EDI Spotlight: Michael Boyce, PhD


After first joining Duke’s faculty in 2012, it didn’t take Michael Boyce, PhD, long to get involved in equity, diversity, and inclusion work — not only within his department but also on the national scene. In this month’s EDI Spotlight, Boyce, an associate professor, shares how his passion for the work led him to be actively involved with the Department of Biochemistry’s EDI committee since its inception. Additionally, he has become a leader of a national program that seeks to transition scientists from diverse backgrounds into tenure-track research faculty jobs across the country. He also tells us about his love of travel, including a few upcoming international trips with his partner.

You are an associate professor of biochemistry whose research focuses on mammalian cell signaling through protein glycosylation. What does a typical day for you look like?

One thing I like about my job is that every day is different. Of course, research and the people in my lab are a major focus, so I’m often meeting with students, postdocs, and staff, individually or in groups, to discuss data, plan strategy, troubleshoot, write grants or papers, etc. I also enjoy teaching (particularly small-group seminars for PhD students) and service, much of which is focused on graduate education and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in my case. Another thing I value about my job is that it entails both work within my subject matter (e.g., with colleagues in the Biochemistry Department or globally in the glycobiology field) and interactions with colleagues in other fields from around Duke and through national organizations, such as the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB).

Aside from your responsibilities as a researcher, you also have been actively involved in equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives within the Department of Biochemistry. What are some of those initiatives? How and why did you first become involved in EDI in your department?

I’ve been involved in EDI efforts in Biochemistry since 2013, soon after I began at Duke in October 2012. A lot of credit for this goes to Dick Brennan, our department’s longtime chair. He created an EDI committee in the department in 2013, which I have continuously served on and co-chaired over the years. Dick has steadfastly supported and valued our committee’s contributions to the department – not in a merely performative way, but by committing his actions and department resources (money) to empower our activities.

True story: I visited another university a couple months ago to give an invited seminar on my research. In a one-on-one meeting with a new junior faculty member there, he saw on my CV that I had been on the EDI committee for Duke Biochemistry since 2013, and he was impressed and wondered if our committee was the first in the nation (!). I’m not sure we quite hold that record, but I think this reaction speaks volumes about the longstanding commitment that Dick and many students, postdocs, staff and faculty members have contributed to our department’s committee over the years.

You currently serve as co-director of the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program, which is designed to facilitate the transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds. Tell us a little about the MOSAIC program and what motivated you to get involved.

I’m so fortunate to be involved in MOSAIC, which I think is a tremendously valuable and impactful program. The mission of the NIH MOSAIC program is to increase the diversity of tenure-track biomedical faculty at research-intensive universities nationwide. MOSAIC aims to achieve this goal through two related mechanisms: 1) K99/R00 fellowships that support the postdoc-to-faculty transition of extremely talented scholars who increase diversity and inclusions through their lived experience and/or their service activities, and 2) UE5 awards to scientific societies, which create cohort-based programs to provide skills development, professional networking, and other support to groups of MOSAIC scholars. I have co-directed the ASCB UE5-funded MOSAIC program since its inception, and I work closely with our 50+ rock-star K99/R00 scholars, who continually impress me with their accomplishments.

What impact has the MOSAIC program had since it began in 2020? How has it enhanced diversity within the academic biomedical research workforce?

As the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and NIH in general have wisely recognized, diversifying the biomedical workforce is good for the United States because it helps us maximize the talent flowing into our scientific enterprise, and it better serves the population of our country, providing intellectual and professional opportunities for as many people as possible.

Already, dozens of our MOSAIC scholars in the ASCB program have taken outstanding faculty positions at great institutions around the country, and many more are in the pipeline. This is also true for the scholars in the other UE5 organizations, beyond ASCB. In other words, MOSAIC has helped to place and support scores of scholars of highly diverse backgrounds in influential, tenure-track faculty positions across the US. The impact of the program will therefore ramify for decades, as these scholars do great science and teach and train tens of thousands of students, postdocs, and other learners.

Closer to home, MOSAIC also has strong ties to Duke through several scholars, such as Duke Neurobiology alum Erica Rodriguez, former Duke postdoc and current NCSU faculty member Ian Williamson, and current Duke faculty member Asiya Gusa. Suzanne Barbour (Dean of the Graduate School) and Gustavo Silva (Associate Professor of Biology) are also involved in other MOSAIC UE5 programs. I hope Duke will hire more MOSAIC scholars as faculty in the future (looking at you, administrator colleagues!) and I hope anyone interested in learning more will check out the NIGMS MOSAIC page and the ASCB MOSAIC Program website.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of work?

I try to prioritize work-life balance, but I have to admit that my hobbies are maybe a little bit pedestrian! I always make time for exercise (so important for both mental and physical health), and I love cooking, eating, and traveling with my partner, Solomon. This year, we’re fortunate to have trips to Mexico and several countries in South America.