Independent Work & Thesis

The Department offers a remarkable opportunity for students to engage in an independent program in invention, development, and/or research on a topic of their choice. All students are required to complete at least one semester of Independent Work.   (Independent Work Guidelines).  Independent Work, Senior Thesis or Senior Project must be taken at the senior level in order to fulfill the department's Independent Work requirement.  All projects must include engineering design.  Design is defined as devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.   MAE 439, 440, 442 or 444 may also partially satisfy a Design requirement. Independent projects enable one to utilize, and to transcend, classroom learning by applying creativity, coupled with the scientific background acquired from classes, toward a challenging project. Year-long senior independent projects may constitute a Senior Thesis, and students are strongly encouraged to consider this option. The result of such self-motivated activity has frequently led to publications and design patents.

Students have the opportunity to to work on a topic which a Faculty advisor is pursuing and this close collaboration will frequently also involve interaction with graduate students studying the same problem. An aspect of the program is to facilitate bringing together as many scientific and nonscientific elements as necessary to pursue a topic; consequently, faculty advisors are not limited to just those within the MAE department. Advisors can be from any relevant engineering or science department and can also co-advise on the problem. This opportunity is often cited by students as the highlight of their four year experience at Princeton. In the words of Joseph Campbell "You can follow your own bliss."

The topics include:

  • Applied Physics and Lasers
  • Computational Engineering
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Fluid Mechanics and Combustion
  • Ground, Air, and Space Vehicles and Transportation
  • Humans and Machines, Components and Controls
  • Materials and Biomaterials

Juniors are invited to participate in the program although it will not satisfy their departmental requirement. Their efforts culminate in an in- depth exploration of topical challenges in society, using technology to address the needs of the world.

A high number of independent work students collect nationally recognized awards and honors, including fellowships and scholarships such as Marshall Scholarships, Rhodes Scholarships, and Churchill Scholarships as well as winning competitions with their independent work.

The independent project provides the opportunity to address real-world issues beyond academia through the development of a solution or improvement to society. Furthermore, this opportunity encourages learning how to present ideas to the public. This is an essential element of a technical education and is central to taking concepts further than the academic laboratory and having them recognized as useful.

The following are some examples of recent student projects:


Aero/Astro Engineering

The Guardian: Unmanned Seaplane for Coastal Search and Rescue - S. Bonar, E. Carlson, E. Jung, P. Na, K Skinner (Advisor - Martinelli)

Analysis and Development of a Low-Order Wavefront Sensor for Exoplanet Detection Applications - K. Cavanagh (Advisor - Kasdin)

The Ferrofluid Deformable Mirror Concept - D. Chen (Advisor - Kasdin)

Conceptual Design of a Mobile Platform for Venus Atmospheric Study - J. Davis (Advisor - Martinelli)

Design of a Shape Memory Alloy Actuated Morphing Wing - T. DeVoe (Advisor - Martinelli)

Stability Augmentation of an Oblique Wing RC Aircraft - R. Johnson, D. Santillan (Advisor - Rowley)

Fluid Mechanics and Computational Fluid Dynamics

Harnessing Tidal Energy: Experimental Analysis of Optimal Contraction Ratios for Velocity Augmentation Through a Vertical Axis Tidal Turbine in a Stratford Constriction - S. Gupta, E. Materniak, R. Waguespack (Advisor - Smits)

Towards Turbulent Drag Reduction on a Superhydrophobic Aluminum SLIPS Surface - K. Wang (Advisor Hultmark/Smits)

Energy and Environment

Soot Evolution in Turbulent Reacting Flows: Refining the Mesh for Bluff Body Ethylene Flames - L. Baldwin (Advisor - Mueller)

Acoustic Tuning of the Intake and Exhaust Systems of a 4-Stroke Motorcycle Engine - N. Brauser (Advisor - Littman)

The Design and Development of Three Low Cost Devices to Analyze the Characteristics of Batteries - D.Davies (Advisor - Steingart)

Design of a Low-Cost Frequency Response Analyzer for Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy - G. Grossman (Advisor - Steingart)

