Marvin Doyley puts priority on addressing underrepresentation
Marvin Doyley is accustomed to attending major conferences of electrical engineers where he is one of only a handful of black delegates.
“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.”
The professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Hajim School is now in a position to help address the underrepresentation of minorities and women in STEM fields.
This past year he was one of 20 faculty members nationwide who participated in 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.
This past July, Doyley did just that, when he became chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
As part of his IAspire training, Doyley explored ways to grow a pipeline to help diversify graduate students and faculty in his department. He has now applied 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 the department to do mentored summer research projects. The hope is they would then return to the department to do graduate work, and perhaps even stay on as faculty after that.
And despite the distractions of leading a department amidst a pandemic, fostering diversity and inclusion is still very much on Doyley’s radar.
An early interest in medicine
Doyley, who was born in England, grew up in Jamaica. His mother was a nurse; his father ran a bus company. Doyley enjoyed math and science in school, but multiple factors steered him toward medicine.
For example, “I was the sickliest child you would ever find,” he says. “Anything that goes around, I caught it. So, I spent a lot of time with doctors. And that made an impression.” So did Ben Casey, the idealistic young neurosurgeon in a TV series that was popular when Doyley was growing up. Also, “I think my mom’s goal was to get one of her kids to be a doctor,” Doyley says. “I have three older brothers and a sister, none of whom were interested in medicine, and so it was up to me.”
At age 17, Doyley enrolled in medical school at Brunel University in London with every intention of becoming a medical doctor.
He quickly changed his mind. A counselor 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. But he was still interested in medical applications. For example, his doctorate in medical physics—at University of London’s Institute of Cancer Research—involved using the principles of physics, mathematics, and engineering to solve medical problems. He then served as a research associate in echocardiography at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam from 1999 to 2001, and then as a research assistant professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College where his work included elastography in breast imaging.
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 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.”
Recognition from AIMBE
“Imagine being at a packed concert hall with a mosh pit full of dancers creating a wall against outsiders. When targeted drugs try to make their way toward a pancreas tumor, they encounter a similar obstacle in stiff tissue that surrounds and protects the cancer.
“A new University of Rochester study demonstrates how imaging technology can be used to accurately measure tissue stiffness—thereby predicting the likelihood that drugs will be able get through to the tumor and guide drug penetration.”
As this University of Rochester Medical Center article illustrates, Doyley’s primary research focus is on cardiovascular imaging, breast cancer imaging, ultrasound beamforming, contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging, ultrasound elastography, magnetic resonance elastography, and pancreatic cancer imaging.
His Parametric Imaging Research Laboratory develops novel imaging methods for detecting disease more quickly and for determining how well patients are responding to therapy.
For these efforts he was inducted as a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in 2020. Doyley was specifically recognized for “outstanding contributions in developing algorithms for elastography and the application of elastography to vascular mechanics and disease.”
The institute’s College of Fellows is composed of the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers, who are employed in academia, industry, clinical practice, and government.
“I love research, and my dream, from a research standpoint, is to increase the diversity in our graduate students and professors,” Doyley says. “That’s where my interest is right now.”
Creating a welcoming environment
Two opportunities helped prepare Doyley to step in as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, when his predecessor, Mark Bocko, stepped down in July after serving in the post from 2004-2010 and again since 2013, a total of 14 years.
Doyle first spent a year as an associate chair under Bocko, seeing firsthand what the job entails.
And the IAspire academy was a “fantastic” opportunity to hone leadership skills in consensus building and conflict management, Doyley says.
Bocko is confident in his successor. “Marvin is a great faculty colleague and over the years he has contributed tremendously to ECE’s research profile and teaching mission,” Bocko says. “He clearly already possesses the skills and energy to be a wonderful leader for our department and the University.”
Doyley says he has two immediate goals: to build up research strengths within the department, and to find ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the department.
The REU proposal he has submitted is a first step. The program would bring underrepresented minority undergraduates from other universities to Rochester during the summer to study imaging in medical and biological research under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students at the University’s Medical Center and its Department of Biomedical Engineering, in addition to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
But another key component is to be sure the department is a place where underrepresented minority students and faculty members will feel at home. “We need to be sure to have the foundation to not only recruit underrepresented minorities, but keep them,” Doyley says. “You can get caught up with, ‘Let’s just recruit,’ but the recruits won’t stay long if the environment is not welcoming.