Andrew W. Murray

Andrew W. Murray
CRI Research Scientific advisory board member
Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Director, FAS
Center for Systems Biology Harvard University

Professor Andrew Murray studied biochemistry at Clare College at Cambridge University, and completed his PhD at Harvard University, working on artificial chromosomes. During his postdoc at the University of California San Francisco he studied what drives cells into and out of mitosis. His lab later identified “spindle checkpoint,” which is a mechanism for cells to determine whether their chromosomes are properly attached to the mitotic spindle, as well as many of the proteins and genes involved.

Today, Professor Murray’s lab works on understanding the “rules of the game” that explain how cells function and evolve. They studies budding yeast, using experimental evolution, genetic analysis, synthetic biology, and cell biology. Working on the interface between biology and physics, he tries to make quantitative measurements that discriminate amongst different classes of models. With his lab members, who come from both biology and physics background, he aims to answer questions such as: How does biological novelty evolve? How do cells accomplish specific tasks and how did these solutions evolve? How do cells respond and adapt to their environment to maximize the chance that they survive and reproduce? His lab has have evolved multicellularity, altered mating preferences, circadian oscillators, genetic instability, and new connections between signaling pathways and have developed methods to find the mutations that cause these new phenotypes. One of his guiding principles remains Feynman’s “What I cannot create, I cannot understand,” leading him to engineer and analyze the behavior of new yeast strains.

Professor Murray is strongly invested in education and has taught courses in genomics and evolution, systems biology, and statistics and probability. He and five colleagues currently teach a year-long intensive introduction to first year undergraduates that combines physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science to form an Integrated Science course. He believes that in order to work in modern biology students should have resourcefulness and interdisciplinarity that is best gained by being exposed to a wide array of research methods through real research projects. He sees the future of science in the regions where frontiers between fields used to be and trains his students to thrive there.