STEM Summer Research Limerick Courses

You will earn 6 research credits over 8 weeks, conducting faculty supervised, hands-on, directed study research projects with results that will culminate in the preparation of a research paper.  You will complete a minimum of 240 hours on research in and out of the laboratory.

Faculty mentors will work closely with you to direct your continued growth and knowledge development in the chosen research topic discipline.

  • Make sure your courses transfer back for credit with your home school – this is your responsibility.

Choosing Your Research Project

  • Review Project titles and descriptions below.
  • List 3 (in order of preference) in your personal essay.
  • Program is highly individualized, with limited enrollment.
  • You will need to complete a brief Literature Review in consultation with your research supervisor prior to departure before the start of the program. More details here.
  • We encourage you to contact Arcadia’s Assistant Dean of STEM programs, Dr. Jessie Guinn, to discuss your particular research interests further.

Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, Materials Engineering

Course ID Title Credits Syllabus
LIME RSLW 392S International Independent Research in STEM Fields 6 PDF

Summer 2018 Projects

  • Role of Meninges in Concussion: Mechanical and Structural Characterisation of Porcine Meninges Membrane (read more)
  • Experimental Emulation of Capillary Flow (read more)
  • Finite Element Modelling of Contour Technique for Residual Stress Determination (read more)
  • Finite Element Modelling of Quenching of Aluminium Alloys to Account for Thermal Fluid Interaction (read more)
  • Manufacture of a Composite Nose Cone for a Formula Student Car (read more)
  • An Experimental Investigation of Composite Action in Double Layer Bending Active Gridshells Made from Engineered Timber (read more)
  • Twist Morphing of Kayak Paddles Using Lightweight Composite Materials (read more)
  • The Effect of Constraint on Quench Induced Residual Stresses During Precipitation Hardening of 7000 Series Aluminium Alloys (read more)
  • Computational Modelling of Mechanical Behaviour of Lightweight Carbon Fibre Materials (read more)
  • Lateral Mixing in Co-flowing Bubbly Streams (read more)
  • Playground Science for School Teachers (read more)
  • The Underlying Mathematical Framework in the Architectural Process of Christopher Alexander (read more)
  • Paper Folding Axiomatics (read more)

2018 Research Project Descriptions

Role of Meninges in Concussion: Mechanical and Structural Characterisation of Porcine Meninges Membrane

Dr. John Mulvihill, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Centre for Applied Biomedical Engineering Research

Soft Tissue Biomechanics, Concussion, Biomedical Engineering

Research field of the research project: Soft Tissue Biomechanics, concussion
Concussion awareness is increasing almost daily in most mainstream sports. Concussion is one of the mildest forms of brain damage. However, it is this mildness of injury which makes it one of the most insidious, as repeated and undetected concussions can lead to permanently altered brain function. There is currently no scientific test for concussion – only a subjective assessment. The meninges is a series of membranes that envelops the brain to protect it during impact. The purpose of this project is to mechanically characterise this membrane using, uniaxial, biaxial and fracture toughness techniques, along with electron microscopy. The project will also apply an injury mimicking concussion on the brain and comparing the effect of concussion on mechanical and structural properties of the tissue.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Are the mechanical properties of the meninges location dependent within the brain? What affect would this have on location specific concussive impacts, and cortical protection design?

Background that the student needs to have: The students should have a lot of knowledge and experience in mechanical characterisation experiments, and hyper/linear elastic stress analysis. The students should have a basic background in biology.

Analytical techniques to be employed: Uniaxial testing of porcine tissue, stress/strain analysis, statistics, electron microscopy (will provide training)

Experimental emulation of capillary flow

Professor Jacques Huyghe, Bernal Chair of Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering

Capillary flow plays a key role in a number of diseases, such as diabetes or microvascular coronary disease. Because the visualization of capillary events in vivo is difficult, there is a need to develop organ-on-a-chip models of capillary flow and exchange. The purpose of this project is to emulate capillary flow and exchange in a microfluidic device, and observe the flow, red blood cell deformation and oxygen release under confocal microscopy. Red blood cells are guided through an oxygen rich PDMS environment where after they are guided through an oxygen-depleted PDMS environment. Fluorescence quenching allows to measure oxygen partial pressures around the red blood cells. Hematocrit levels are quantified in the microchannel.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Do oxygen gradients exert a force onto red blood cells?

