James S. Murday

Born: 1942

James S. Murday was fascinated by solid-state physics and decided to enroll at Cornell University, where he was research assistant for Robert Cotts. Murday's interests expanded to include diffusion. At the time, chemistry's new pulse techniques provided greater impetus for NMR, and Murday exploited the growing interface between chemistry and physics. When he finished his PhD he was recruited by Henry Resing into the NMR lab at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). He joined the American Vacuum Society (AVS), which united chemistry, materials science, and electronics. When scanning and tunneling microscopes came along, clearly nanostructures were next. AVS officially became the first home of nanoscience. Murday influenced the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, both of which had funding in abundance, to get involved in nano. Eventually the Nanometer Science and Engineering Technology (NSET), a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), was born and Murday was named Executive Secretary. Murday was also appointed Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), set up to support NSET. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0639
No. of pages: 70
Minutes: 310

Interview Sessions

Cyrus C. M. Mody
29 May 2007
Washington, DC

Abstract of Interview

James S. Murday, at a young age, decided he wanted to be a second Einstein; he wanted to bring important change to the world. In school he always did better in the sciences and math, so he liked them more. He was most interested in the physical sciences, though he liked biology well enough to consider biophysics for a graduate program. He entered Case Institute of Technology, working with Arthur Benade. Case was across the street from Severance Hall, where music offered scope for the practical application of physics, and Murday wrote his senior thesis on the acoustics of flutes. William Gordon, Murday’s other major mentor, introduced Murday to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Fascinated by solid-state physics, Murday entered Cornell University, where he was research assistant for Robert Cotts. Murday’s interests expanded to include diffusion. At the time, chemistry’s new pulse techniques provided greater impetus for NMR, and Murday exploited the growing interface between chemistry and physics. When he finished his PhD he was recruited by Henry Resing into the NMR lab at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Resing was working on protective chemistry and needed a diffusion person. Later, Murday became head of the new surface chemistry branch, an event he regards as a turning point in his career, the first step to nanoscience. Murday discusses his early experiences in the NRL, beginning with the relationship between NRL and the Office of Naval Research, where he was drafted to survey the state of surface science. He describes how he liked being a decision-maker as well as a lab worker, and further describes his experiences as the man who could see the big picture and could find reasons for various agencies and departments to join the American Vacuum Society (AVS). Murday joined the AVS, which united chemistry, materials science, and electronics. He helped organize AVS’s applied division and established the Mid-Atlantic chapter of AVS, thus enhancing his own position there and eventually being elected to the board of directors. When scanning and tunneling microscopes came along, clearly nanostructures were next. AVS officially became the first home of nanoscience. Murday influenced the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, both of which had funding in abundance, to get involved in nano. Usefulness of nano for unmanned aircraft drew in the Department of Defense, and all then came up with the Interagency Working Group, which hoped to promote nano to the President and Congress of the United States. It took a couple of years and two presidents, but finally Nanometer Science and Engineering Technology (NSET), a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), was born and Murday was named Executive Secretary. Murday was also appointed Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), set up to support NSET. NSET has continued to expand its membership as well as to change its purpose. The character of nano has changed with this expansion and with new technology. Murday felt he was getting stale as Head of the NRL Chemistry Division and that new blood was needed, so he accepted the position of Associate Director for Physical Sciences with University of Southern California’s Office of Research Advancement in Washington, D.C. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1964 Case Institute of Technology BS Physics
1969 Cornell University PhD Physics

Professional Experience

Naval Research Laboratory

1970 to 1973
Research Physicist, Chemistry Division
1974 to 1980
Head, Advanced Surface Spectroscopy and Carbon Sections
1974 to 1987
Part-time Consultant and Program Officer, Office of Naval Research
1981 to 1987
Head, Surface Chemistry Division
1988 to 2006
SES-4 Head, Chemistry Division
1989 to 1992
Chair, Invention Evaluation Board
1995
Member, InfoVision/2000 (Library) Steering Committee
1995 to 1998
Chair, Performance Management Committee in NRL Lab Demonstration Project
1997 to 2002
Chair, Library Committee
1999 to 2001
Technical Coordinator, construction project for NRL Nanoscience Building
2000
Member, Working Group on Defenses Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA)
2000
Chair, NRL E.O. Hulburt Award Selection Committee
2000 to 2002
Member, Naval Fuels and Lubricants IPT
2001 to 2003
Chief Scientist, Office of Naval Research
2001 to 2006
Chair, Naval Working Group on Nanoscience

American Vacuum Society

1977 to 1987
Chair, Mid Atlantic Chapter
1982
Chair, National Symposium Local Arrangements Committee
1982 to 1985
Chair, Trustees
1986
Chair, National Symposium Local Arrangements Committee
1986 to 1988
Editorial Board, JVST
1987 to 1988
Board of Directors
1991 to 1993
President Cycle
1996
Chair, Nanometer Structures Division
1998 to 2001
Chair, Intersociety Interactions Committee
1993 to 2007
Member, Long Range Planning Committee
1999 to 2001
Member, Long Range Technical Planning Committee

American Chemical Society

1983 to 1985
Executive Committee, Colloid and Surface Chemistry Division
1988
Symposium Co-chairperson 3rd Chemical Congress of North America
1991
Symposium Co-chairperson 4th Chemical Congress of North America

American Institute of Physics

1986 to 1989
Governing Board
1988 to 1991
Member, Nominating Committee
1990
Chair, Nominating Committee
1991 to 1993
Chair, Development Committee
1994 to 1996
Member, Committee of Committees
1996
Chair, Committee of Committees

