The experiments cover a wide spectrum from stopping bullets with a substance that is less than an inch thick to containing the spread of debris from a bomb blast.
"Studying oil and gas shells buried in the ground to materials that will be used in the space station. Plus, materials that are used to improve the nation's infrastructure against man made threats as well as natural disasters," said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, professor of civil engineering.
"We're working on preventing the release of toxic gases through accidents or man made threats. We're looking at .50 caliber rounds from puncturing tanks by self sealing materials," said graduate student Brandon Saint.
But, being able to build something that is safer and more secure for schools or other structures takes time and persistence.
"We don't always know what we're getting into at the start of a project," adds Heather Rivera, graduate student. "It comes down to a lot of experimental testing and simulations to whether or not we've actually found what we think we've found."
"We run through experiments and see how they work. Then we run computer simulations to sort of verify the experiments and try to improve upon the materials using the computer simulations because it's a lot more cost effective," Rivera added.
The process of getting ground-breaking research to reality benefits the grad students in many ways.
"One of our missions here is to prepare our students not only for todays needs, but for tomorrow's challenges," added Al-Ostaz.
A grant from NASA is allowing the students to design new materials for spacecrafts that will be able to withstand impacts of fast moving debris.