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Marvin Doyley selected for first cohort of national STEM leadership program

August 28, 2019
Marvin Doyley smiles in his lab.Marvin Doyley, professor of electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, and imaging sciences. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

When Marvin Doyley attends a major conference of electrical engineers in England this fall, he will be one of nearly 5,000 delegates.

“But there won’t be many who look like me,” says the University of Rochester professor of electrical and computer engineering. He estimates only about 10 of the participants at the IEEE conference will be black.

“It doesn’t bother me now as much as it did before,” Doyley says. “Now, I am a senior member, I have worked my way up, people know me, we have common experiences to talk about. But I’ll be looking at someone else who is a minority just starting to come up, who will be standing at the back, hesitant to speak or ask questions.”

Doyley is embarking on a mission to help address the glaring underrepresentation of minorities and women in STEM fields. He is one of 20 faculty members nationwide who have been selected for the first cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy, a program aimed at helping STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at colleges and universities.

“Marvin is a great faculty colleague and over the years he has contributed tremendously to ECE’s research profile and teaching mission,” says Mark Bocko, chair of the Department Electrical and Computer Engineering.  “He clearly already possesses the skills and energy to be a wonderful leader for our department and the University, and the IAspire program is an excellent opportunity for him to hone those skills and prepare to take on new challenges in academic leadership.”

The academy, housed at the University of Georgia, is backed by the National Science Foundation and offered by Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty. The one-year core curriculum includes in-person sessions, peer coaching sessions, a concurrent individual learning component, and an institutional action project.

Doyley’s chosen project: Grow a pipeline to help diversify graduate students and faculty in his department. Doyley, for example, is the only black faculty member in the department, and only two women have primary appointments.

He’ll approach this in two ways.

  • Apply for National Science Foundation funding for an REU (research experience for undergraduates) program that would bring underrepresented minority and women students from other colleges and universities to his department to do mentored summer research projects. The hope is they would then return to the department to do graduate work.
  • Apply for National Institutes of Health funding for training grants to help support underrepresented minority and women graduate students in the department. “And if they’re great, we would hire them (as faculty members),” Doyley says.

Doyley hopes his participation in the academy will connect him with other participants, especially those from historically black colleges without graduate programs of their own, who could recommend top students from their institutions to participate in the REU and NIH training programs Doyley hopes to establish in his department.

“It’s a slow process; it’s not a quick fix,” Doyley acknowledges.

But it’s a start.

A focus on mentors

Doyley, who was born in England, grew up in Jamaica and then returned to England at age 17 to attend college. He enjoyed math and science in school and from an early age wanted to be a doctor, just like Ben Casey, the idealistic young neurosurgeon in a TV series that was popular when Doyley was growing up.

However, he quickly became disabused of becoming a medical doctor after his guidance counselor at Brunel University in London suggested he do voluntary service at Greenwich Hospital.

“I lasted two days,” Doyley says. “They put me on the geriatric ward, and I could not handle it—all the people who were incontinent, or unable to do anything. It was a sad thing to see.”

Instead, he majored in applied physics. He then earned his doctorate in medical physics—using the principles of physics, mathematics, and engineering to solve medical problems—from the University of London. And then served as a post-doctoral researcher at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and then a research assistant professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.

He joined the University of Rochester in 2008, at the invitation of Kevin Parker, the William F. May Professor of Engineering who was then dean of engineering.

“I’ve been lucky,” Doyley says. “My PhD advisor [Jeffery Bamber] was fantastic, always challenging me to ask the right questions and thinking outside the box. My advisors [Keith Paulsen, John Weaver, Ton Van Der Steen] at the Erasmus University and Dartmouth were also fantastic—teaching me the value of excellence in research. And when I came here, Kevin was like a mentor to me—my sounding board, who gave good and honest advice.”

Mentoring would be an important part of the REU and graduate training programs he hopes to establish.

Until now, Doyley’s primary focus has been on his research interests, which include cardiovascular imaging, breast cancer imaging, ultrasound beamforming, contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging, ultrasound elastography, magnetic resonance elastography, and pancreatic cancer imaging.

“I love research, and my dream, from a research standpoint, is to increase the diversity in our graduate students and professors. That’s where my interest is right now.”

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Category: University News