In Memoriam: Malcolm Polk

1938–2017

Malcolm B. Polk, 79, Professor Emeritus in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, died Monday, May 22, from complications arising from an operation.

Polk studied chemistry at the University of Illinois and University of Pennsylvania, followed by employment as a research chemist in the Plastics Division of the E. I. DuPont Co., Experimental Station. He left industry to join the chemistry department at Atlanta University in 1973. After joint collaborations with the faculty at Georgia Tech, Polk joined the then-School of Textile Engineering in 1985 as the first African-American professor in the School’s 88-year history.  

Polk’s research interests included the synthesis of liquid crystalline polymers with unusual structures. His research program was fruitful, resulting in a series of internationally recognized journal papers and world-class graduates from his group. Polk was instrumental in developing the curricula for the new degrees in the Polymer, Textile, and Fiber Engineering Program in 2002, ensuring that the polymer content was incorporated at the highest level and rigor. He was known as a collegial partner to his colleagues and a beloved teacher to the students in his classes and research groups.

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  • Malcolm Polk