Background that the student needs to have:  The student should have background of physics, biophysics, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering or aeronautical engineering.

Analytical techniques to be employed: literature study, microfluidic experiments, fluorescence microscopy, fluid mechanics, particle image velocimetry.

Finite Element modelling of contour technique for residual stress determination

Dr David Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Processing Technology

Finite element analysis, Stress Analysis, Materials Engineering

Residual stresses often develop in metallic materials during manufacturing processing due to inelastic thermal strains. A technique has recently been developed in Los Alamos National laboratories which used a wire-EDM machine to section parts containing residual stress, followed by accurate measurement using coordinate measurement machines to obtain the deformed surface. Through finite element analysis, it is then possible to estimate the stress that existed prior to the EDM cut.  This technique has been shown to be robust for homogeneous metallic materials – but what happens with castings where grain sizes are several mm in diameter and the elastic modulus can vary dramatically with different crystallographic directions?  This project will aim to analyse the contour technique using finite element analysis when applied to castings with large grain sizes and varying elastic moduli.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Do castings with large grain sizes prevent the accurate application of the contour residual stress measurement technique?

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in metallic materials, finite element analysis and be comfortable in using advanced finite element software.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The ABAQUS Finite element method will be the primary software used for this project.

Finite Element modelling of quenching of aluminium alloys to account for thermal fluid interaction

Dr David Tanner, Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Processing Technology

Aerospace Metallic Materials Engineering, Stress Analysis, Structural Finite Element Analysis

Aerospace aluminium alloys rely on rapid quenching from temperatures close to 500°C to permit the development of strength by the metallurgical process known as precipitation hardening. This period of rapid cooling is undertaken by immersion in cold water. An unavoidable consequence of this is the introduction of large magnitude residual stresses. Finite element modelling of residual stress development during quenching has been successfully completed at the University of Limerick whereby the predict stress has been found to closely match the experimentally determined values.  However, recent studies have shown that the predicted displacement observed at the start of the quench does not accurately match the experimental case.  This project will aim to further model the process using the commercial code ABAQUS, to attempt to account for this discrepancy.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can finite element modelling accurately predict the displacement of a complicated part during the quenching process?

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in metallic materials, finite element analysis and be comfortable in using advanced finite element software.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The ABAQUS Finite element method will be the primary software used for this project.

Manufacture of a composite nose cone for a formula student car

Dr Walter Stanley, Assistant Dean Academic Affairs and Lecturer

Aeronautical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering

The candidate will be required to design the cone, the mould and progress to manufacture both. It will require the candidate to possess design ability and practical manufacturability. The demonstrator will ultimately be impact tested to confirm the design's conformance with the requirements.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: The ability to design, construct, and impact test a front nose of a Formula student automobile.

Background that the student needs to have: Design and practical hands-on ability to manufacture a mould and manufacture a prototype part.

Analytical techniques to be employed: Composite laminate plate theory, laminate lay-up design, mould design, design for impact

An Experimental Investigation of Composite Action in Double Layer Bending Active Gridshells made from Engineered Timber

Tom Cosgrove, Professor of Civil Engineering

Materials Engineering and Civil Engineering

Shells are 3-dimensional, efficient structural forms. Gridshells are shell-like forms but they are made from individual long elements arranged in a curved grid. Materials like steel may be pre-curved and then welded into such forms. Pre-curving and jointing timber is expensive. Bending active gridshells use long straight members to make a flat grid which is then bent on site to create a double curved gridshell.  Because they are deformed on site, bending active gridshells must be relatively flexible and yet sufficiently strong and stiff to support the design loads.

