Physics professor wins American Physical Society prize

For his work developing new, more efficient ways of manipulating the magnetization in magnetic materials, F.R. Newman Professor of Physics Daniel C. Ralph has been awarded the 2022 James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials by the American Physical Society (APS).

The McGroddy Prize recognizes outstanding work in the science and application of new materials, including the discovery of new materials, the observation of new phenomena in known materials, and theoretical and experimental work which contributes to the understanding of such phenomena.

“This prize really recognizes outstanding work by generations of graduate students and postdocs in the Buhrman and Ralph groups.  It is exciting to see the basic research we have done together make an impact on materials and technology,” Ralph said.

Ralph’s research has spanned magnetic devices, molecular electronics and nanoscale superconductors, with a focus on understanding how the spin carried by electrons affects these systems. Together with his long-time collaborator, the late John Edson Sweet Memorial Professor of Engineering Robert A. Buhrman, Ralph led experiments that demonstrated how spin currents can be used to apply torques to magnetization and manipulate thin-film magnetic devices much more efficiently than by applying magnetic fields. This research has led to the development of a new form of commercial magnetic memory, spin-transfer-torque magnetic random access memory, or STT-MRAM.

Ralph was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow from 1996-99 and a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellow from 1997-2002. He also won the William L. McMillan Award and the Research Corporation Research Innovation Award in 1997, the ONR Young Investigators Award from 1997-2000 and is a member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell.

Jonathan Mong ‘25 is a communications assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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