Fractal Dust Sims
Explicit numerical modeling of dust aggregates from sub-micron grains, in the presence of short range non-Coulomb forces is an excellent short term student project; 6-12 month starter in numerical simulations. Fun, high risk, but potentially interesting.
Offered it a couple of times, no one bit.
'Course getting funding to do it properly could be a bit tricky. Not much in "blue sky, wild idea" research nowadays.
Maybe it could be sold as nanotech, understanding dust chain formation in microgravity to safeguard space qualified electronic components...