Santa Monica College (SMC) chemistry professor Dr. James E. Murphy has been named the recipient of the Marvin Elkin/ Northrop Grumman Chair of Excellence in Physical Sciences.

Murphy plans to use the funds that come with the award to work with students to build special equipment that will be used for projects in nanotechnology, the burgeoning field that is having new applications in medicine, industry and more.

Murphy, of Culver City, receives $5,000 a year for each of the next three years to be used for his project — the construction of a scanning tunneling microscope and a fluorescence correlation spectrometer.

Both of these instruments are commonly used in the field of nanotechnology, which is the study and manipulation of matter on the scale of individual atoms and molecules and is being used increasingly in medical treatments and electronics, Murphy says.

Murphy is the third recipient of the Northrop Grumman/Marvin Elkin Chair of Excellence, which was established in 2000 and was the first such award created at SMC.

Retired physics professor Richard Masada was named winner of the first Elkin award and chemistry professor Dr. Jamey Anderson received it in 2003.

Altogether, seven chairs of excellence have been established at SMC. The others are in biology, earth science, music, art, nursing and performing arts.

Such awards, which college spokesman Bruce Smith says are unique for a community college, are administered by the SMC Foundation and are named for their primary benefactors.

Murphy, who received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has taught at SMC since 1995.

His thesis work at MIT and his postdoctoral research at Pacific Northwest Laboratory in the early 1990s involved the use of laser spectroscopy to understand the electronic structure of small molecules.

Murphy is married to Gail Edinger, a math professor at SMC. They have two children, Kyle, 14, and Sara, 10.