Selected to lead Washington State University education and research that improves quality of life for people and animals, scientist and teacher Gordon Murdoch is the new chair of the Department of Animal Sciences.

A professor of animal physiology at the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Murdoch was hired following a national search and assumes the chair’s role on Aug. 3. Interim chair Kris Johnson has led the department since 2015, and will return to teaching and research.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to serve Washington students, WSU researchers, and our partners in Northwest agriculture,” Murdoch said. “This department has a significant role in preparing the next generation of leaders in agriculture and animal health, while supporting the producers that feed our nation and world. I’m ready to champion these efforts.”

“Gordon is an outstanding addition to our department and college,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “He has a passion to develop outstanding students, while supporting and enhancing the productivity and sustainability of some of our most economically important industries. His experience and leadership make him an ideal steward of Animal Sciences’ land-grant mission.

“CAHNRS also thanks Kris Johnson for her leadership of the Department of Animal Sciences over the past five years,” Wright added. “Under her guidance, the department has built a tradition of high quality undergraduate education, as well as research and outreach into sustainable animal and human health that benefit animals and Washington agriculture.”

An alumnus of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, Murdoch has formal degrees in microbiology, physiology, medicine, and animal physiology.

A faculty member at the University of Idaho since 2006, Murdoch studies the basic mechanisms of muscle stem cells, as well as applied strategies to improve livestock production and quality. Working to understand how muscle tissue grows, and its relationship to meat quality, his discoveries help increase efficiency of muscle growth in cattle, while improving meat quality traits such as tenderness, color, juiciness, and flavor.

As a teacher and mentor, he has developed dozens of undergraduate and graduate-level courses, advised student clubs, and presented advances at many industry and stakeholder meetings.

A member of the American Society of Animal Science, Murdoch is the recipient of the R.M. Wade Award for Excellence in Teaching, multiple University of Idaho Outstanding Academic Advisor awards, and the 2019 and 2020 UI Excellence in Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Efforts Award for his contribution to research on lung ventilation and flow (2019) and virtual fencing (2020).

About the Department

Offering the only four-year animal sciences degree in Washington, the Department of Animal Sciences encompasses a wide range of studies embracing animal physiology and behavior, livestock husbandry, and human health and wellbeing. The department has approximately 630 undergraduate students and 13 graduate students, served by 32 faculty and staff based in Pullman and around the state who perform research, teaching and extension work.

Research programs explore animal health, nutrition, and reproduction, genetics and genomics, growth, muscle, and meat science, and environmental sustainability. The department’s extension programs serve dairy and beef producers through outreach in areas of industry importance, including nutrition, animal wellbeing, calf management, economics, and forage quality.

Learn more about the Department of Animal Sciences on its website.