An interview with Dr. Michael Boyce

Dr. Boyce has enjoyed science since as early as elementary school, however, he was not sure about a career in science until later on in his life.  As an undergraduate student at Harvard College, he saw the biochemistry major and thought the courses were interesting.  In addition to courses required for the biochemistry major, Dr. Boyce found another interest, art history.  At this point, he realized he liked both art history and biochemistry and he asked himself, “Do I want to stick with biochemistry, or do I want to switch to art history.” To answer this, he pictured himself in both situations, as an art historian, and as a scientist.  He did see himself as a scientist, but he could not picture himself as an art historian.  He joined a lab at Harvard, and decided to get a PhD. with the idea of , “if this does not work out, I will pursue something else”.  Therefore, he was able to go to Harvard Medical School for his PhD. in molecular biology, he enjoyed graduate school, made great connections with students and his Principal Investigator (he even stays connected with them to this day using social media!).  With this experience, he decided that having his own lab is something he might enjoy, so he decided to do a post-doc with the same mentality of, “if this does not workout, I can do something else”.  Therefore, he went to UC Berkeley to do a post-doc in a Chemistry lab.  From the differences of research topics, he met many great friends, and learned new techniques.  Finally, he applied to faculty positions, where he is now an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University School of Medicine.

As a Principal Investigator in the School of Medicine, his primary role is to keep the lab running (through grant writing and mentoring students), to advocate for his science (by attending and presenting at conferences), and to serve the scientific community (by participating on committees, and specifically, by promoting diversity in STEM at Duke, the School of Medicine, and the American Society of Cellular Biology). Dr. Boyce enjoys his students, and he enjoys mentoring. This can be seen in his lab, where his door is always open for students to stop by to ask questions and to chat.  Finally, he feels very lucky for the freedom offered in his position.  He is able to ask his own questions, and if his project does not work out, or if the results lead to a different question, he is able to follow up.  He believes that his position is as close to a blank check as you can get.

After learning about his path, and what he does, I asked him if he had any advice for people interested in pursuing science. He answered “Stay open minded”, he says that there is a lot to learn, so go to more research seminars (even outside of the realm of expertise!).  Additionally, he recommends to read things that sound interesting, and try to be curiosity driven (because that is what science is about!).  Finally, he explained the importance of forming a network, with people in your lab, your peers, or your professors, because you never know what will happen fifteen years from now.

Dr. Boyce. An awesome mentor and scientist. Original photo was posted on the lab page.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Dr. Boyce about his path, and profession.

On next weeks blog, I will talk about my daily life.



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