Dr. Mary Murphy Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dr. Mary C. Murphy, assistant professor in Indiana University Bloomington’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was recently awarded a $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to explore the influence of hidden signals on women’s success in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

Murphy’s work investigates the subtle, situational clues that shape performance and may discourage some women from pursuing or remaining in STEM careers.  Her research aims to illuminate, understand and overcome these barriers.

“Our environment contains many subtle signals that tell women if they’re respected or disrespected in a setting,” said Murphy. “Identifying these situational cues and how to change them, so that we can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment, is critical to creating a diverse workforce.”

Murphy and her team of undergraduate and graduate researchers will utilize smart phone technology and the Electronically Activated Recorder, or EAR, which records snippets of conversation as they happen. These emerging technologies will help the research team analyze the experiences of students pursuing STEM and non-STEM majors at IU. 

Additionally, Murphy will lead six behavioral experiments that manipulate explicit and subtle cues about gender and STEM and assess their role in women’s psychological and physiological responses, as well as their performance. The team will measure heart rate and sweat levels to assess the stress experienced by women in the mock test-taking scenarios.

By examining how to better shape the learning climate of STEM settings, Murphy’s research will create strategies that support women’s outcomes in math and science. 

Murphy recently received the 2014-2015 Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the IU Office of the Vice Provost for Research and IU Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs. The award recognizes tenure-track faculty who have begun to develop nationally recognized research, scholarship or creative programs and devoted productive time to teaching and service. She also received a 2013-14 IU Collaborative Research Grant from the IU Office of the Vice President of Research to investigate the contextual variables that influence judges' decisions to triage certain family law cases out of the formal legal system to alternative dispute resolutions. The project is a collaboration with Victor Quintanilla of the IU Maurer School of Law. Finally, Murphy was named to the “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire” list based on nominations from IU students and faculty.