Dr. Maureen Joan Kendrick Murphy, a native of New London, Conn., and alumna of Huntingdon College, graduated from the public schools in Mobile, Alabama. She was editor of her high school newspaper, The Murphy Hi Times, for two years and won the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award for the state of Alabama. Because of an accelerated summer program at Huntingdon College (“Step Ahead”), she was able to complete the first year of chemistry and Old and New Testaments as a junior in high school and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Chemistry from Huntingdon College in three years.
She received her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of South Carolina in 1983. In 1984, she was asked to serve as freshman chemistry lecturer at USC. From 1985–86, she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago. Her postdoctoral research publications, “Why Did Nature Not Choose the Porphyrin Ligand for Vitamin B-12?” have been cited worldwide as an example of the use of synthetic chemistry, kinetics, and thermodynamics to answer important questions about Nature.
From 1986–90, Dr. Murphy served as an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she earned a reputation for independent research at the interface of inorganic chemistry and biological science. Two of her graduate students in her laboratory received Ph.D.s and are now employed in industry. Her interdisciplinary research lab employed four graduate students, six undergraduates, and two high school students. While at Alabama, Dr. Murphy was awarded a Lilly Educational Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award for innovation in teaching and for the development of the demonstration-lecture series, “The Twenty Greatest Discoveries in Chemistry.”
After the birth of their children in 1988 and ’89, Dr. Murphy decided to leave academic research and lived in rural northwest Alabama (Phil Campbell) with her husband, Dr. Michael Derrington Murphy, where she taught high school chemistry and physics for seven years (1990–97) and served as chair of the science department for seven years. While teaching high school, Dr. Murphy received several national awards, including the National Tandy Technology Scholar Award (1997) for incorporation of technology into science classrooms, a GTE Growth Initiatives for Teachers (GIFT) National Fellowship for development of a science-math research curriculum for high school students, and the National American Chemical Society’s Southeastern Region Outstanding Chemistry Teacher Award. She started an environmental testing group for students, Russellville EnviroWatch, which won the Governor’s Award for the Best Environmental Education project in 1995–96. While teaching high school, she co-authored “Metals in Biological Systems,” a text published in London and used worldwide at the graduate level for bioinorganic chemistry.
In 1997, she accepted a position as an assistant professor of chemistry at her alma mater, Huntingdon College. In recent years, Dr. Murphy has continued her endeavors to understand Nature and has incorporated her interests into the development of innovative courses (“Javametrics”) to introduce non-science majors to the scientific method. She conducts undergraduate research projects with students in the use of technology and spectroscopy to examine the art, history, food, dyes, and beverages of Chinese, West African, Acadian, Cajun, and Native American cultures. Since arriving at Huntingdon, she has published papers with Huntingdon students in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of Science College Teaching, The New England Association of Chemistry Teachers Journal, The Journal of Chemical Education, and most recently The Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research. She has been invited to present lectures nationwide on the use of palm-based technology for conducting science experiments and is rapidly becoming the expert in the use of this technology to teach research methods and ethics in science to high school and college students. In the past decade, she has conducted undergraduate research with 40 students at Huntingdon.
Since arriving at the College in 1997, Dr. Murphy has received all four teaching awards given by the College, including the Julia Lightfoot Sellers Faculty Award in 1999 and 2011, which is voted on by secret ballot by the juniors and seniors at Huntingdon for that faculty member who “demonstrates by example integrity, nobility of purpose, and a desire for learning in the students.” In July 2001, she led 21 Huntingdon students to China for a travel study tour to compare the water quality of the Alabama River with that of the Yangtze. She has led additional Huntingdon trips up the Atlantic Coast to photograph U.S. lighthouses, to the Hawaiian Islands, and around the U.S. in 2006 for a tour of “Baseball, Barbeque, and the Blues.”
Dr. Murphy enjoys working with first-year students; she helped develop the First-Year Experience Program at Huntingdon, and she initiated an alumni mentoring program. Recently, Dr. Murphy has been assembling a collection of more than 60 poems she has written about her life as a daughter, student, teacher, mother, scientist, and researcher entitled “Poems From a Chemistry Gal.”
- Winn and Gordon Chappell Academic Enrichment Award, Huntingdon College, 2006
- Exemplary Teacher Award, Huntingdon College, 2003–04
- Outstanding Advisor Award for Alabama, Circle K International, 2001
- Julia Lightfoot Sellers Outstanding Faculty Award, 1999 and 2011
- Dr. and Mrs. John N. Todd Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1999
- GTE Corporation Growth Initiatives for Teachers National Fellowship, 1997–98
- National Tandy Technology Scholar Award, 1997
- Governor’s Award, Best Environmental Education Project in Alabama, 1996
- Eli Lilly Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award, 1990
- Joseph Bauknight Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, University of South Carolina, 1980, ’81, ’83
- Marion Cantelou Award in Chemistry, Huntingdon College, 1978
Publications with Huntingdon Students
- “An electromagnetic spectrum for "millennial" students: Teaching light, color, energy, and frequency using the electronic devices of our time,”
Maureen Kendrick Murphy, Journal of College Science Teaching, July 2010 issue,
pp. 52-58. Published by the National Science Teachers Association.
