Biography of Dean Cherry A. Murray

Cherry A. Murray, who has led some of the nation’s most brilliant scientists and engineers as an executive at Bell Laboratories and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was appointed dean of Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), on July 1, 2009. She also holds the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professorship of Engineering and Applied Sciences and is a Professor of Physics.

Previously, Murray served as principal associate director for science and technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., where she led 3,500 employees in providing core science and technology support for Lawrence Livermore’s major programs. She served as president of the American Physical Society (APS) during 2009.

Before joining Lawrence Livermore in 2004, Murray had a long and distinguished career at the famed Bell Laboratories, home to creative researchers who went on to win numerous Nobel Prizes, garner tens of thousands of patents, and invent revolutionary technologies such as the laser and the transistor. She was hired into Bell in 1978 as a staff scientist, marking the beginning of a career that culminated in her position as senior vice president for physical sciences and wireless research.

Murray was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2002. She has served on more than 80 national and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards, and National Research Council (NRC) panels, including chairing the Division of Engineering and Physical Science of the NRC, and serving on the visiting committee for Harvard’s Department of Physics from 1993 to 2004.

A celebrated experimentalist, Murray is well-known for her scientific accomplishments using light scattering, an experimental technique where photons are fired at a target of interest. Scientists can then gather insights into surface physics and photonic behavior by analyzing the spray of photons in various directions from such collisions.

She is also a leader in the study of soft condensed matter and complex fluids, hybrid materials that show properties of different phases of matter. The control of suspensions, foams, and emulsions has application for the development of everything from novel drug delivery systems to “lab-on-a-chip” devices.

Among other diverse topics in condensed matter physics, Murray has studied semiconductors’ optical phenomena, nanostructures, phase transitions, and controlled self-assembly of optical materials — all critical for the advancement of quantum optics, engineered semiconductors, and tools such as optical tweezers.

Born in Fort Riley, Kan., and the daughter of a diplomat, Murray lived in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, and Indonesia as a child. She received her B.S. in 1973 and her Ph.D. in physics in 1978 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds two patents in near-field optical data storage and optical display technology.

In 1989, Murray won the APS’s Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career, and in 2005, she was awarded APS’s George E. Pake Prize in recognition of outstanding work combining original research accomplishments with leadership and development in industry. In 2002, Discover Magazine named her one of the “50 Most Important Women in Science.”

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