MacArthur Fellows Program

Susan Murphy

Statistician | Class of 2013

Translating statistical theory into powerful tools for evaluating and customizing treatment regimens for individuals coping with chronic or relapsing disorders.

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
55 at time of award
Published September 25, 2013

About Susan's Work

Susan Murphy is a statistician developing new methodologies to evaluate courses of treatment for individuals coping with chronic or relapsing disorders such as depression or substance abuse. In contrast to the treatment of acute illness, where clinicians make a single decision about treatment, doctors treating chronic ailments make a sequence of decisions over time about the best therapeutic approach based on the current state of a patient, the stage of the disease, and the individual’s response to prior treatments.

Murphy has developed a formal model of this decision-making process and an innovative design for clinical trials that allow researchers to test the efficacy of adaptive interventions. While the standard clinical trial paradigm simply tests and compares “one shot” treatments in a defined population, Murphy’s Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART) is a means for learning how best to dynamically adapt treatment to each individual’s response over time. Using SMART, clinicians assess and modify patients’ treatments during the trial, an approach with potential applications in the treatment of a range of chronic diseases—such as ADHD, alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular disease—that involve therapies that are regularly reconsidered and replaced as the disease progresses.

As Murphy continues to refine adaptive interventions, she is working to increase opportunities for implementation in clinical settings through collaborations with medical researchers, clinicians, and computer scientists focused on sequential decision making. By translating statistical theory into powerful tools for evaluating and tailoring complex medical therapies, Murphy is poised to have a significant impact on the field of personalized medicine, an area of great activity in biomedical research today.


Susan Murphy received a B.S. (1980) from Louisiana State University and a Ph.D. (1989) from the University of North Carolina. She was affiliated with Pennsylvania State University (1989–1997) prior to her appointment to the faculty of the University of Michigan, where she is currently the H. E. Robbins Professor of Statistics, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and a research professor in the Institute for Social Research. She is also a principal investigator at the Methodology Center of Pennsylvania State University.

Recent News

In 2014, Susan Murphy was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Updated August 2015

Select News Coverage of Susan Murphy

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Please credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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