What happens when titanium and molybdenum are mixed together? How does adding a little bit of yttrium affect a chunk of magnesium? What happens when we "cook" aluminum? Can platinum be alloyed or processed in a way that improves its strength?
These are the kinds of questions my students answer...but not by doing real experiments but by doing "virtual" experiments---simulations on the computer. Students can be involved in a variety of ways. In the past, all dedicated students have ended up with at least one peer-reviewed paper. (See my my publications list for examples.)
Students must be be motivated to learn and must dependably balance research time with classes, family responsibilities, etc. Funding is available for all students who so demonstrate.
Few of my successful students had prior knowledge in solid state physics or had abilities such as programming and using Linux/Unix. Such things are nice but exerting the effort to learn is sufficient.