Women Engineering Deans: Cherry Murray

Women Engineering Deans

Meet Cherry Murray: Dean of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Cherry Murray - Harvard University

Cherry Murray

Cherry Murray became Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science and John A. and Elisabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and Professor of Physics in July, 2009. As Dean, she manages new faculty recruitment and faculty relations; directs and leads strategic planning; coordinates fundraising and alumni relations; and determines and implements educational, research, and administrative goals for the most recent new School of Harvard.

Previous to that she was Deputy Director and then Principal Associate Director for Science and Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from December 2004. She led the Laboratory’s science and technology activities including management of 3500 scientists and engineers and the development of the strategic science and technology plan.

Formerly Senior Vice President for Physical Sciences and Wireless Research at Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, Dr. Murray first joined Bell Labs as a member of technical staff in 1978. She received her BS and Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An experimentalist who began her career in light scattering, surface science and soft condensed matter physics and then moved into the management of future telecommunications equipment research and development, 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.

Dr. Murray is a member of the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served on more than 100 national and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards and National Research Council panels. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as well as fellow and Past President of the American Physical Society (APS). She chaired the National Research Council Division of Engineering and Physical Science, served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and is currently serving on the Department of Energy, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board and the congressional Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the Energy Department’s National Laboratories.

1. Why are engineers integral to the American economy and infrastructure? What would happen without them?

Engineers design and make things- infrastructure, products and services. We can’t have an economy without that.

2. Do you believe modern engineers are more important to technological innovation or infrastructure? Why?

They are important to both, because the US infrastructure needs to be modernized.

3. How has the job market changed through the Great Recession for the engineering sector?

Firms in the US cannot find enough talented engineers who are creative and innovative.

4. Which engineering disciplines are most in demand in the market?

Mechanical engineering and computation in all forms – such as computer science and engineering are in great demand. Not that other disciplines are not also important. Both bioengineering and environmental engineering are becoming very important.

5. Which engineering careers do most students move into?

At Harvard, roughly a tenth go to innovative startups, including starting their own business. About a third go to major engineering firms such as Boeing and Intel – mostly design and manufacturing. Still another third go to grad school or professional schools, like medicine or law. The rest do all sorts of innovative things such as working for nonprofits, consulting firms or governments.

6. Why do you think high school students should study engineering?

It’s a great way to learn how to design something from scratch and to solve problems – something that is essential for nearly any field you would want to go into in life. You get a good grounding in math, the sciences, and at Harvard, we also stress a strong grounding in liberal arts and humanities. You are incredibly well rounded!

7. What does Harvard University specialize in in regards to engineering?

We educate general engineers, grounded in liberal arts, with depth in a fundamental engineering field who are able to work in teams across disciplines to solve real-world problems. We call these ‘T shaped’ people. The fields we teach are mechanical, electrical, biomedical and engineering sciences, with a focus on environmental engineering. We also teach computer science and applied math. Engineering design and a substantive research experience in a faculty lab are hallmarks of our program.

8. Why should students apply to Harvard University?

It’s a great place to meet really smart people who are destined to be leaders- your fellow students. Harvard College is a very good deal if you get in – almost two thirds of Harvard College students are on financial aid.

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