Pioneering Pathways: Dr. Joyce Y. Wong’s Journey in Engineering and Advocacy

BU Experts
5 min readMar 28, 2024


Dr. Joyce Wong discusses her journey as a woman in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), shedding light on the obstacles she faced, how she overcame them, and her dedication to empowering young women pursuing similar careers.

By Lydia Lu

For women and non-binary individuals, breaking into the engineering field can be riddled with challenges and barriers. However, even in the face of these obstacles, there are trailblazers like Dr. Joyce Y. Wong, who serves as a beacon of support and empowerment for female students and individuals determined to excel in engineering. As part of her diverse research endeavors, Dr. Joyce Wong holds positions as a professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Boston University’s College of Engineering. Dr. Wong leads projects in tissue engineering, particularly in developing blood vessel patches for pediatric
applications and most recently has pivoted to tissue/organ-on-a-chip
for women’s health applications. Additionally, her work extends to the development of targeted nano- and micro-particle contrast agents for multi-modal detection of abdominal adhesions, revolutionizing diagnostic and theranostic techniques.

With a steadfast commitment to advancing knowledge and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, Dr. Wong is not only shaping the future of biomaterials engineering but has also championed diversity and inclusion through her previous work in Boston University’s ARROWS organization from 2014 to 2023. ARROWS (Advance, Recruit, Retain, and Organize Women in STEM) aims to coordinate and integrate programs that promote the advancement of women across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In this Q&A, Dr. Wong discusses her experiences entering the engineering world and her pivotal role in fostering inclusivity and advancing opportunities for women in STEM.

Joyce Wong is recognized for her leadership and research, and elected to the National Academy of Inventors. Photo by Dave Green.

Can you share your journey and experiences as a female in STEM? What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

I am fortunate to be a professor of engineering at Boston University. For the past ten years, I have served as the Inaugural Director of Boston University’s women in STEM program (ARROWS: Advance, Recruit, Retain & Organize Women in STEM) in the Provost’s Office. I am proud of the supportive community we have built, which grew from
previous efforts at BU such as WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). It is critical to have support systems at every stage in your career. I have been fortunate to have had excellent mentors and peers at every stage of my career starting from my undergraduate and graduate years at MIT, my postdoctoral training at UC Santa Barbara, and my professional career at Boston University. I also have an extremely supportive family. This has been critically important throughout my career.

Can you highlight a specific project or research endeavor that you are particularly proud of, and how has your unique perspective as a woman in STEM influenced the outcomes or approaches in this work?

I am particularly excited about the opportunities to contribute to studying and addressing issues in women’s health. It is exciting to see more attention brought to women’s health recently with President Biden’s executive order and ARPA-H initiative to address the long-standing problem of underfunding in women’s health. A book that was influential in pivoting my research to women’s health is Maya Dusenbury’s “Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick”. This book inspired me to align my advocacy efforts for women in STEM with my research efforts, thereby shifting my focus to women’s health, especially reproductive health. We need everyone — not just women — to contribute to addressing problems in women’s health. A better understanding of these issues will not only help women but will give us a better handle on how these diseases and conditions affect society broadly. Just as you should never exclude any talent from contributing to solving complex problems, diseases are complex systems: why would you want to deliberately ignore any factors (e.g. sex-based differences) to come up with innovative solutions for everyone?

Photo by Jaron Nix on Unsplash.

What was an initiative or project you led or participated in with ARROWS that resonated with you?

I am most proud of the supportive community ARROWS has fostered on campus for women in STEM and our interactions with colleagues like Megan Bair-Merritt on BU’s Medical Campus to support STEM efforts. A key element is providing role models for women in STEM/STEMM because ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. One specific ARROWS program I am particularly excited about is Hidden HERstories. In 2021, we held a competition for students from BU’s College of Fine Arts to create artwork to help share stories of women in STEM from BU’s 175+ year history. A graduate student in the history department researched and wrote biographies of selected alumni, and we worked with the various BU academic departments to select the specific artwork proposed. We had a champagne ceremony celebrating the unveiling of a painting of Priscilla Fairfield Bok, an accomplished astronomer and researcher who graduated from BU in 1918. This painting is visible to the STEM community as it hangs in a room used by the Astronomy Department for introductory astronomy classes and seminar colloquia: the previously bare wall now has a painting that illustrates her key role in popularizing the Milky Way. Our goal is to increase media material in BU’s STEM spaces that highlight women in STEM and provide students, faculty, and staff physical testaments to the ways women have always been a part of BU’s STEM legacy. More information can be found here.

What advice do you have for young women aspiring to enter STEM fields in the face of existing imbalances and challenges?

My advice is to seek out and develop your support system–mentors (including near-peer and peers)–at all stages of your training and career. You can find these at your school, scientific/professional society, club, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Check out Dr. Joyce Wong on her website or @ProfJoyceWong. Stay in tune with the ARROWS program via their website or @ARROWS_BU. For research news and updates from Boston University’s College of Engineering, follow @BUCollegeofENG.



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