ESM alumnus receives prestigious NASA JPL award


Engineering science and mechanics alumnus Corey Cochrane (’13 Ph.D. E SC, ’07 M.S. E E, ’04 B.S. E E) was one of three individuals who recently received The Edward Stone Award for Outstanding Research Publication from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The annual award, administered by the JPL Office of the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist, recognizes and encourages the publication of significant research results in science and in technology/engineering by JPL employees throughout their professional careers.

Cochrane, an instrument developer and investigative scientist for the Europa Clipper mission, won for his paper titled “Vectorized magnetometer for space applications using electrical readout of atomic scale defects in silicon carbide,” which was published in Nature Scientific Reports. He was cited for a proof-of-concept demonstration of an innovative next-generation solid-state magnetometer.

“I am extremely grateful to be selected for this year’s Ed Stone award,” said Cochrane. “Being recognized amongst the exceptional JPL researchers who have previously won the award is truly an honor. It means a lot that this specific research was acknowledged because the underlying idea has roots in the graduate work I performed at Penn State.”

Magnetometers are essential for scientific investigation of planetary bodies and are ubiquitous on space missions. Fluxgate and optically pumped atomic gas-based magnetometers are typically flown because of their proven performance, reliability and ability to adhere to the strict requirements associated with space missions. However, their complexity, size and cost prevent their applicability in smaller missions involving cubesats.

Although conventional solid-state based magnetometers pose a viable solution, many are prone to radiation damage and plagued with temperature instabilities. In his research, Cochrane reports on the development of a new self-calibrating, solid-state-based magnetometer which measures magnetic field-induced changes in current within a SiC p-n junction caused by the interaction of external magnetic fields with the atomic scale defects intrinsic to the semiconductor.

According to Cochrane, if shown to be competitive with heritage space-based magnetometers, the simplicity, small scale and robustness of the technology could completely revolutionize the way magnetic fields of planetary bodies and their moons are measured in space. The technology would enable missions leveraging swarms of cubesats capable of science returns not possible with a single large-scale satellite and allow for operation in extreme conditions and high radiation environments.

“As Corey’s former thesis advisor, it is very gratifying to see his accomplishments in the development of the magnetometer honored by the JPL,” said Patrick Lenahan, Distinguished Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics. “Corey is a brilliant experimentalist, and he was one of the finest, possibly the finest, among all the students I have ever worked with at Penn State. Corey’s magnetometer is an elegant device; it is simple, robust, reliable and practically indestructible. As a department, we take pride in his accomplishments, to the extent that they reflect on our charter to provide our students with a broad and fundamental understanding of the physical sciences.

The Edward Stone Award is named for JPL Director Emeritus and Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, who is also the Caltech David Morrisroe Professor of Physics and Vice Provost for Special Projects. Recipients of the award receive a certificate of recognition and an Explorer Bonus Award of $10,000. Generally, four awards are presented each year, nominally two in science and two in technology/engineering.


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Chris Spallino

Corey Cochrane, ESM alumnus and recipient of The Edward Stone Award for Outstanding Research Publication

Corey Cochrane, ESM alumnus and recipient of The Edward Stone Award for Outstanding Research Publication. Image: NASA JPL/California Institute of Technology



The Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is an internationally distinguished department that is recognized for its globally competitive excellence in engineering and scientific accomplishments, research, and educational leadership.

Our Engineering Science program is the official undergraduate honors program of the College of Engineering, attracting the University’s brightest engineering students. We also offer graduate degrees in ESM, engineering mechanics, engineering at the nano-scale, and an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

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