Lance Murphy ’18: Healing Bodies, Inspiring Minds

Helping people heal is a lifelong passion for South Carolina native Lance Murphy '18.
—Photo courtesy of Lance Murphy 

Millions of people suffer from arthritis, one of the top causes of disability worldwide. Biomedical engineering student Lance Murphy ’18 is working to change that.

Helping people heal is a lifelong passion for the South Carolina native, who grew up with nurses in the family and always intended to follow them into healthcare.

“Biomedical engineering was an easy choice,” Murphy said, “I want to apply science and math to create new technologies that will change the world for the better.”

For over two years he has worked in Professor Clark Hung’s Cellular Engineering Laboratory on understanding how arthritis operates on a cellular level. Fulfilling a longstanding interest in joints and orthopedics, Murphy has focused much of his research on imaging the membranes from around cows’ joints to observe how tissues respond to the movement of fluids. The work has important implications for engineering better replacement tissues for the knee and other joints, and he regularly consults with orthopedic surgeons on research projects.

Murphy was among just three Columbia Engineering students selected to represent the school at an international engineering conference in Chile last fall, where he presented on his research in tissue-engineered cartilage. He is currently collaborating on a senior design project developing a device to help reduce the chances that HIV-positive mothers in low-resource settings will pass on the virus to their newborns.

Outside the lab, he teamed up with friends to found the Columbia University chapter of Sci-Inspire, a club that brings student volunteers into disadvantaged schools across New York City to become mentors and help teach STEM subjects. Now in its third year, the group aims to help increase diversity and representation in STEM education and professions.

After graduating this spring, Murphy will spend another year in Hung’s lab as he applies to medical school. He hopes to obtain an MD/PhD and eventually become a physician-scientist who sees patients and runs his own lab.

“It’s the overlap of orthopedic research and orthopedic surgery that I’m most excited to explore,” Murphy said.

by Jesse Adams

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