SEAS Dean Cherry A. Murray to step down

Murray led ‘start-up’ School through period of enrollment growth and program expansion

Murray looks forward to remaining actively engaged in the life of Harvard, pursuing teaching, writing, research, and leading a number of initiatives. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell.)

Cambridge, Mass. – October 28, 2014 – Cherry A. Murray, who has led Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) for the past five years, a period marked by dramatic growth in the enrollment and visibility of the school, announced today that she will step down as Dean at the end of 2014. Murray, the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences and professor of physics, will return to regular service on the faculty and continue her advocacy for policies that advance technology and innovation nationally and internationally.

Murray assumed the deanship in July 2009, two years after SEAS became Harvard’s newest school. Shortly after her arrival, she led a strategic planning effort with the faculty to define the future of the School’s teaching and research. These efforts informed the vision for the Campaign for SEAS, which will enable the School to expand the size of the faculty, integrate design and active learning across the curriculum, support new research initiatives in fields in which Harvard has a distinct advantage, create new interdisciplinary degree programs, expand entrepreneurship activities for faculty and students, expand diversity efforts, and invest in innovative instructional facilities. Murray also helped conceptualize the planned expansion of SEAS into Allston, where it will join Harvard Business School, the Harvard Innovation Lab, and eventually other academic units at the heart of an emerging research innovation campus.

“I am proud of what the entire SEAS community has accomplished over the last five years,” Murray said. “It has been an honor to work with the wonderful faculty, staff, students, and alumni who make up this special community. Together, we have made solid progress toward building a new kind of engineering school, embedded in the liberal arts and with no boundaries between disciplines. SEAS enjoys tremendous support from Harvard’s leadership and skyrocketing interest among students. The Campaign is off to a strong start and the opportunity for SEAS to truly change the world for the better is unlimited.”

Murray said that she looks forward to remaining actively engaged in the life of Harvard, pursuing teaching, writing, research, and leading a number of initiatives. 

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Cherry for her many contributions as dean,” said Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith. “Under Cherry’s leadership engineering has thrived as a part of a Harvard liberal arts and sciences education, and SEAS has become a dynamic connector of faculties that has opened new and promising research opportunities possible only at Harvard. As we work to appoint an interim dean and begin the search for her successor, we owe her a debt of gratitude for the solid foundation she has laid upon which future leaders will build.”

“Cherry Murray has ably led SEAS through a crucial formative moment in its history,” added Harvard President Drew Faust. “She has worked creatively to enliven the interplay of engineering and the liberal arts, and to enable new connections both within SEAS and with other parts of Harvard. She has thoughtfully guided SEAS' expanding role within the university and charted exciting directions for its future growth, including emerging plans for Allston. She has been a leader in advancing innovative pedagogy, new relationships with industry, and imaginative uses of technology. And her own research has made powerful contributions in applied physics and beyond. I join her colleagues in SEAS and across Harvard in thanks for her dedicated service as dean.”

Under Murray’s leadership as dean, the number of students concentrating in engineering and applied sciences disciplines more than doubled and enrollment in SEAS courses tripled. The school also added new bachelor’s degree programs in biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in computational science and engineering, increased collaboration with other professional schools at Harvard, and strengthened research programs in several target areas. Sponsored research funding increased, linkages to industry were bolstered, and the size of the graduate engineering and applied sciences program, one of the most selective in the country, grew to 400.

From 2004 to 2009, Murray was Principal Associate Director for Science and Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., where she led 3,500 employees. She previously conducted research and development in telecommunications in a succession of high-level roles at Bell Laboratories, from 1978 to 2004, hired as a staff scientist and rising to 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, serving on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, and as President of the American Physical Society. She is currently a member of the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board and serves on the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories.

Born in Fort Riley, Kansas, 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 is well known for her scientific accomplishments in light scattering, surface physics, soft condensed matter, and complex fluids.

In October 2014, the White House announced that Murray will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for achievement and leadership in the advancement of science and technology. Recipients are leaders who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and have helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce.

Smith will appoint an interim dean in the coming weeks and will launch a search for Murray’s successor later in the academic year.

For more information:

Message from Dean Cherry A. Murray

Message from FAS Dean Michael D. Smith

Harvard Gazette Q&A with Dean Murray

Dean Murray's Faculty Profile

A History of SEAS

Related Resources

Message from Dean Cherry A. Murray

Message from FAS Dean Michael D. Smith

Harvard Gazette Q&A with Dean Murray

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Paul Karoff