Stuart Parkin Awarded Draper Prize in Engineering

Mon, March 04, 2024

RS1_3822_smaller.jpg“We’re here to celebrate a physicist who never stopped questioning, who never stopped applying himself. We are here to salute Dr. Stuart Parkin and his lifelong work in spintronics technologies,” said Anthony Kourepenis, vice president of engineering, Draper, at the 2024 Draper Prize presentation.

“Today, more than 70% of all data is stored in massive arrays of magnetic disk drives, each of which uses Dr. Parkin’s spintronic reading devices,” Kourepenis added.

K85_8772_k1_smaller.jpgDr. Stuart Parkin, recipient of the 2024 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering, was presented the Draper Prize at a black-tie award gala on Wednesday, February 21, as part of the NAE’s Engineers Week celebrations. Dr. Parkin is a pioneer in the science and application of spintronic materials.

His observations of the behavior of thin-film magnetic structures were critical to enabling increases in the data density and capacity of computer hard disk drives. His discoveries in “spintronics” have enabled a more than 10,000-fold increase in the storage capacity of magnetic disk drives — paving the way for the “big data” world in which we live today.

“Tonight, we celebrate the coming together of science and engineering,” said NAE President John L. Anderson. “We celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Stuart Parkin, an experimental physicist, for engineering spintronic technologies, enabling digital information storage that serves as a foundation for our data-driven world.”

“I am of the belief that much of science today truly is ‘engineering,’” Parkin stated. “We need to build unique tools—in my case, I fabricate thin film structures, one atomic layer at a time, so as to construct materials with unique properties. This research is super exciting because it’s very difficult to theoretically predict the properties of an interface, so one needs a lot of intuition and a lot of exploration.”

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On Tuesday, Dr. Parkin participated in the Future City final competition, where he addressed the more than 1,000 middle and high school attendees.

“I was asked what keeps my inspiration today,” Parkin said. “I remain amazed by the natural world and its remarkable variety and complexity. We are only just beginning to unravel what makes it work. There are so many opportunities to go beyond the natural world to create and engineer materials and devices that can make the world a better place. I think that this is what continues to excite me. I think that research that expands our horizons, but yet can have an impact on all our lives, cannot be beaten as a career choice!”

Dr. Parkin also presented a webinar, “Spintronics for Massive Data Memory Storage: Past, Present, and Future,” which detailed his prize-winning innovation, spintronic technologies. His full remarks can be viewed on the NAE YouTube channel.

According to Anderson, 60 pioneering engineers have been honored with the Draper Prize. With the awarding of the 2024 Charles Stark Draper Prize to Dr. Stuart Parkin, 61 individuals have been recognized over the award’s 35-year history.

To learn more about the 2024 Charles Stark Draper Prize and the 2024 recipient, Dr. Stuart Parkin, view the award video. The full award presentation with all speakers’ remarks is available for viewing on the NAE YouTube channel.

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