Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Doell earned her PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956 and worked as a research associate at Tufts University and then Stanford University. In 1967, she began a 25-year teaching career at San Francisco State University, where she was active in the interdisciplinary NEXA program, a curriculum that emphasized the historical, philosophical, and ethical interactions among humanities, arts, and the physical and social sciences. Her lab research centered on mouse models for viral-induced thymic lymphoma, but she was an outspoken critic of what she considered simplistic research into the biological causes of homosexuality. She also wrote on gender bias in science, contributing an essay entitled "Whose Research Is This? Values and Biology" to a 1991 anthology on feminism in academia.