Research Projects

Our undergraduate researchers come from a variety of majors within the Fulton College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Research projects in IMMERSE are collaborations between students from a range of disciplines and focus on a variety of topics, including microelectronics, photonics, and biomedical engineering.

IMMERSE student researchers are often listed as authors on conference presentations, and on any publications relating to their projects. Students are also heavily involved in the writing and submission of technical publications, and are given the opportunity to present their research at various conferences relating to their fields of study. This experience of writing and publishing technical papers in peer-reviewed journals is a great opportunity for students to learn the ins and outs of scientific research.

Below are highlighted just a few of the projects currently going on in IMMERSE. If you'd like more information on any of the projects listed here, please feel free to contact us at or stop by any of our labs in the Clyde Building.

Recent IMMERSE Projects

Micropower Circuit Design

Dr. Wood Chiang

Our lab has developed numerous microchips for wireless communications, bio sensing, imaging, and instrumentation. We are currently working on several exciting projects including a detector to sense dust on Mars, a receiver for autonomous vehicles, a phase shifter for satellite communications, an analog-to-digital converter for ultra high-speed wireless communications, an image sensor for bio sensing, an ion detector for a mass spectrometer, and many others. Our students learn fundamental circuit theories, simulation techniques, layout, and measurement throughout the project to enable them to succeed in graduate school and industry.

Microchip Microchip Microchip

FPGA Design Tools: Productivity & Security

Dr. Jeff Goeders

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are integrated circuits that can be programmed to implement arbitrary digital circuits. FPGAs are found in many different products, including cloud computing servers, satellites, vehicles, aircraft, consumer electronics, internet infrastructure, communications systems and more. However, designing circuits to be implemented on FPGAs is challenging! Complex design tools are used to ensure that circuits implemented on FPGAs are fast, reliable and secure. Our research explores new techniques for FPGA design tools, specifically focusing on making the design process easier for hardware engineers, and assuring the security of generated designs. Students on this project will spend most of their time writing open-source software for these design tools.


Wireless Network Security

Dr. Willie Harrison

Security of wireless communication links promises to be an important area of research into the next few decades due to the ease with which wireless signals can be observed by eavesdroppers. Physical-layer security is how we refer to efforts to secure these wireless networks that involve exploiting phenomena at the physical layer of a communications system, such as the noise in a channel, to bring about secure communications. This type of security tends to require no secret keys, and hence, may have application in networks where sharing a key is difficult (think the Internet of Things).

This project seeks to answer the question: Is it really possible to use noise and secret codes to secure a wireless network? Students will make use of software radios, channel coding algorithms, and signaling techniques to verify the limits of physical-layer security in indoor and outdoor networks. Most results in this area are of a theoretical nature only, making this hands on research very meaningful in shaping the future of physical-layer security research.

A heatmap of the 4th floor of the Clyde Building showing the strength of a signal at each location on a spectrum from red (high connectivity) to blue (low connectivity), with the transmitter placed outside the analog lab. A graph of throughput (~speed of transmission) vs equivocation (~amount of information kept hidden) for an RM secrecy code when applied to the data gathered for the heat map

Biooptofluidics: Liquid-Filled Optical Waveguides for On-Chip Chemical Analysis

Dr. Aaron Hawkins

Optofluidics is one of the most exciting new areas in the optics field. Our research concentrates on optofluidic waveguides which can confine light in very low refractive index materials like water. Using these structures, we are able to probe fluids containing biologic particles such as viruses and DNA strands. We collaborate with chemists and biologists at BYU, academic research groups at other universities, and commercial companies. We are currently working on rapid tests for virus infections like Ebola and Zika and bacterial infections like the very dangerous drug-resistant bacteria strains which are becoming a bigger and bigger health risk. Our end goal is the development of a portable instrument which can provide test results in less than one hour for many different virus and bacteria strains.

Our group concentrates on the microfabrication of sensor chips used for bioparticle detection. This work is carried out in the BYU cleanroom using silicon wafers. The image on the left below show some of the sophisticated waveguides and microchannels we have built on the microscale. A completed sensor chip is shown on the right.

SEM chip

Computer Vision and Autonomous Vehicle Design

Dr. D.J. Lee

We are working in the Computer Vision lab to build an urban environment for a self-driving car class. This includes setting up the computers for the cars so that they can detect any road or obstacle that we design for it. Another project that we are working on is building and designing a drone that can autonomously catch a ball. It will both detect the ball in the air and then fly under it. This research involves working on FPGA-based deep learning; meaning, building deep learning models that can be used on an FPGA to detect images. We are also working on bettering dynamic facial recognition by eliminating the need for infra-red sensory.

Drone/Car Basketball

Spacecraft and Microwave Earth Remote Sensing

Dr. David Long

The Microwave Earth Remote Sensing (MERS) Laboratory uses satellites to observe the Earth and conduct geophysical studies. The group builds and launches small spacecraft, including the Passive Inspection Cubesats (PICs) mission to be launched in summer 2019. The group develops new techniques and applications for radar scatterometry and synthetic aperture radar. Satellite radar data is used to study ocean winds, deforestation, icebergs, and changes in sea ice and polar regions.

