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SEAS Dean Doyle Aims for Industry Partnerships

Dean of SEAS Francis J. Doyle III

As it expands its Allston footprint in the coming years, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will also seek to cultivate stronger industry ties, according to Dean of SEAS Francis J. Doyle III.

In a March interview, Doyle said one of his priorities is to establish a stronger connection between SEAS and corporations, a move that will bring the school more in line with traditional engineering heavyweights including Stanford and MIT.

According to Doyle, SEAS was historically less connected to the industry because of its scientific focus and its smaller size. Eleven years ago, when SEAS became its own school, it only enrolled 291 students, or around 6 percent of undergraduates.

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“A recruiter coming to look for, say mechanical engineering students or electrical engineering students, could count on maybe two hands the number of candidates that might be coming out from our program,” Doyle said. “So they were not necessarily going to prioritize our stop, even if they were coming through the other part of Cambridge, down in Kendall Square.”

Over the decade, however, this scale has “fundamentally changed,” according to Doyle. This year, SEAS has a record high 1,013 concentrators enrolled, which he said has accordingly raised the school’s profile among technology and engineering firms.

“So we’ve invited a number of big companies over the last couple of years, and we’ve got this semester alone a number of companies coming through that have never really visited, spent time with us,” Doyle said.

Doyle also said he sees corporate relationships as an opportunity to encourage a growing fraction of SEAS faculty to pursue industry research collaborations and other “creative opportunities.”

“We have a growing number of our faculty, and I put this at about one-third, roughly, and a corresponding fraction of students who are very interested in translation,” he said. “They want to build widgets, create technology, create patents, licensable ideas, create startups, work with companies, do these kinds of translational projects.”

Doyle said he is also interested in using company relationships to bridge the gap between faculty research and real world applications.

“We have faculty who are brilliant in their line, but having folks from the proverbial real world telling them ‘here’s the real challenge, we’ve got to connect this material to material, or make this material work under these conditions.’” he said. “That inspiration I think is valuable.”

Besides internship and job opportunities, and inspiration for faculty applied research, Doyle said licensing and funding are other reasons to “bargain with industry."

He added however, that he thought “our mission as an academic university—students first, and the training—means those [internship and job opportunities] are the most important to me when I think about partnering with industry.”

In order to strengthen industry relations, Doyle said he has recently added a Director of Corporate Partnerships, Ellie G. Carlough, to the school’s staff.

Doyle attributed his perspective on industry to his own experiences with the sector. Before climbing the academic ranks, Doyle spent time at DuPont. He has a portfolio of 17 patents, and part of his research focuses on process control.

“So that’s part of my DNA as well, so maybe I’m infecting some of the faculty this way,” he said.

—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at luke.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @duke_of_luke_.

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