Dr. Rebecca Murphy received her Ph.D. in 2012 in the lab of Dr. John Mullet where her research was focused on the improvement of agriculturally important crop species, with emphasis on flowering time regulation in Sorghum bicolor. Her dissertation work was published in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and her research was used in industry collaborations with DuPont Pioneer and Ceres, Inc, resulting in co-inventor credit on a patent for the “Discovery and Utilization of Sorghum Genes.” After graduating, Rebecca was recruited as faculty at Centenary College of Louisiana, a small, primarily undergraduate liberal arts school in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she currently serves as Associate Professor and Chair of the Biology Department. In addition to teaching courses in Cell Biology, Genetics, Research Methods, and Biotechnology, Dr. Murphy has found ways to extend her classroom experiences into the local community. In 2015 she received training as a Portal to the Public STEM Communications Institute Fellow through SciPort: Louisiana’s Science Center. Upon completion of the program, Dr. Murphy has applied this training to the development of outreach activities, serving as a mentor for the Department of Defense funded after-school STEM program STARBASE2.0, and developing Science Communication curricula for Centenary. Her work with the public ultimately earned her a nomination for the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. In addition, she has illustrated a commitment to undergraduate research by serving as a liaison between Centenary students and neighboring LSU Health Sciences Center – Shreveport. Dr. Murphy also remains active in research by mentoring her own students, whose summer projects have been funded through the NSF REU program at Texas A&M and the American Society of Plant Biologists. Dr. Murphy intends to continue her work in plant biology through an NSF grant awarded in 2018 that will fund the design and implementation of an innovative plant-based bioinformatics curriculum at Centenary in collaboration with collaborators at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Murphy’s advice to current grad students:
“There is so much pressure in science to focus on our next paper’s impact factor that we can often find ourselves wholly absorbed in life at the bench. However, the real impact we often hope to make as scientists is not necessarily inside the lab, but on the outside world. As a graduate student myself, I didn’t fully appreciate the many opportunities that exist for students to increase their impact while building a unique portfolio through graduate and post-graduate fellowships in areas like policy, journalism, and public engagement. I would encourage everyone to explore these types of fellowships and go for experiences that speak to their passions – it can really make science that much more rewarding.”