- “An Investigation of the Energetics of Binding Small Inorganic Complexes to DNA,” Leah Nesbitt, Rory Pruitt, and Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2004, 2, pp. 65-70.
- “Relating Structure and Function in a Series of Ant Pheromones by Using Molecular Mechanics,” Krayton Keith and Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2003, 1, pp.67-73.
- “Evaluation of the McGuire Water Purifier,” Leah Nesbitt, Randy J. Arnold, and Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2002, 2, pp. 89-93.
- “Using Chemistry to Understand Culture: Why Did Native Americans Vomit After Drinking Yaupon Tea?” Heather M. Fuller, Randy J. Arnold, and Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2002, 1, pp. 47-51.
- “Using Calculator-Based Laboratory (CBL) Technology to Conduct Undergraduate Research,” Cynthia L. Sales, Nicole M. Ragan, and Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Chemical Education, 2001, 78, pp. 694-696.
- “Beer’s Law Revoked?” Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of Chemical Education, 2001, 78, 1595.
- “Javametrics 101: A Course to Introduce Nonscience Majors to the Chemistry Laboratory,” Maureen K. Murphy, Journal of College Science Teaching, 2000, 300, pp. 106-108.
- “Metals in Biological Systems,” (textbook), Maureen J. Kendrick, Michael May, Martin J. Plishka, and Kerry Robinson, 1992, Ellis Horwood Ltd. Publisher: London.
Recent Presentations by Students and Faculty (2000–10)
- “A Decade of Mentoring Female Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors Into Academic Careers,” Maureen Kendrick Murphy and Doba D. Jackson, presented at the ADVANCE Auburn: “Small Wins” National Science Foundation workshop on Post-Tenure Pathways, Auburn University, May 18-19, 2010.
- “Energetic Studies of a ‘Metallointercalator’-Transition Metal Complexes Capable of Both DNA Binding and DNA Intercalating,” Kayla E. Bratcher, Joshua A. Robertson, Zachary B. Sealy, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by students at the 239th national American Chemical Society meeting, San Francisco, CA, March 21-23, 2010.
- “Sensing the Electrostatic Environment of the DNA Minor Groove with Charged Arginine Fingers on a Model Polypeptide” Kayla E. Bratcher, Angela Bradley, Kelly Frazier, Samuel Griffin, Jacques Lamour, David Seals, John Sloan, Angelica Trammell, Kathern Wendt, Christine Whiten, and Maureen Kendrick Murphy, presented by students as the 2010 Research & Creative Activity Symposium, Alabama State University, March 17-18, 2010.
- “Why Not Silicon? Part II: Comparison of Silicon-Based Biological Molecules with Carbon Analogues” Teera Baine, Angela Bradley, Hannah Lee Dickinson, Joshua Robertson, Candice Ruston, and Maureen Kendrick Murphy, presented by students at the 2010 Research & Creative Activity Symposium, Alabama State University, March 17-18, 2010.
- “Improving Student Recruitment and Retention in Your Department: Strategies That Work,” Katherine Frank, Maureen K. Murphy, William Withers, and Winnie Yu, presented at the 27th Annual Academic Chairpersons Conference, Orlando, FL,
Feb. 8-10, 2010.
- “Enhancement of the Thermal Stability of Salmon Sperm DNA by Interaction with Transition Metal Ions: A Comparative Study,” presented by Chad Buck, Brandy Milstead, Kathern Wendt, and Maureen K. Murphy at the 2008 Research and Creative Activity Symposium, Alabama State University, Montgomery, Ala., March 5–6, 2008.
- “Molecular Mechanics Studies of Fifty Pharmaceuticals: Comparison to Non-Fluorinated and Novel Iodinated Analogues,” presented by Brent Blackwell, Doba D. Jackson, Dylan Ruppel, Joseph Sewell, Sean Sinclair, and Maureen K. Murphy at the 235th national American Chemical Society meeting, New Orleans, La., April 5–8, 2008.
- “Why Not Silicon? A Comparative Molecular Mechanics and Molecular Modeling Study of Three Biological Molecules,” presented by Jason C. Cooper and Maureen K. Murphy at the 233rd national American Chemical Society meeting, Chicago, IL, March 25–28, 2007.
