Undergraduate research experience fuels student’s success

// Materials Science & Engineering

Tags: MS&E, research, scholarship, undergraduate

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While in high school at Madison West, Malcolm Clark first learned about the field of materials science and was intrigued by the potential applications of new and improved materials.

As he was exploring engineering majors at UW-Madison, Clark says meeting Professor Paul Voyles and other faculty members and learning about opportunities in the department cemented his decision to major in materials science and engineering.

And Clark didn’t waste any time taking advantage of research opportunities. Through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, he began working in Voyles’ lab as a freshman.

“It was really great to be able to get early research experience in my field of study,” Clark says. “It gave me hands-on learning experiences as well as the chance to explore different aspects of materials science to see what areas I may want to pursue.”

Working with a graduate student, Clark used a vapor deposition method to grow thin films. He used a scanning electron microscope to study the films, and investigated ways to create ultra-stable thin films.

Clark says his research experiences gave him a deeper understanding of concepts from his classes. “It was nice to see how the things I was learning about in class applied to the hands-on work I was doing and to real-world applications,” he says.

And his hands-on learning experiences went beyond the research itself. The deposition system Clark was using for the research needed various equipment upgrades and repairs, and he ended up spending a lot of time in the machine shop, where he produced new parts for the system while learning machining on the fly.

“I actually got a lot of my passes in the machine shop for this research project,” he says. “I’m going to be able to use machining in a lot of engineering areas, so it was helpful to get ahead in those skills as well.”

Clark, who is a sophomore, recently received the Ian M. and Victoria L. Robertson Engineering Scholarship, which awarded him $3,000 to help fund his education.

Clark says the scholarship is a big help, especially since he has a twin brother who attends UW-Stevens Point. He says that because his parents weren’t able to save a lot of money for two college funds, this scholarship helps ease some of the financial burden. “It helps knowing my parents can help my brother out with money and not have to worry as much about me,” he says. “And it takes a burden off me, allowing me to just focus on my education, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Author: Adam Malecek