MSE Alumnus Leads Quality in Rolling at the World’s Largest Aluminum Rolling Mill

By Katie Nejati, Student Written Communications Assistant

photo of photo of MSE alumnus Dr. Maddala, Lead Rolling Metallurgical Engineer, Arconic Davenport Works

MSE alumnus Dr. Dharma Maddala, Lead Rolling Metallurgical Engineer, Arconic Davenport Works

While working on his doctorate, Dr. Maddala had been inspired by his advisor, Professor Rainer Herbert, to continue research after obtaining his PhD. “Professor Hebert always mentioned the importance of translating fundamental research into applied research and real-world problem solving” he said. His doctoral dissertation focused on “Pathways to improve the sliding wear behavior of bulk metallic glasses: A case study of Cu- and Fe- based bulk metallic glasses”. This work focused on optimizing the microstructure by thermal treatments, in order to grow a controlled number and size of nanocrystals in the amorphous matrix and/or adding suitable alloying elements to improve the wear behavior. This introduced him to the field of Tribology, which he works with even today.

After graduation at UConn, he took a role as a Senior Scientist at the Alcoa Technical Center in the Tribology and Surface Science group supporting process improvements in rolling. “This job opportunity was possible due to the connection that Professor Brody provided. That is the value of having strong industry connections. The UConn MSE program does a great job in establishing those industrial relationships” he said. His role at Alcoa Technical Center was initially an extension of what he researched at UConn, so his education provided a jumpstart to his career. It provided him with a good understanding of tribology, and especially structure-property-processing relationships. But in addition to his fundamental knowledge, the emphasis on real-world applications was critical as he established himself in industry.

His work at Arconic Technology Center (previously Alcoa Technical Center) resulted in numerous internal publications, 7 trade secrets, and 4 patents. After almost seven years in the research center, Dr. Maddala decided to move to manufacturing. “At the tech center, we worked on great projects, but the success rate of commercialization was low. I wanted to understand what is critical for manufacturability. To get that experience and take the learnings back to R&D I moved to a manufacturing role. Happily, I had strong support from the leadership to make this career move” he stated.

Dharma’s current role at Arconic Davenport Works, as the Lead Rolling Metallurgical Engineer, supports quality across the entire rolling department. His team helps develop and optimize process parameters to manufacture product on a commercial scale, serving customers in aerospace, automotive, and industrial markets. Experience in R&D, manufacturing, and operations has furthered his career greatly. Dr. Maddala is now pursing an MBA with certifications in Leadership and Business Analytics at the University of Iowa with sponsorship from Arconic. This is providing more in-depth business knowledge, which will assist him with his goal of becoming an executive at the Arconic Corporation for Technology Development and Commercialization.

From graduation to his current role at Arconic, Dr. Maddala is grateful for the UConn MSE department in helping him get established in the industry. “It is so important to have a good professional network. UConn’s Materials Advantage club, and participation in other professional society activities, helps establish that platform” he stated. Following his UConn graduation and moving to Pittsburgh, he immediately joined the local ASM chapter as a volunteer. Very quickly he took on several leadership roles, ultimately as the chair for one of the largest chapters of ASM international. This experience helped him further develop his leadership skills, and brough him recognition with two prestigious awards from ASM International (Emerging professional achievement award in 2015, and Bronze Medal in 2019).

“MSE is proud of Dr. Maddala, as we are of so many of our alumni, as they continue to rise in their professions and contribute to their professional societies,” relates Department Head Bryan Huey. “While our undergraduate program is a little over 15 years old, UConn has been training masters and PhD materials engineers for more than 50 years. Dharma is a terrific example of what is possible for our students and the impact they can make as graduates.

Published: June 28, 2021

Categories: alumni, industry, news

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