Murphy’s law: Make materials with biology in mind

As an undergraduate student majoring in physics at Illinois Wesleyan University, William Murphy took exactly one biology course: Biology 101.

Two decades later, he’s built a career around creating what he calls “bio-inspired” materials such as tissues for drug modeling and bone regeneration. Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, looks to nature for insights on his designs.

“I didn’t start doing anything biomedical until I was in graduate school,” he says. “And so I think that order of things—starting in physics and materials science and then encountering biology—was helpful. Biology became an inspiration for how I wanted to build materials.”

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