2005-06 Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching
PRESENTATION OF THE FEYNMAN PRIZE TO RICHARD MURRAY AT THE FEBRUARY 2006 FACULTY MEETING
by Provost Paul Jennings
"The committee recognizes Dr. Murray for special 'enthusiasm,' 'creativity, innovation, and
dedication' in a number of courses that run the gamut from introductory to advanced and
that have succeeded in making the field of control theory accessible to an increasingly
broad audience. On the basis of his dedication to teaching both inside and outside of
class, one set of students invented a score, the 'kiloMurray,' to quantify his teaching style
and talent, further explaining that few, if any others at Caltech, can currently aspire to the
"Dr. Murray is first singled out for his enthusiasm, responsiveness, and innovation in the
conventional classroom situation. The students commented on his relentless dedication to
making everyone understand the material embodied in his continual search for new ways to
teach, often involving new technologies, and his resounding success in these endeavors.
For instance, he has encouraged students to anonymously fill out index cards at the end of
class, dubbed 'Mud' cards, asking about anything at all they found confusing. He then
made sure the answers were posted on the class website the same day.
"He effectively includes material that relates the subject to the real lives of his students,
skillfully coordinates the team of teaching assistants and guest lecturers.
"His constant surveys of the effectiveness of the teaching techniques that he experiments
with and the constant evolution of his methods based on balanced responses to student
feedback are keys to the success in communicating the difficult concepts of control and
dynamical systems to his students.
"He is further recognized for his contribution to the undergraduate experience through
teaching outside the conventional classroom. In particular his course EE/CS/ME 75abc,
Introduction to Multidisciplinary Systems Engineering, presents fundamentals of modern
systems engineering in the context of a substantial design project. He used this course as
a venue for Team Caltech, Caltech's entry into the DARPA Grand Challenge, an
autonomous robot race in the desert."