Solid timber laths of small cross section are sufficiently flexible to bend into shell like forms with modest force. For larger spans and loads, multiple layers, each relatively flexible, may be independently formed and then locked together using timber shear blocks to yield a composite structure of great stiffness and strength. However long defect free lengths are needed that will not fracture during forming. Research at the University of Limerick being conducted in conjunction with our industrial partner Smartply-Medite is focussed on the use of laths made from Irish Oriented Strand Board [OSB ]in bending active double layer gridshells. The research is to establish experimentally the degree of composite action in such double layer assemblies. Initial testing has been carried out on straight double layer assemblies. This research project will extended the research to individual curved assemblies and, time permitting, to crossed pairs of such assemblies.

Research Question:  What is the degree of composite action apparent in curved double layer assemblies of Irish OSB?

Student Pre-requisite Knowledge:  Elementary mechanics of materials (stress, strain, Young’s modulus) standard small-deflection linear elastic theory of bending (linear strain profile, horizontal shear), use of Excel spreadsheet to collate and analyse deflection data.

Research Tasks:

  • Reviewing supplied literature on gridshells, engineered timber and testing methods, 

  • Preparing and assembling individual double layer assemblies from raw material supplied by our industrial partner,
  • Conditioning the test specimens for moisture content, and conducting short-term load-deformation tests on  curved assemblies,

  • Analysing and writing up the results.


This work has relevance for the understanding and design of a large range of structural forms and materials.

Twist morphing of Kayak paddles using lightweight composite materials

Professor Paul Weaver, Bernal Chair in Composite Materials and Structures

Composites Structural Design, Manufacturing Engineering, Materials Engineering

Kayak paddles are used for human-powered propulsion. They are shaped twisted scoops to trap as much water as is thought to be acceptable. However, there are three distinct phases to a stroke: catch, pull, and exit. It would be desirable to reduce drag (i.e., frontal area) during the catch and exit parts of the stroke so as to maximise efficiency.  Ideally, the shape of the kayak paddle would change during each of these three phases.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Using bend twist coupling inherent to composite laminates to tailor the bend and twist characteristics of a paddle can we increase kayak stroke efficiency.

Background that the student needs to have: Strong interest and understanding of structural mechanics (beams and plate theory) as well as strong interest in composite materials, design and manufacturing.

Analytical techniques to be employed: Beam and plate theory, matrix methods as applied to composite laminates, composites manufacturing

The effect of constraint on quench induced residual stresses during precipitation hardening of 7000 series aluminium alloys

Professor Jeremy Robinson, Associate Professor of Aerospace Materials

Aerospace Metallic Materials Engineering and Stress Analysis

Aerospace aluminium alloys rely on rapid quenching from temperatures close to 500°C to permit the development of strength by the metallurgical process known as precipitation hardening. This period of rapid cooling is usually carried out by immersion in cold water. An unavoidable consequence of this is the introduction of large magnitude residual stresses. These stresses must be relieved prior to the material being subsequently processed or used. A new method of accomplishing this is reported to involve constraining the material during the aging stage of the heat treatment. Aging involves reheating the material in the range 100 to 200°C to promote precipitation of hardening phases. This project will aim to assess if this method to see if it can indeed relieve the residual stresses and to what degree.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Does constraining heat treatable aluminium alloys during the aging process result in reduced residual stress magnitudes.

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have a basic background in metallic materials and linear elastic stress analysis methods.  The project will involve quite a lot of practical work in the laboratory both heat-treating aluminium alloys and stress determination.

Analytical techniques to be employed: The primary method of residual stress characterisation will be x-ray diffraction.

Computational modelling of mechanical behaviour of lightweight carbon fibre materials  

Professor Noel O’Dowd , Chair of Mechanical Engineering & Director of the Materials and Surface Science Institute

Computational Mechanics, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering

Engineering design is increasingly based on computational tools such as the finite-element method. The use of microstructurally based numerical models has gained increasing acceptance in engineering design and have been shown to provide accurate predictions of mechanical behaviour. Such models can also be used to optimise the material microstructure to improve performance.  This project will focus on carbon fibre reinforced composites, lightweight materials, previously used mainly in aerospace but now increasingly used in automotive and energy applications (e.g. wind turbine blades).  These materials are important because of their light weight in conjunction with excellent mechanical properties.   

