USA Today Names Georgia Tech Senior An Academic All-Star

Will Boyd Recognized For Green Leadership

USA Today has named Georgia Tech senior Will Boyd as a 2010 Academic All-Star. Recognized for his environmentally conscious leadership, Boyd is an example of the symbiotic relationship between progress and service.

The Physics and Computer Science double major from Dayton, Tennessee, was nominated for the award by Georgia Tech’s Office of Fellowship Communications.  “I’m never one to turn down an opportunity,” said Boyd of his decision to apply for the honor after learning of his nomination. As part of the application process Boyd detailed his involvement at Georgia Tech, both inside and outside of the classroom—no small feat considering his dynamic leadership at the Institute.  Among his many accomplishments, Boyd founded a company as well as a student organization, conducted undergraduate research around the world, and won a competition for student inventors. Best summed up by Professor Greg Nobles, director of the Georgia Tech Honors Program, “Will becomes a leader because he wants to do things.  He doesn’t do things because he wants to be a leader.”     

With a drive to integrate environmentally sustainable practices into science and society, Boyd seemingly leaves no path at Georgia Tech unexplored in his pursuit of “green” leadership. “I believe that my generation must redesign and rebuild our society to be more environmentally sustainable in order to not only allow humanity to continue to thrive and prosper, but also in order to survive,” said Boyd. “I think that this effort will require both education of the public about environmental issues and their impact—both presently and for future generations—and strong leadership, particularly from the public sector, to make strategic and responsible decisions to transform us into a more sustainable economy.”

Boyd is a man of action, not simply belief.  Searching for a way to reduce the harmful impact of the emissions on Earth’s atmosphere, Boyd and his peers developed an idea to breed algae that feeds on carbon dioxide. “We designed a chlorocyte bioreactor which can be used to grow algae. The idea behind our bioreactor was to feed algae carbon dioxide emissions from power plants,” said Boyd. “The algae would feed on the carbon dioxide, bind it into its biomass, and effectively sequester it and clean it from the power plant emissions.”  

This idea won Georgia Tech’s 2009 InVenture Prize competition, a contest for student inventors. “Our team was fortunate enough to win the competition with our design. Since winning InVenture, we have filed a patent on our bioreactor [it is pending] and started Sora Corporation,” said Boyd. “My hope is to enter the world of business with a product that not only generates value for the economy, but that does so in a sustainable way.”

Though the financial capital necessary to run Sora has proved elusive, Boyd believes “we accomplished a big step along the way to making algae a big business in the future.”   And, his initial success is evidence of Boyd’s “energy, imagination, and doggedness to make things happen,” Nobles said.

Boyd’s natural tendency to collaborate with his peers is the key ingredient in his efforts to raise environmental consciousness.  As a student in the inaugural class of Georgia Tech’s Honors Program, Boyd and several of his friends developed GT Trailblazers, a student organization that has since evolved into the host of Georgia Tech’s largest alternative spring break.  The organization was initially funded by the student challenge fund, a small amount of money set aside for honors program students to partially fund ideas “for projects that have benefit to Georgia Tech and beyond,” Nobles said.  “Will was part of the group that brought the first proposal ever.”

Boyd and his peers outlined a plan for a spring break trip that would be spent rehabilitating trails in the Appalachian Mountains near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  “We worked with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) for four days  conducting trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail followed by three days of backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland,” said Boyd. “The idea was to promote environmental awareness by bringing together students to build a trail, then hike it.”

“They took about a dozen students,” on the first trip, Nobles said.  “They did such a good job, it encouraged me to make the challenge fund a prominent part of the Honors Program.”  Today, the GT Trailblazers continue to rehabilitate trails across the U.S. during fall, winter, and spring trips, utilizing the skills of more than 50 students.  The organization also works, and climbs, on trails around Atlanta throughout the year.

Boyd attributes much of his success at Tech to his time in the Georgia Tech Honors Program. “The Honors Program has also impacted me for the better in many ways since joining Tech,” said Boyd.  “I met so many other interested and involved individuals who have continued to be many of my best friends throughout college. In addition, the Honors Program allowed me to take honors calculus and chemistry courses among others that proved to be some of the best taught courses I’ve taken at Tech.”  The challenge fund that provided seed funding for the GT Trailblazers also helped Boyd travel to conferences and labs around the U.S. to share his research.

Boyd considers his research with Georgia Tech Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Joseph Perry on the photophysics of chromophore-coated silver nanoparticles one of his greatest accomplishments.  “I discussed my research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) where I spent summer 2009 as an intern developing a computer simulation of CERN's GRID computing network,” Boyd said.  He also presented his research at conferences in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and attend the 2010 INNOVATE conference in Vietnam and Taiwan.

Building off his research, Boyd hopes to “enroll in a joint doctoral program in plasma physics with an MBA,” in the fall of 2011. “With a Ph.D. in plasma physics, I hope to work on computational modeling and software development for nuclear fusion reactors,” he said. “In addition, I hope to use my MBA to work on start-up ventures in renewable energy later in my career.”  Boyd also plans to hike the entire Appalachian Trail before beginning graduate school.

It would be easy to applaud Boyd for his lasting impact on the Georgia Tech community after learning about his involvement during the past four years.  However, his potential was identified before he enrolled in his first class.  As an incoming freshman, Boyd was awarded a President's Scholarship and named a Stamps Leadership Scholar.  Made possible by a gift from Georgia Tech Alumnus E. Roe Stamps IV, the scholarship is awarded to the top freshman students entering Georgia Tech and exposes those individuals to leadership experiences in addition to financial assistance.  

“The Stamps Leadership Program is designed to attract the nation's best student leaders to Georgia Tech and then to support them with unsurpassed opportunities to study abroad, conduct research, and seek challenges,” said Randy McDow, director of the President’s Scholarship Program.  “I am very proud of Will for all that he has accomplished at Georgia Tech.  I look forward to following his career in academia and beyond.  He has unusual potential for contributions to science that will affect the world.”

Boyd’s path to becoming a USA Today All-Star was heavily influenced by the Stamps  Scholarship.  “I was fortunate enough to receive the scholarship as part of the President's Scholarship Program. This scholarship made a huge impact on my life by not only making it financially feasible for me to attend Georgia Tech, but also by making available a host of opportunities,” Boyd said. “Being a Roe Stamps Scholar has meant that I have an obligation to live up to the opportunities that have been afforded to me and to make the world a better place as a result of them.”

Luckily for the rest of us, Boyd is a man of his word.

Will Boyd Headshot
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USA Today has named Georgia Tech senior Will Boyd as one of the 2010 Academic All-Stars.