Current Professor

Catherine J. Murphy
CAS Professor of Chemistry

Catherine J. Murphy, the Peter C. and Gretchen Miller Markunas Professor of Chemistry, has pioneered the colloidal synthesis of shape-controlled gold and silver nanoparticles in aqueous solution. In the 5-100 nm size range, gold and silver exhibit brilliant shape-dependent optical properties that enable applications in chemical sensing, biological imaging, optical displays, enhanced energy conversion devices, mechanically improved polymer nanocomposites, and even photothermal therapy for thermal ablation of pathogenic cells. The spread of gold to so many technology sectors is in part due to Murphy’s work. Since 2001, her lab developed the seed-mediated growth method to synthesize these nanomaterials, and has extensively studied their formation mechanisms, kinetics, and surface chemistry. The seed-mediated growth approach is now widely adopted by the nanomaterials community as a way to control crystal growth on the nanoscale. Murphy’s team was among the first to popularize the notion of preferential adsorption of structure-directing agents to emerging crystal faces as a chemical mechanism for the anisotropic growth of nanomaterials.

Murphy has broadened the areas of inquiry of nanomaterials to encompass many non-traditional areas (for chemists). Murphy’s team has demonstrated the first usage of these nanomaterials as “nano strain gauges” to optically measure deformation of soft matrices (2005,2007), photothermal destruction of pathogenic bacteria (2008), the ability of nanomaterials to alter cell phenotype (2008-) and the influence of surface chemistry on cellular response (2014-), quantitative understanding of the mechanism of their apparent cytotoxicity (2009) and its mitigation (2009, 2010), the first result for engineered nanomaterial exposure to a whole ecosystem (2009), and that photothermal heating of plasmonic nanoparticles quantitatively alters their surface chemistry (2012-).

Murphy’s honors include the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry’s Inorganic Nanoscience Award (2011), the Carol Tyler Award of the International Precious Metals Institute (2013), the Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Award, Innovator Category (2008), the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1998), the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (1997), the Cottrell Scholar Award of the Research Corporation (1996) and the NSF CAREER Award (1995). She is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, the Materials Research Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was ranked #32 in Thomson Reuters Sciencewatch List of “Top 100 Chemists for the Decade 2000-2010” and #10 on their list of “Top 100 Materials Scientists of the Decade 2000-2010.” In 2015, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

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