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Photo of Malcolm Clark
October 25, 2019

Clark named Erroll B. Davis award winner

Written By: Alex Holloway

For Malcolm Clark, dedication to his engineering research has paid off—and his 2019 Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Academic Achievement Award recognizes his hard work.

Clark, a 22-year-old Madison native, is one of two UW-Madison College of Engineering students to win the award. The awards are given each year to recognize the academic and community service from engineering and business students from traditionally underrepresented groups at UW-Madison and UW-Platteville.

“It means a lot,” says Clark, who is going into his fifth year at UW-Madison. “It’s nice to be rewarded for working so hard for a while and still being able to support yourself.”

He’s studying materials science and engineering and has, most recently, been conducting research under Kumar Sridharan, a distinguished research professor in engineering physics, to study how high-temperature alloys handle the stresses presented in nuclear reactors.

The research team heats pins and disks in a furnace to study how they react in certain environments, such as in a reactor. That testing can be done in conjunction with an array of surface treatments such as kolsterising—a process that diffuses carbon into a metal’s surface to harden it.

The upshot of the work, Clark says, is to find ways to create stronger, more stable materials for enhanced performance in nuclear reactors.

“It’s to strengthen materials and give them a longer lifetime and stability, with the wear and friction seen between the metallic components of the reactor,” he says.

When he’s not working in the lab or focusing on his coursework, Clark plays with the UW Rugby Club. He spent the most recent year as the club’s captain.

Sports are an integral part of his life, and, he says, a good release valve to let off the stresses of student life.

“You have fun, and I’ve probably made more friends through rugby than anything else I’ve done, sports-wise,” he says.

Clark, now preparing for his final year as an undergraduate student at UW-Madison, says he knew even before arriving at the university that he wanted to pursue an education in engineering.

“When I was in high school, in my junior and senior year, we researched a bunch of different engineering majors and our engineering teacher gave us a bunch of his buddies’ contacts, and we interviewed them,” he says. “I interviewed a materials scientist and his work sounded interesting, so I kind of knew what I wanted to do when I got here, and I stuck with it.”

Clark says he’s looking forward to getting his engineering career started once he graduates and wants to use what he’s learned to work with renewable energy.

“I’m really interested in the energy sector,” he says. “Especially solar energy, just because I’m really interested in renewable energy. I want to, if I can, merge the two together and use what I know to move into that field.”