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Faculty Faces - Dr. Rick Murray

Rick MurrayCONWAY, Ark. (October 25, 2010) - Need to find Dr. Rick Murray? Check the lab first … then try the nearest hockey rink.

An Associate Professor of Biology at Hendrix, Murray balances his teaching and research duties with his role as president of the Arkansas Hockey Association, the governing body of USA Hockey in central Arkansas. Murray, a native of Ontario, Canada, coaches youth hockey twice a week, teaches coaching certification clinics throughout the state and still plays in an adult hockey league.

Murray joined the Hendrix faculty in August 2003 as a developmental biologist. His hiring was supported initially by a grant Hendrix received from the National Institutes of Health. The grant also gave Murray the chance to start a research lab on the third floor of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Life Sciences, where he keeps about 300 research animals.

Prior to joining the faculty, Murray was a research fellow at University of California at Irvine, where opportunities for hockey were few and far between.

“I came to Arkansas to get back into hockey,” he joked.

“I really like Arkansas,” said Murray, who lives in Conway with his wife, Monic, and their two young sons, Ryan, 12, and Nicholas, 10. “A lot of people think it’s such a change, but I find Arkansas to be really close to northern Ontario.

It’s very natural … lots of activities and very friendly people.”

“I feel more at home in Arkansas than I ever did in California,” he said.

Now in his eighth year at Hendrix, Murray is also quite at home at Hendrix.

“I really like the Hendrix atmosphere,” he said. Murray’s alma mater, the University of Western Ontario, is a large Research 1-level institution, and there are no liberal arts colleges in Canada to speak of, he said.

“I firmly believe in the ideals of the liberal arts … with broad-based education,” said Murray, adding that he took five years to earn his undergraduate degree because he dedicated his sophomore year to taking business, economics, psychology and philosophy courses.

Murray now serves as Chair of Biochemistry-Molecular Biology (BCMB), a collaborative program between biology and chemistry faculty.

At the time he was hired, there was no BCMB major. Hendrix began offering the BCMB major in 2004-2005. Now it is a viable program.

“It’s a very successful program,” he said, adding that there are about 20 BCMB majors graduating each year. “The quality of the students going through the program is great.”

Like BCMB, there is growing student interest in studying neuroscience, Murray said.

“It’s becoming quite popular,” he said.
One student recently graduated with an Interdisciplinary Studies major focused on neuroscience, another will graduate this year, and several more students have inquired, Murray said.

“Neuroscience is a deceptive word,” Murray said. “It’s an umbrella term for neurobiology, psychology and philosophy. It fits very well in the liberal arts.”

A neuroscience minor is currently in review, he added.

Murray also promotes the importance of neuroscience research during Brain Awareness Week. Though it often coincides with his Spring Break, he still volunteers by giving high school science presentations, a pastime of Murray’s since his undergraduate years as a member of Pugwash, a national society devoted to “bringing science back to society.”

“It’s something I’ve always been interested in… outreach in local schools,” he said.
Murray is equally enthusiastic about the role of research in teaching undergraduate science students.

“I think undergraduate research is the ultimate way to learn science,” he said.

Since his arrival at Hendrix, Murray feels Hendrix’s commitment to undergraduate research – from the hiring of several new faculty members to developing Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning – has “gone up several hundred percent.”

“How we go beyond that and introduce freshman to research is a direction I would like to see pursued,” he said. “But it’s such an important learning opportunity for them and research is the ultimate form of one-on-one teaching.”

Some Quick Rick -Related Facts: • Canada Day is the anniversary of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act, which united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into a single country called Canada.
• On March 3, 1875 the first organized indoor hockey game was played in Montreal.
• Dr. Murray’s favorite Canadian beer is Molson Canadian, and his favorite Canadian band is The Tragically Hip.