Director of the Office of Science, Department of Energy: Who Is Cherry Murray?

Sunday, January 24, 2016
Cherry Murray (photo: Harvard University)

Physicist Cherry A. Murray was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 10, 2015, as Director of the Office of Science in the Department of Energy. It’s her first federal appointment.


Murray was born in 1952 in Fort Riley, Kansas. As she grew up, her father was in the Foreign Service and her mother taught painting. Because of her father’s career, Murray lived in Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia and South Korea, as well as the United States. She attended high school at Seoul (South Korea) American High School. The school had no physics program, but she studied it on her own.


Murray had thought of studying art, but a little sibling rivalry changed that. Her brother John, a physics student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Cherry that she wouldn’t be able to handle the physics curriculum at MIT. She decided to prove him wrong. She earned her bachelor’s degree there in 1973 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in physics, also at MIT, in 1978.


That year Murray went to work for the famed Bell Laboratories as a member of the technical staff studying low energy and scattering. She moved up the ladder at Bell Labs, becoming the head of the Solid State and Low Temperature Research Department in 1987; head of the Condensed Matter Physics Research Department in 1990; and was tapped to lead the Semiconductor Physics Research Department in 1993.


As part of the breakup of AT&T, much of Bell Labs was spun off to Lucent Technologies. Beginning there in 1997, Murray was director of physics research and in 2000 was named Vice President of physical sciences. The following year, she was made Senior Vice President of Physical Sciences and Wireless Research.


In 2004, Murray moved to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., as deputy director—and in 2007 as principal associate director— for science and technology. Coincidentally, her brother John worked at Livermore for years.


Harvard lured Murray to Cambridge in 2009, making her Dean of its Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She stepped down from the administrative position in 2014 to teach at the university as the Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy and Professor of Physics.


Murray has a son and a daughter.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

A Conversation With... Cherry Murray (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Cherry A. Murray (Harvard University)


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