transportation and power generation.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Bruce Pint at

Dr. Arash Shaban-Nejad

Dr. Arash Shaban-Nejad’s lab in the UTHSC-Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center offers multiple research assistantship positions to work on projects in medical and public health informatics, epidemiologic surveillance, precision medicine and big-data analytics in healthcare.

Students will find opportunities to tackle real world computational challenges in public health and medicine through the use of tools and techniques from artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, social media analytics, knowledge representation, and semantic web.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Arash Shaban-Nejad at

Dr. Zili Wu

(Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL)

Photocatalysis Project

The research project (taking place at CNMS of ORNL) will be focused on converting small molecules such as water, CO2, and N2 into useful chemicals and fuels such as H2, alcohols and NH3 with the help of low dimensional photocatalysts/photoelectrocatalysts.  Desired student may have research background or interest in the area of energy conversion, heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, physical chemistry and material chemistry.  Interest in in situ/operando spectroscopy characterization of catalysts and surface chemistry is also welcome.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. Zili Wu at

For more information or to apply to the Bredesen Center follow these application instructions:

Application Info

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

Report an accessibility barrier.Privacy.