Measurement of the Thrust-Specific Fuel Consumption of a Small-Scale Jet Engine - K. Jones (Advisor - Martinelli)

Overcoming Barriers for International Development and Poverty Reduction: Engineering an Environmentally-Sustainable, Economic-Development Project in Sub-Saharan Africa - K. Oneil (Advisor - Van der Vink-Geosciences)

Weakly Buoyant Spherical Diffusion Flames: Properties of Hydrogen-CO/Ethylene Flames - L. Paxton (Advisor - Law)

Materials and Biomaterials

Ultrasonic Transducers for Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Studies - S. Alberti (Advisor - McAlpine)

Mechanical Properties of Lithium-Ion Battery Separators - C. Leng (Advisor - Arnold)

3D Printed Biocapacitors for Sensing and Actuation - I. Trase (Advisor - McAlpine)

Humans, Machines, Components, and Controls

The Magic of Motion Simulation: The Design and Fabrication of a Model Stewart Platform Capable of Replicating Real-World Accelerations - J. Adelson (Advisor - Kasdin)

Workplace Design for the Disabled: Modifying an Assembly Sequence - B. Aktas (Advisor - Stone)

Asteroid Exploratory Robot (AER) - A. Boohene, D. Newill-Smith, T. Trieu (Advisor - Stengel)

Active Control for a Riderless Bicycle - D. Chin (Advisor - Rowley)

Design of a Jigsaw-Puzzle-Solving Robot - B. Fisher (Advisor - Stengel)

The Hyperloop: A Top-Down Systems Engineering Evaluation of the Technical and Economic Feasibility - B. Hallin (Advisor - D. Nosenchuck)

L'Arrivee D'un Train en gare de Princeton Junction: Multiple Sweet Spot Binaural 3D Audio for Active Stereoscopic 3D Video - K. Hochgraf (Advisor - Choueiri)

Surpassing the Age of the Pitcher: Design for a Higher-Precision Baseball Pitching Machine - M Kelley (Advisor - Nosenchuck)

No Force Necessary: Turning on the Targeting Computer with Polynomial Trajectory Estimation and Quadcopter Control - T. Matchen (Advisor - Holmes)

An Introduction to Electronics for Advanced High School Students - S. Modi (Advisor - Littman)

Moving an Immovable Limb: Prototyping a Low-Cost Simplified Robotic Exoskeletal Arm Mobility Aid - C. Odabashian (Advisor - Littman)

The Effect of a Flywheel on the Stability of a Riderless Bicycle - K. O'Neil (Advisor - Arnold)

Growing Closer Aeroponic System - W. Tinsman (Advisor - Nosenchuck)

Bicycle Shimmy: An Analytical and Experimental Inquiry - N. Tyrell (Advisor - Rowley)

Applied Physics/Plasma Physics

Characterization of Thermal Desorption from Hydrogen-Carbon Co-Deposition Layers for Fusion Applications via Crystal Microbalance Measurements with Gallium Orthophosphate Crystals - A. Creely (Advisor Jaworski-PPPL)

Generation of the Magnetic Null Field Topography in a Novel Electric Propulsion Proof-of-Concept - C. Kelly (Advisor - Choueiri)

Computational Investigation of the Magentic Nozzle - A. Macdonagh (Advisor - Choueiri)

An Approach to Cell Characterization for Filtered Rayleigh Scattering Used in High Speed Flow Diagnostics - J. Shim (Advisor - Miles)

Do you need technical help for your Thesis or Independent Work?

The following Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering staff are available to provide any technical assistance you my require with Independent Work Projects. Do not hesitate to utilize their help.

Manufacturing, Machine Shop Fabrication of Parts

Glenn Northey Office: Machine Shop Phone: 8-4758

Electronic and Technical Support Laboratories

Mike Vocaturo Office: J209 Phone: 8-5236

Jonathan Prevost Office: C131 Phone: 8-2726 

Machine Shop Assc/Machinist

Al Gaillard Office: Equad Lab Name: Machine Shop Phone: (609) 258-0140

Machine Shop Calendar