Andrew W. Murray

Harvard University

Primary Section: 26, Genetics
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member (elected 2014)


Andrew Murray received his BA from Cambridge and his PhD from Harvard, where he worked with Jack Szostak and constructed artificial chromosomes. In his postdoctoral work, with Mark Kirschner at UCSF, he showed that cyclin synthesis and destruction regulates the cell division cycle. From 1989 to 2000, Murray was on the faculty of the Physiology department at UCSF. Since joining Harvard’s Molecular and Cellular Biology department in 2000, he has directed the Bauer Fellows Program and the FAS Center for Systems Biology. He was made a Professor of the Howard Hughes Medical Insitute in 2014 to support his work in developing a curriculum that would present the natural sciences as an integrated whole to college freshman and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

We try to understand the “rules of the game” that explain how cells function and evolve. We study budding yeast, using experimental evolution, genetic analysis, synthetic biology, and cell biology. We try to make quantitative measurements that discriminate amongst different classes of models. How does biological novelty evolve? This process is difficult to study in nature, and we therefore apply selective pressure in the laboratory. We 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. We are interested both in general questions about what determines evolutionary trajectories and the specific mechanisms that organisms invent to produce novel traits. We investigate how cells accomplish specific tasks by engineering and analyzing the behavior of new yeast strains. As examples, we have used synthetic biology to support the notions that the efficient use of secreted public goods drove the evolution of multicellularity, that multicellularity arose before cellular differentiation, and that novel symbioses could arise without requiring previous evolutionary co-adaptation. How do cells respond and adapt to their environment to maximize the chance that they survive and reproduce? Achieving these aims requires the coordination of thousands of reactions under a wide range of inter- and extracellular conditions. We explore how yeast cells respond to sudden nutrient depletion.

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