Cubesats MER Logo

Self-Sustainable Air Quality Sensors

Dr. Phil Lundrigan

The advent of small, low-cost air quality sensors has allowed researchers to measure the air quality at a much more granular level. This has had a significant impact on medical and epidemiological research, allowing researchers to monitor air quality in real-time. However, available air quality sensors require wall power and WiFi connectivity.
We are exploring new wireless protocols and energy saving strategies to create a network of untethered, low-power, self-sustainable sensors that can report air quality data in real-time. By removing the need for wall power and WiFi connectivity, sensors can be placed in more diverse locations, such as remote locations, bus stops, schools, parks, disadvantaged neighborhoods, and other high-interest places, ushering in new air quality research that has not been possible before.

Bread Board Map

Concrete Bridge Deck Scanning

Dr. Brian Mazzeo

Infrastructure deterioration is a pressing problem facing modern societies. In particular, reinforced concrete bridge decks are susceptible to corrosion because of frequent application of deicing salt during winter months. The objective of this research is to develop fast, accurate scanning solutions using electrochemical and acoustic techniques to rapidly evaluate the condition of bridge decks.

Scanning truck Concrete corrosion analysis

FPGA Design Tools

Dr. Brent Nelson

Custom computing architectures that employ FPGAs have been shown to provide significant improvements in computational performance and energy efficiency over traditional programmable processors. These benefits are possible due to the ability to customize a hardware circuit to a single computation and to replicate this computation many times. These computational benefits, however, are limited to those hardware circuit designers who have the skills to design FPGA circuits. This project is investigating techniques and tools for improving the productivity of FPGA design. A variety of tools have been created at BYU to facilitate FPGA design productivity including JHDL, RapidSmith, TINCR, and EDIFTools. RapidSmith is a research-based, open source FPGA CAD tool written in Java for modern Xilinx FPGAs. Based on XDL, its objective is to serve as a rapid prototyping platform for research ideas and algorithms relating to low level FPGA CAD tools.

FPGA Design Tool Logo

UAV Coordination

Dr. Cammy Peterson

Technological advances related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has enabled the use of UAVs for a plethora of real-world applications such as package and medical delivery; infrastructure inspection; environmental sampling; and search and rescue. The objective of this research is to design algorithms that enable cooperation between many UAVs. UAVs working cooperatively together will achieve much more than a vehicle acting independently.

UAVs Working Together

Fiber Bragg Gratings Interrogation for Composite Impact Sensing

Dr. Stephen Schultz

Fiber composite materials are valuable for their lightweight and high-strength capabilities. For this reason they are being used in the construction of automobiles, bridges, and cargo vessels. However, shock, impact, or stress may cause internal damage to the materials that lead to significant reductions in component lifetime and result in disastrous failures. Fiber Bragg gratings (FBG) sensors react to environmental changes such as strain, which allow strain variations to be detected when the composite structure is subjected to impact events. A high-speed full-spectrum interrogation system is capable of recording detailed strain measurements of composite structures enabling better characterization of their failure modes.

Schultz Lab Image 1 Schultz Lab Image 2

Holographic Video Monitor

Dr. Daniel Smalley

The BYU/MIT holographic video is the world's first, low-cost holographic video monitor. This display differs from other electroholographic display technologies in that it can be driven from a commodity PC and boasts, full color, VGA resolution and video rate operation. This is made possible by the use of low cost waveguide-based spatial light modulators created as part of Dr. Smalley's PhD work.

Holovideo Monitor

Radio Astronomy Systems

Dr. Karl Warnick and Dr. Brian Jeffs

The Radio Astronomy Systems group builds advanced radio camera imaging systems based on phased array technology for radio telescopes. The Focal L band Array for the Green Bank Telescope (FLAG) is currently operational at the Green Bank Observatory, a national astronomical facility in West Virginia. We are building the Advanced Cryogenic L-Band Phased Array Camera for Arecibo (ALPACA) for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The group uses electromagnetic theory, digital signal processing, microwave and RF circuit design, and computer engineering to develop systems that include antennas, signal handling electronics, and software running on FPGAs, GPUs, and CPUs for digital image formation.

Radio Systems

Reliable FPGA Computing

Dr. Mike Wirthlin

The growing use of satellites for complex communication, remote sensing, and surveillance applications requires significant computing resources. Modern satellites systems require far more computing power than every before and there is a great need to provide high-performance computing systems in space that are small, light weight, reliable, and consume limited energy. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) provide significant computing resources at the fraction of the power needed by conventional processor technologies. FPGAs, however, are sensitive to the ionizing radiation found in space environments and will not operate reliably unless appropriate radiation mitigation techniques are employed. This project is developing techniques for providing high-reliability, high-performance computing for space systems using FPGAs and other programmable technologies. This project is investigating novel reliability techniques, deign tools, computer architecture approaches, and software for providing the most reliable deployment of FPGA-based systems. The results from this work are directly applicable to high-reliabile computing in conventional environments on earth as well as within high-energy physics experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Space patch Space