Cherry A. Murray

Cherry A. Murray

  • Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy
  • Professor of Physics


NOTE: Cherry A. Murray is on leave for government service and currently not taking students or postdocs. She will return to Harvard at the end of January 2017.


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, served as dean of Harvard University’s Paulson School from July 1, 2009 until December 31, 2014. She also holds the Benjamin Pierce Professorship of Technology and Public Policy.

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 the president of the American Physical Society (APS) in 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. She is currently a member of the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) and serves on the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories.

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.” In 2014, she was selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to deliver the William D. Carey Lecture recognizing leadership in articulating public policy issues.

In October 2014, the White House announced that Murray will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The medal is awarded to "leaders who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and who have helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce."

Contact Information

Office:107C Pierce Hall
Office Phone:(617) 384-8420
Assistant:Julie Bodden
Assistant Office:Pierce Hall 214
Assistant Phone:617/496-1595

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Harvard University

  • July, 2009-December 2014: Dean of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  • October, 2007-June 2009:  Principal Associate Director for Science and Technology
  • December, 2004-October, 2007:  Deputy Director for Science and Technology

Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies

  • October 2001-December, 2004:  Physical Sciences and Wireless Research Senior Vice President. 
  • April 2000-October 2001:  Physical Sciences Research Senior Vice President.
  • 1997-March 2000: Director, Physical Research Laboratory.
  • July 1993-June 1997: Head, Semiconductor Physics Research Department, Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies since 1996, formerly AT&T Bell Labs.
  • October 1990-July 1993: Head, Condensed Matter Physics Research Department, AT&T Bell Labs.
  • September 1987-September 1990: Head, Solid State and Low Temperature Physics Research Department, AT&T Bell Labs.
  • July 1978-1987: Member of Technical Staff in the Physical Research Laboratory, AT&T Bell Labs.
  • (1978-2004): Experimental research in surface, condensed matter and complex fluid physics, with emphasis on light scattering and imaging.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • 1974-1978: Research on ultrahigh vacuum and surface physics studying the surface phonons of porous vycor glass with Professor T. J. Greytak.
  • 1973-1974: Research assistant.  Research on low temperature physics and light scattering from elementary excitations in superfluid He4 with Professor T. J. Greytak.
  • Summer 1973: Employed by Professor T. J. Greytak. Designed and constructed a double pass flat Fabry-Perot Spectrometer.
  • 1972-1973: Undergraduate research on low temperature physics and superfluid helium under Professor T. J. Greytak.
  • 1970-1971: Undergraduate research on InSb infrared bolometers and Josephson junctions under Professor R. Weiss.

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • 2013-present: Member, U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board
  • 2010-2011: Member, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
  • 2009: President, American Physical Society
  • 2008-2011: Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science Board
  • 2008-present: Chair, Division of Engineering and Physical Science, National Research Council
  • 2006: Member, National Research Council Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy in the 21st Century   (Rising Above the Gathering Storm)
  • 2006: Fellow, California Council on Science and Technology
  • 2004-2008: Member, Division of Engineering and Physical Science, National Research Council
  • 2004: Chair, National Academies, Keck Futures Initiative, Conference on Nano-Bio Systems
  • 2002-2005: National Academy of Sciences Council and Executive Board


  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation, 2014
  • Fellow, California Council on Science and Technology, 2006
  • American Physical Society George E. Pake Prize, 2005
  • Named by Discover Magazine as one of the top 50 women in science, 2002
  • Elected to the National Academy of Engineering, 2002
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2001
  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences, 1999
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1998
  • American Physical Society Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award, 1989
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 1987
  • IBM Graduate Fellowship 1975-1977

Patents Awarded

“Display Apparatus with Improved Phosphor, and Method of Making Same”, Kochanski, G. Murray, C., Wiltzius, P.  U.S. Patent No. 5,838,118  (1998).

"Near-Field Optical Apparatus With a Laser Having a Non-Uniform Emission Face", L. C. Hopkins, C. A. Murray, A. Partovi, D. R. Peale, H. J. Yeh, G. Zydzik, US Patent No. 5,625,617, (1997).