Undergraduate Research

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Research opportunities in polymers, catalysis, enzyme engineering, and data science at the Center for Plastics Innovation (CPI). Experience in chemical conversion strategies and enabling cross-cutting tools to address the global problem of plastics waste.

Are you interested in joining the CPI Summer Program in 2024? Click the button below to submit your contact information and receive the latest updates, announcements, and application reminders for the 2024 program!

Applications for Summer 2024 are CLOSED

Check back in the Fall for Summer 2025 information

Program Highlights


  • Research projects with graduate student, postdoc, and faculty mentorship
  • Research seminars
  • Professional development workshops
  • Industry and government lab site visits
  • Counseling on STEM academic careers
  • Interdisciplinary research symposium

Program Logistics


  • 10-week, full-time summer research experience
  • $6,000 stipend for each student
  • University housing supplement for external applicants
  • Applications open: December 1, 2023
  • Application priority date: February 15, 2024

2024 Research Topics

Pandemic Contingency: Please keep in mind that although we are planning for a fully in-person experience in 2024, we continue to monitor the status of the pandemic. We will follow campus and State of Delaware recommendations to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and local community. Applicants must be prepared to comply with University of Delaware COVID-19 requirements for campus visitors. Thank you for prioritizing public safety alongside us.

Industrial Site Visits

Several off-campus trips take students to regional industrial and national lab sites including Under Armour, ExxonMobil, NIST, and DOW.

Summer Workshop Series

Weekly workshops instruct students on effective literature search methods, develop their presentation skills in a variety of settings, and introduce them to leaders in the scientific fields.

Research Symposium

Students present their summer projects at the University of Delaware’s Undergraduate Research symposium.

Highlights from 2023 Summer Program

Meet the Team:

Xiomaris Báez-Santiago | University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez | Sophomore | Chemistry

Joshua Bryan | University of Delaware | Junior | 

Devin Cummings | University of Delaware | Sophomore | Computer Science

Alondra Diaz Peña | University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras | Sophomore | Chemistry

Jaylen Harrision | University of Delaware | Freshman | Chemical Engineering

Evan Phillips | University of Florida| Sophomore | Material Science & Engineering

Caroline Zu | Purdue University | Sophomore | Chemistry

Research Topics

  • Two-dimensional (2D) mesoporous zeolite-based catalysts for plastics recycling
  • Development of biocatalytic cascade for the valorization of plastic deconstruction products
  • Surface plasmon-assisted proactivation of nitrile functional groups
  • Enabling plastics research through database construction and design
  • Discovery and characterization of polyethylene degrading microbes from the gut of the yellow mealworm
  • Post-polymerization functionalization of PMMA
  • Effect of plasma oxidation on plastics degradation by the yellow mealworm and their gut microbes
The materials being studied in the Korley lab have potential to impact the development of smart biomaterials, sensors, and more.

Highlights from 2022 Summer Program

Meet the Team:

Mike Axiotes | University of Delaware | Sophomore | Biochemistry

Joseph Castaneda | CUNY – City College of New York | Sophomore | Chemical Engineering

Lorenz Cushman | University of Utah | Junior | Material Science Engineering

Harrison Goehrig | Bucknell University | Sophomore | Chemical Engineering

Jack Granite | University of Delaware | Senior | Chemical Engineering

Daniel Nakamura | University of Rochester | Junior | Chemistry

Lauren Smith | Delaware State University | Sophomore | Enviromental Science

Research Topics

  • Breaking down plastics using chemical catalysis and enviornmental microbial communities from plastic enriched soils
  • Biocatalytic approaches to valorize products of polymer deconstruction
  • Upcycling plastics waste to reject per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances from water
  • Cutting cost and waste: support screening for Ni-based catalyts in polyethylene hydrogenolysis
  • Biodegradation of different plastics using microbes from mealworms
  • Upcycling of plastic waste via organo-catalyzed synthesis
  • Sustainable polymers: closing the loop for a circular economy
The materials being studied in the Korley lab have potential to impact the development of smart biomaterials, sensors, and more.

Winter Term Undergraduate Research Project

The Center for Plastics Innovation is looking for an undergraduate researcher interested in hands-on laboratory experience in the field of polymer materials science and engineering. No experience required!

The Project

Ever wonder what happens to our reusable bags once they wear out? Are they still adding plastics waste to our landfills or is there a better way to bring them back to life? In a newly forged research partnership with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), CPI is looking to answer these questions. A team of researchers will explore end-of-life options for Delaware’s popular polypropylene bags including deconstruction, recycling, and upcycling in an effort to reduce waste and create a circular economy for Delaware’s reusable bags.

Applications are currently closed.

Project Highlights


  • Stipend – $15/hr (course credit option available)*
  • 1-on-1 mentoring
  • Resume-building experience
  • Lab skill development
  • Winter Fellows Award eligibility
  • Spring Term extension (optional)

Application Requirements


  • Available on-site in Newark for Winter Term
  • Active research engagement for 5-week winter term

PLEASE NOTE: If you elect to use the research time towards course credit, University of Delaware policy dictates that we are unable to grant a stipend for that time.