International Union of Vacuum Science, Techniques and Applications

1992 to 1995
Chair, Steering Committee on Science and Technology of Nanometer Structures
1995 to 1998
Chair, Nanometer Structures Division

Institute of Physics

1994 to 2001
Editorial Board, Nanotechnology Journal

Federation of Materials Societies

1995 to 2003
Trustee

US Department of Defense

1997
Directory of Research (acting), Research and Engineering
1999 to 2006
Chair/member, Committee on Nanoscience Strategic Research Objective
1999 to 2006
NSTC Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee

Office of Science and Technology

1999 to 2006
Executive Secretary, NSTC Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee

National Nanotechnology Coordination Office

2001 to 2003
Director

Honors

Year(s) Award
1973

Special Achievement Award, NRL (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1974

Letter of Commendation from the Chief of Naval Research (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1975

Special Achievement Award, NRL (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1976

Outstanding Performance Rating (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1977

Outstanding Performance Rating (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1980

Chemistry Division Publication Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1981

Certificate of Appreciation, Strategic Systems Project Office (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1986

Outstanding Performance Rating (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1987

PMRS Performance Awards (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1988

PMRS Performance Awards (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1990

Outstanding Performance Rating (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1990

Technology Transfer Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1991

SES Bonus Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1993

Certificate of Commendation, Joint Directors of Laboratories (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1995

Leadership Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1995

Combined Federal Campaign Vice Chairman (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1996

SES Bonus Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

1997

Certificate of Appreciation (Dept. of Defense Executive
Leadership Development Program) (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2000

Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Naval Research Laboratory (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2000

Hammer Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2001

SES Bonus Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2002

Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2004

SES Bonus Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2004

SES Bonus Award (Navy Research Lab, Navy, and Department of Defense)

2005

Fellow, Washington Academy of Sciences (Professional)

2005

Fellow, American Vacuum Society (Professional)

2005

Fellow, Institute of Physics, United Kingdom (Professional)

2005

Honorary Member, American Vacuum Society (Professional)

1991

Plenary Speaker, Inaugural Meeting of Korean Vacuum Society (Professional)

1993

Plenary Speaker, Brazilian Vacuum Society Conference (Professional)

1993

AVS Commendation (Professional)

1995 to 2000

Citation of Appreciation from R&D Magazine (R&D100 Award) (Professional)

2007 to 2008

Participant, Digitalized Globe Conferences, Allianz SE (Professional)

Table of Contents

Early Science Interest
1

Wanted to be second Einstein. Wanted to do something to cause change in the world. Liked physical sciences best, but also interested in biology. Found sciences and math easiest for him.

College Years
2

Earned BS degree in physics at Case Institute of Technology. Liked biophysics but stuck to physics. Business manager of Case’s magazine. Cross-country team. Senior thesis with Arthur Benade on the acoustics of flutes. William Gordon also major mentor; interested Murday in magnetic resonance.

Graduate School Years
7

Entered Cornell University. Research assistant for Robert Cotts. Cotts’s mentoring, personality, lab work, and management style. Murday’s interest in diffusion. Interface between chemistry and physics. New pulse techniques important to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). PhD in solid-state physics.

Beginning Employment Years
15

Recruited by Henry Resing for NMR lab at Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Protective chemistry. Absorbance research needed diffusion person. Went into surface science to write report for Office of Naval Research (ONR). First step toward nanoscience. Relationship between ONR and NRL. Funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Becomes head of surface chemistry, then superintendent of chemistry division.

Moving Up Management Ladder
29

Scanning tunneling microscopy and then atomic force microscopy lead to thinking about nanostructures. Joined American Vacuum Society (AVS), home of surface science. Combined chemistry, materials, electronics; science both basic and applied. IBM and Bell Laboratories dominated surface science. Powerful computers needed. Fusion. Plasma. Department of Energy. Revitalized Mid-Atlantic Chapter of AVS and eventually moved to board of directors.

Nano
40

Conferences begin in Europe. American Chemical Society nano meeting disappointing. AVS officially gives nano its first home. ULTRA program. DARPA, National Science Foundation (NSF) involved in nano, have much money. United Kingdom’s low energy electron diffraction (LEED) program. A network program (LINK Nanotechnology Programme) was launched in the UK in 1988 with an annual budget of about $2 million per year. Japan’s Aono Atom Craft program. International Union of Vacuum Science Technology and Applications (IUVSTA).

Nanometer Science Engineering and Technology (NSET)
48

Mihail Roco of NSF and Department of Defense join Murday to form Interagency Working Group; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) approval; Congressional approval. Selection of name Nanometer Science Engineering and Technology (NSET). Discussion of definition and funding. Murday named director of National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), established to support Nanometer Science Engineering and Technology (NSET). Murday named executive secretary of NSET. National Institutes of Health (NIH) becomes involved as nano seems to have therapeutic value. Proteomics. Chemical warfare. Moletronics. Giant magnetoresistance. Spintronics. Economics of research.

University of Southern California (USC)
62

Murday’s two jobs. Director of NSET a full-time job. Murday getting stale. Accepts position as Associate Director for Physical Sciences of the USC Office of Research Advancement in Washington, D. C.

Index
66

About the Interviewer

Cyrus C. M. Mody

Cyrus Mody is an assistant professor of history at Rice University. Prior to that position he was the manager of the Nanotechnology and Innovation Studies programs in the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and materials engineering from Harvard University and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell. He was the 2004–2005 Gordon Cain Fellow at CHF before becoming a program manager. Mody has published widely on the history and sociology of materials science, instrumentation, and nanotechnology.