Boyd envisions better world from peaks of Appalachians

Backpacking through mountain trails, creating a startup company for photobioreactors and participating in undergraduate research are just a few of the interests of the eclectic Will Boyd, fourth-year PHYS and CS, who was recently named to the USA Today Academic All-Stars Team.

The team annually honors 20 undergraduate students across the nation for excelling in scholarship both within and beyond the classroom. Each member of the team receives $2,500 of fellowship money.

The Fellowship Communications program nominated Boyd, who then applied because he felt he had a chance of winning and that the opportunity would be a great way to represent Tech.

However, Boyd was not initially interested in Tech, noting that the school was his last choice until he visited and realized how well he connected with the students.

“Tech is a community I can actually thrive in and enjoy,” Boyd said. He noted that his other school choices would have sent him into academia following his undergraduate degree.

Boyd notes several aspects of his Tech career that he felt ultimately qualified him for the honor.

Following his pre-college passion for backpacking and trail building, which he previously did in his hometown in Tennessee, Boyd and several friends created the non-profit organization Trailblazers as an alternative spring break program.

“[We] started the organization to create environmental awareness. I want to do that for people regardless of their political affiliation. One way to do that is to combine the service and the adventure,” Boyd said.

He described the first trip as a group of 12 students who traveled up to West Virginia, worked on the Appalachian Trail for a few days and then backpacked up part of the trail.

“With just service, you draw in the hippies and the tree huggers. But when you add the adventure, you draw in people who would otherwise not be that interested,” Boyd said.

The organization also conducts year-round projects in Atlanta.

Scientifically speaking, Boyd has conducted undergraduate research, beginning with a two-year stint with Dr. Joseph Perry. Following this, Boyd had the opportunity to conduct research in Switzerland with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (more commonly referred to as CERN), which hosts a particle accelerator.

Finally, Boyd describes the InVenture Prize as an achievement in his career that has had a great impact on his post-Tech plans.

Boyd and his team produced a photobioreactor, and their win resulted in the patent-pending status of their invention.

Although their startup company has since dissolved because the members have gone in different directions, Boyd notes the impact of the invention and its results.

“The way I want to change the world is in research and development and startup companies – not in academia and not in politics,” Boyd said. He described his goals as the “ways to enact the kind of change I want to see in the world.”

Following the completion of his degree in December, Boyd plans to attend graduate school and to pursue a Ph.D program in plasma physics.

“I think it can help me tie together my interest in startups, renewable energy and my interest in physics,” Boyd said.

Boyd wishes to work with nuclear fusion reactors, noting that successful production of these reactors would “revolutionize energy.”

Overall, Boyd notes that his passions have driven his accomplishments.

“I don’t do things for my résumé; I do it because I’m passionate about it,” Boyd said.

Boyd emphasizes that his achievements in college have not been completed alone.

“A lot of my accomplishments have been with teams. Sora was with a team, not just me. I like to run a team as a cohesive unit…A lot of my accomplishments are about bringing people together,” Boyd said.