- “Molecular Mechanics Analyses of ‘The Kiss of Death:’ An Electronic Comparison of the Cell Executioner PAC-1 and Cytochrome C in the Cell-Signaling Pathway of Apoptosis,” presented by Jessica L. Gillman and Maureen K. Murphy at the 233rd national American Chemical Society meeting, Chicago, IL, March 25–28, 2007.
- “Probing the Structure of DNA by Thermal Denaturation in the Presence of Metal Ions,” presented by Eric Brown, Chad Buck, Jessica L. Gillman, Matt Lewis, Brady Milstead, and Maureen K. Murphy, Research and Creative Activity Symposium, Alabama State University, Montgomery, Ala., March 7–8, 2007.
- “Molecular Modeling as a Catalyst for Undergraduate Biochemistry Research,” Maureen K. Murphy, presented at the 232nd National American Chemical Society meeting, Atlanta, Ga., March 28–30, 2006.
- “Spectrosopic Characterization of the Interaction of Gold Complexes with DNA: Theoretical and Experimental Studies,” Loral Chenault, Shannon Cheney, Leah Cuthriell, John Thornhill, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by the students at the 232nd National American Chemical Society meeting, Atlanta, Ga., March 28–30, 2006.
- “DNA as a Wire: Using the Electron-in-a-Box Formalism to Calculate Potential Damage to the Base Pairs in the DNA Helix,” Amanda Ousley, Ashley Clark, Amanda Gilbert, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by the students at the 231st National American Chemical Society meeting, Washington, D.C., Aug. 29–31, 2005.
- “An Energetic Map Detailing the Binding of Small Inorganic Complexes to DNA,” Lori Adamson, Patricia Brigner, Ethan Butler, Leah Nesbitt, Rory Pruitt, Christina Vranich, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by students at the 2004 Research & Creativity Symposium, Alabama State University, Montgomery, Ala., March 10–11, 2004.
- “Relating Structure and Function in a Series of Ant Pheromones By Using Molecular Mechanics,” Krayton Keith and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by the student at the 225th national American Chemical Society Meeting, New Orleans, La., March 20–24, 2003.
- “The Evolution of Metalloprotein Active Sites from Simple Inorganic Complexes as Studied by Molecular Mechanics: Three Case Studies,” William H. Morris III, Beau B. Toskich Jr., J.H. Pinkerton, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by the students at the student research competition held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting and exposition, Boston, Mass., Feb. 14–19, 2002.
- “The Effect of Climate Change on the State of Alabama and Its Industry,” Robert Moore, J.H. Pinkerton, Audrey Davie, Adam Lee, Beth A. Parker, Heather McKinley, Nakima Vizier, Amanda Taylor, Nicole Ragan, Teri Murphy, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by students at the 222nd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 21–25, 2001.
- “Using Chemistry to Understand the Socioeconomic Borders Between Cultures: Three Cultural Examples,” presented by Maureen K. Murphy at the 54th Southeastern Humanities Council meeting, San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 14–16, 2001.
- “Spectroscopic Studies of Native American Black Tea (Yaupon) Made From Ilex Vomitoria and Chemical Comparison with Six International Teas,” Heather M. Fuller, Randy J. Arnold, and Maureen K. Murphy, presented by the student at the 220th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., August 2000.
- Research presentations with Huntingdon undergraduates at national American Chemical Society meetings in Washington, D.C. (2000, 2005), Chicago. (2001, 2007), New Orleans. (2003, 2008), Atlanta. (2006), San Francisco (2010), and Orlando (2010), as well as the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002), Boston.
“Nature has provided us with a host of interesting molecules to study in the chemistry laboratory. Some of these molecules contain transition metals and ligands with unusual and interesting structures. The focus of our research is upon the role of metals in biological systems, the role of ligands in catalytic process found in Nature, and the use of palm-based laboratory (PBL) technology to conduct undergraduate research. We are also using molecular mechanics calculations to understand how Nature incorporated transition metals into metalloproteins and metalloenzymes. Additional undergraduate research projects in our group include the use of spectroscopy as a means of characterizing and discovering the substances unique to Native American, Chinese, Acadian/Cajun, and West African cultures. We use calorimetry, UV-Visible spectrophotometry, FT-IR, GCMS, FT-NMR, and atomic absorption techniques.”
Travel Study Tours Developed and Led
- Baseball, Barbeque, and the Blues; Tupelo, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Chicago, Ill.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; 2006
- The Fire and Rain Volcano Tour, Hawaii, 2004, 2009
- Lighthouses of the U.S. Atlantic Coast, 2002
- China and the Yangtze River, 2001
“Teaching students to see the ‘big picture’—the link between seemingly unrelated properties in the real world and chemistry is something that I am proud to have a role in at Huntingdon.”