David Larbalestier’s career has been all about the right stuff — finding the best materials for superconductors as a scientist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, teaching students as a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering professor and developing himself as a scientist at Imperial College London, where he earned undergraduate and doctoral degrees in metallurgy.
Imperial College London (ICL) recently honored Larbalestier with a Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni who have demonstrated sustained excellence in their personal and professional achievements, are leaders in their field or have made a substantial impact on society. He is one of two honorees in the 2024 class.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by an institution that gave me so much,” said Larbalestier, who earned an undergraduate degree in metallurgy in 1965 and a doctorate in 1970. “I have fond memories of my time at Imperial College London, and it was an immense help in starting my academic and research career.”
When he started at ICL in 1962, he had originally planned to major in physics, but his interest switched to metallurgy, drawn by the program’s mix of academic disciplines and its focus on practical and productive outcomes of basic science.
The background has served him well as chief materials scientist at the Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. In that role, he oversees research into both high-temperature and low-temperature superconductors, helping to examine the physics at work and to create new, more effective conductor designs that work well without performance compromises when wound into high field, high stress magnets. A major part of the work involves exploring how different chemical compounds function as conductors — a topic he first explored while at ICL.
Larbalestier has also paid forward the excellent education he received. He has served as director for 45 Ph.D. students and mentored numerous postdoctoral researchers, sabbatical visitors and students. Currently he is Krafft Professor, Chief Materials Scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the nation’s joint college. He is also interim chair of the college’s newest unit, the Department of Materials Science & Engineering.
“Being able to delve into research topics that interested me has been very gratifying but helping to guide the next generation of scientists has been the most rewarding part of my career,” he said.
To read more about Larbalestier’s career and the Distinguished Alumni Award, visit the Imperial College London website.