McMurray Tapped to Lead GTRI?s Food Processing Technology Division

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Gary McMurray, a long-time research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), has been appointed chief of GTRI's Food Processing Technology Division, succeeding Craig Wyvill, who retired in April.

McMurray brings to his new position two decades of experience designing and building advanced robotic systems for the food, transportation and biomedical industries.

"Gary has the vision to diversify our revenues and expand our critical Agricultural Technology Research Program (ATRP), which is one of the major activities within the Food Processing Technology Division," said Rusty Roberts, director of the Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems (ATAS) Laboratory, which oversees the division.

Ranked as one of the top programs of its kind in the country, ATRP works closely with Georgia agribusiness, especially the poultry industry, to develop new technologies and adapt existing ones for specialized industrial needs. Researchers focus efforts on both immediate and long-term industrial needs, ranging from advanced robotic systems to improved wastewater treatment technologies to machine-vision grading and rapid microbial detection.

McMurray currently leads a project to develop a "smart" deboning system. The system uses computer vision and other sensing technologies to recognize and react to size and shape differences of a carcass to perform precision cuts that optimize yield (the amount of meat removed from the bone) while reducing the risk of bone fragments in finished product.

The Food Processing Technology Division also conducts significant industrial research under Georgia's Traditional Industries Program for Food Processing, which is managed through the Food Processing Advisory Council (FoodPAC). FoodPAC enhances the competitiveness of Georgia's food industry, and through the Traditional Industries Program, has helped GTRI to commercialize some of its developments while also adapting them to the needs of such industries as bakeries and fruit processors.

While food processing technologies remain the division's research priority, funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation has allowed researchers to develop technologies for the transportation industry. For one project, GTRI researchers developed a system capable of automatically placing reflective pavement markers along highway lane stripes from a moving truck.

Since division researchers have core expertise in automation, information technology, food safety, worker safety and environmental technology, McMurray plans to further expand the division's research focuses into areas including biomedical devices, unmanned and autonomous systems, and biofuels.

"We are mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, software engineers, image processing experts and many of our core competencies transfer very nicely into areas outside of food processing," said McMurray.

McMurray has personally initiated collaborations with physicians at Emory University to develop new technology to support doctors performing minimally invasive procedures and add new functionality to these procedures.

He is currently developing a new breed of endoscope -- the medical devices used to inspect spaces inside the body -- that will allow doctors to focus their attention on inspecting the space rather than manipulating the medical device. For colonoscopies, doctors must currently guide a specialized endoscope through the patient's colon by pushing the endoscope and controlling the orientation of the instrument's tip while simultaneously watching a video monitor that displays images captured by the endoscope's camera.

Division researchers are also collaborating with other ATAS researchers to develop and test unmanned and autonomous systems. These systems are recognized as critical components to all aspects of modern warfare across the joint forces, and they are growing in mission effectiveness.

In addition to leading the division's research efforts, McMurray will also lead a $3 million fundraising campaign to expand the 36,000-square-foot Food Processing Technology Building by an extra 10,000 square feet. Bettcher Industries, Inc., a world leader in designing and manufacturing food processing equipment and cutting tools, was the first company to support the construction with a donation of $125,000.

"While the building holds facilities to conduct research in automation technology, information technology and environmental systems, it's not large enough for our food safety, human factors and bioprocessing research," explained McMurray.

McMurray earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1985 and 1987, respectively. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Stephanie -- also a Georgia Tech graduate -- and sons Ben, 7, and Alex, 5.

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