Who is Linda Doyle, the newly elected provost of Trinity College Dublin?

12 Apr 2021

Prof Linda Doyle. Image: Trinity College Dublin

Prof Linda Doyle is an engineer, researcher, leader, and advocate for the arts and women in STEM. She is now also the first woman to be elected provost in Trinity College Dublin’s 429-year history.

Prof Linda Doyle has been making waves for many years through her contributions to the worlds of engineering, the arts, research, outreach and more.

Now, the next phase of her journey begins as she takes on the role of provost at Trinity College Dublin – a position held only by men for the past 429 years.

From PhD to provost

Doyle studied electrical engineering at University College Cork and went on to complete her master’s and PhD at Trinity, after which she remained highly active in cognitive radio and wireless networking research. She later became the director of Science Foundation Ireland research centre Connect, leading its applied research programmes in telecoms and networks.

She grew the centre to a hub of more than 250 researchers spread across 10 higher education institutions in Ireland with more than 35 industry partnerships. To date, she has raised more than €70m in research funding. One of Doyle’s most notable projects at Connect was Pervasive Nation, an all-Ireland testbed for the future of the internet of things.

Doyle is currently professor of engineering and the arts at Trinity College Dublin and became dean of research at the university at the start of 2018. She sits on a number of boards and committees, including chairing the Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board in the UK.

On Saturday (10 April), Doyle was named provost of Trinity. There were three women on the ballot for the position – Doyle, Prof Linda Hogan and Prof Jane Ohlmeyer.

Doyle will take over from current provost Dr Patrick Prendergast on 1 August and will hold the role for 10 years.

Bridging engineering and the arts

Doyle is also passionate about marrying creative arts with engineering.

She is the founder of Orthogonal Methods Group, a research programme that highlights the links between creativity and technology. The programme led to engineering and computer science labs opening roles for writers, visual artists and curators in residence.

Another of her board positions is with the Festival of Curiosity, an annual event celebrating STEM, art and design. She is also a judge in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition and has been the chair of the board of the Douglas Hyde Gallery since 2013.

As well as her contributions to research and the arts, Doyle is an active advocate for women in engineering and computer science. She has worked with a number of initiatives in this area, including Girls in Tech, Teen-Turn and HerStory.

Imagine Trinity

Doyle’s campaign for the position of provost centred around her manifesto, Imagine Trinity, which set out seven objectives for the university to accomplish before 2031.

This included a re-energised democracy, a productive and creative place to work, an exceptional place to learn, a place where research thrives, a deep-rooted fairness, a climate-first Trinity, and a transformed relationship with government and society.

“Leadership for me is about service rather than power. It’s about building trust and growing relationships,” she wrote on her campaign website.

“It’s about empowering people. It’s about transparent decision making. It’s about including diverse voices to make good decisions. It’s about taking responsibility. It is about inspiring people to be the best they can be.”

As Trinity’s provost, Doyle will become head of the university in a role that is equivalent to that of president in other universities. She will be responsible for the institution’s 18,000 students and 3,000 staff.

‘A major milestone’

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, congratulated Doyle on her new role. He said that her election as the first woman provost in the university’s history means that “another glass ceiling has been shattered”.

“Prof Doyle will become provost at a time of great change and huge opportunity for the sector and I look forward to working with her in the years ahead.”

She is the fourth woman to be named leader of an Irish university. Prof Kerstin Mey became the first when she was appointed president of University of Limerick last year, while Prof Maggie Cusack was recently appointed president of the new Munster Technological University and Prof Eeva Leinonen will become the next president of Maynooth University.

“There have been improvements in addressing the gender imbalance in higher education in recent years, but there remains a significant level of underrepresentation of female staff at the highest decision-making levels in Irish universities,” Harris added.

He described the appointment of Doyle as “a major milestone” and hoped that it “sends a strong message to everyone involved in the higher education sector and beyond – a message of inclusion, equality and opportunity for all”.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021