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June 14, 2024

Regina Murphy retires from CBE

Written By: Susann Eva ELY


Prof. Murphy christening the distillation column
Prof. Emerita Regina Murphy christening the distillation column at the John C. Kuetemeyer CBE Instructional Laboratories Grand Opening, April 19, 2024. The flask with “Badger red”-colored water symbolized the collective donor contributions that led to the completion of the laboratories. Each donor poured colored water into the large flask as part of the ceremony during the grand opening. Professor Murphy was key in leading the construction project. Even in her retirement, she is working on the design and instillation of the department’s history wall.

After 34 years, Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Professor Regina M. Murphy has retired from the department. Her faculty career started as the first female faculty hire, followed by the first female chair of the department and in 2019 the first R. Byron Bird Chair recipient. Regina had contributed decades to her research, various committees and as a leader within CBE, the College of Engineering and the UW-campus. This included redesigning the department’s introductory course, Process Synthesis, and developing a textbook to accompany it. She served on various campus committees and organizations ranging from the Physical Sciences Divisional Committee, to the Athletic Board to a Chancellor Search and Screen Committee. 

With her committee involvement, Regina enjoyed meeting people from diverse backgrounds and different expertise. “I remember having a committee discussion about what is truth – and how scientists look for truth in data whereas English professors see truth in story. And both are right! I encourage faculty and staff to get engaged in campus activities that they care about. It can be time-consuming, but it is critical to the notion of faculty governance that talented faculty contribute to broader campus needs.”

As department chair, she enjoyed meeting alumni and hearing their stories about their student experiences and what paths their lives had taken after graduation. During this tenure she was thrilled to see how the department faculty and staff worked hard to establish common goals and then achieve them, and how individual people really stepped up to contribute their time and skills. “Regina was a tireless departmental leader that greatly moved our department forward with impressive faculty hires, world class infrastructure upgrades and a focus on departmental climate” said Professor Eric Shusta, her successor as Department Chair.

Even in her retirement, Regina is still very much involved in the department, serving as one of the leaders in the development of the reconstruction of the instructional lab. She is currently working on the history wall portion of the project.

For a long time Regina has been interested in linguistics and languages. She now has time to audit a class in historical linguistics. As a long time runner, she competed in the 2023 summer 5K National Senior Games in Pittsburgh and came home with a silver medal in her age group. She plans to compete again next year.

Other activities that keep her busy include, coaching Girls on the Run in the fall and spring, and serving a noon meal at the Goodman Community Center to seniors. She is also learning how to play pickleball “because that’s what everybody does when they retire!”

Once the construction of the instructional lab is complete, she intends to continue to enjoy Wisconsin by paddle boarding in the summer and skiing in the winter. As a new grandmother (as of this writing—to a 10 day old infant), Regina looks forward to spoiling this new addition to the family.

Regina will be remembered for her leadership and dedication to students. When asked what she enjoyed most in the department, her response focused on the student experience. “I really enjoyed the time in the classroom – especially when students were engaged with each other and with problem-solving. It was great when there was energy in the classroom. Working with graduate students on a tough research problem, and then seeing experimental data that was both unexpected and exciting was a thrill. In research you start with a hypothesis or research question, but it is most fun (and scary) when the data come out differently than you expected – then how do you solve the puzzle and extract meaning? How do you know you can trust the data? How do you construct different tests? That is a lot of fun. I love puzzles of all types.” 

Thank you Regina for your years of dedication and service to the department.