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Photo: MPI für Mikrostrukturphysik

Prof. Dr.

Stuart Parkin

Year of election: 2015
Section: Physics
City: Halle
Country: Germany
King Faisal Stiftung zeichnet Stuart Parkin aus
CV Stuart Parkin - Deutsch (PDF)
CV Stuart Parkin - English (PDF)


Main areas of research: Spintronics, nanotechnology, giant magnetoresistance (GMR effect), storage media, computer hard disc drives, Racetrack Memory

Stuart Parkin is a British physicist whose main focus is the field of spintonics. When researching the interactions of thin material layers he discovered that the giant magnetoresistance (GMR effect) in many materials had practical applications. Parkin used this discovery to develop innovative read heads for computer hard disc drives and thereby made the high storage capacity of computers possible.

Stuart Parkin investigated extremely thin material layers like, for example, those used in computer chips in order to establish their storage capacity potential. He showed how the GMR effect (giant magnetoresistance) could be used in practical applications. Parkin utilized the spin of electrons in his work. Spintonics uses this tiny magnetic field that is present in every electron for processing and coding information. The GMR effect occurs in structures that consist of alternating layers of magnetic and non-magnetic material whereby an external magnetic field is able to influence the direction of electrons´ spins and in this way change the electrical resistance of the stacked layers.

Parkin employed this effect in a sensor and developed a new type of read head for computer disc drives. Digital data can also be stored on hard drives in the form of microscopically small fields with different magnetisation directions. The read head has a sensor that, with the help of the magnetoresistance, can detect the direction of magnetisation. A read head with GMR effect is able to convert minute magnetic changes into sufficiently measurable distinctions in electrical resistance. Stuart Parkin´s read head allowed the storage capacity of hard drives to be increased considerably. Nowadays practically every computer utilizes the giant magnetoresistance effect.

Parkin is currently involved in research focusing on energy-saving storage for the technologies of the future. He developed the “Racetrack Memory”, a three-dimensional storage medium based on spintronics with an even higher degree of storage density. There are no longer any moving parts in this storage system. The data bits are stored on nanometre thin wires made of a magnetic material. The magnetic “domains” (structuring) are “pushed” back and forth within nanowire. In the future, Parkin also wants to develop switching circuits that function like the human brain, the circuits of which become stronger the more they are used.


  • until 2015 Head of Magneto-electronics group, IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, California, USA
  • until 2015 Director, Spintronic Science and Applications Center (SpinAps), Stanford, USA
  • since 2014 Director and Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, Halle
  • since 2014 Professor, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (2014-2020 Alexander von Humboldt-Professor)
  • until 2014 Consulting Professor at Stanford University, USA
  • 2009 Distinguished Visiting Professor, KAIST, South Korea
  • 2008 Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • 2007 Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore
  • 2007 Research Professor at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Douliou, Taiwan
  • 2007 Visiting Professor at National Taiwan University, Taiwan
  • 2004-2006 Research at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen
  • 1982-2014 Scientist at IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, California, USA
  • 1982 IBM World Trade Fellow, IBM San Jose Research Laboratory, USA
  • 1980-1981 Royal Society European Exchange Fellow, Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Université Paris-Sud, France
  • 1980 PhD, Cavendish Laboratory, UK
  • 1979 Research Fellow,Trinity College, Cambridge, UK   
  • 1977 BSc in physics and theoretical physics, Cambridge University, UK   
  • Studies of physics at Cambridge University, UK

Honours and Memberships

  • 2021 King Faisal Prize in Science
  • since 2015 Member, German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
  • 2014 Millennium Technology Prize, Technology Academy Finland
  • 2013 Honorary Doctorate, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
  • 2013 Swan Medal, Institute of Physics, London
  • 2012 Honorary Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences
  • 2012 Fellow, World Academy of Sciences
  • 2012 Von Hippel Award, Materials Research Society
  • 2012 David Adler Lectureship Award, American Physical Society
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate, Universität Regensburg
  • 2011 Fellow, Gutenberg-Forschungskolleg, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • 2009 IUPAP Magnetism Prize and Louis Neel Medal
  • 2009 Dresden Barkhausen Award
  • 2009 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2009 Honorary Professor, University College London, UK
  • 2008 IEEE Daniel E. Noble Award
  • 2008 Gutenberg Research Award
  • 2008 Honorary Doctorate, Technical University Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • since 2008 Member, US-National Academy of Sciences
  • 2007 Honorary Doctorate, RWTH Aachen
  • 2004 Humboldt Research Prize
  • 2000 Fellow, Royal Society, UK
  • 1999-2000 Prize for Industrial Applications of Physics, American Institute of Physics (AIP)
  • since 1999 IBM Fellow
  • 1997 Europhysics Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Solid State Physics
  • 1994 International Prize for New Materials,American Physical Society
  • 1991 Charles Vernon Boys Prize from the Institute of Physics, London
  • 1991 MRS Outstanding Young Investigator Award




Emil-Abderhalden-Str. 35
06108 Halle (Saale)

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 122
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 139
E-Mail archiv @leopoldina.org

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