Scientific hypothesis being tested: Can the mechanical response of carbon fibre composites under complex loading conditions be accurately predicted using microstructurally accurate models?

Background that the student needs to have: Mechanical Engineering (or related discipline) and an  interest in mechanic of materials

Analytical techniques to be employed: Mechanics of materials, finite-element analysis, possible extended finite-element methods (XFEM) depending on experience.

Lateral mixing in co-flowing bubbly streams

Professor Harry Van Den Akker , Bernal Professor of Fluid Dynamics

Fluid Mechanics, Bubbly Flows, Multiphase Flow, Chemical Engineering

Bubble columns are widely encountered in the chemical and biochemical industry. Experiments on bubbly flows can be carried out in a tall 200mm x 400mm x 2400mm (D x W x H) bubble column for fundamental research to rising bubbles, bubble induced turbulence and coherent flow structures, as well as to provide experimental data to validate numerical models. Bubble sizes, superficial liquid and gas velocities can be varied for two 200mm x 200mm inlets separately and the lateral mixing behaviour will be studied by means of high-speed imaging, optical fibre probes and/or Laser Doppler Velocimetry.

Scientific hypothesis being tested: How the mixing in a 2D shear layer is altered by the bubble size distribution, void fraction and velocity gradients.

Background that the student needs to have: The student should have basic knowledge of transport phenomena and an interest in fluid mechanics. No prior knowledge about the analytical techniques is required. Prior knowledge of computational methods (MATLAB) is preferred for data processing.

Analytical techniques to be employed: High-speed imaging, Optical-fibre probes, Laser Doppler Velocimetry, Particle Image Velocimetry, Hydrophony, computer aided data analysis (MATLAB).

Playground Science for School Teachers

Professor Conleth Hussey, Professor of Lightwave Technology

Science Education, Public Science Engagement

Having participated in open-days and school visit days for children and young people with science tricks and demonstrations, I think there is a need to upskill the teachers with some of the basic science involved in pendulums, balancing a pole, getting a ball to ride up the side of a bucket, the syphon, etc.

This project is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students and could be attractive to education majors and current elementary school teachers but might also interest physics majors interested in the public engagement in science. This project is configurable and able to be expanded to suit a team of researchers.

The underlying mathematical framework in the architectural process of Christopher Alexander

Professor Conleth Hussey , Professor of Lightwave Technology

Architecture, Design, Computational Engineering

The acclaimed and outspoken architect Christopher Alexander trained initially as a mathematician and has made original contributions to the field of computer science but is more famous for his unorthodox approach to architecture. This project will explore Alexander’s processes to see if we can extract his mathematical ontology and apply it elsewhere.

This project is suitable for any architecture/design/engineering undergraduate or graduate student with an interest in an alternative viewpoint on their discipline. This project is suitable for a novice research student and can also be configured and expanded to suit a team of researchers.

Paper folding Axiomatics

Professor Conleth Hussey , Professor of Lightwave Technology

Mathematics Education and Public Science Engagement

When the botany professor Kazugo Haga  discovered the mathematics of paper folding – Origamics- little did he know that he was founding a revolution in how mathematics might be taught to children. This project will take up his project with a view to re-enchanting mathematics education that relies on the child’s intuition and not on learned exercises from textbooks.

This project is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students that are interested in teaching science and or current elementary school teachers with interests in public engagement in science. The project is suitable for a novice research student and could also be configured and expanded to suit a team of researchers.


Grade Scale for University of Limerick - AACRAO EDGE

The following information is vetted and provided by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) on the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE).

Letter Grade Percentage Ranking U.S. Equivalent
A+/A/A- 70 - 100% First Class Honours A
B+/B/B- 60 - 69% Second Class Honours Upper B+
C+/C/C- 50 - 59% Second Class Honours Lower B
D+ 45 - 49% Third Class Honours C+
D/D- 40 - 44% Pass C
F 0 - 39% Fail F
Intellectual property copyright AACRAO EDGE