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Robert Boyd

Biological Sciences professor
College of Sciences and Mathematics

Biological Sciences professor Robert Boyd has been at Auburn University for 22 years. His research in serpentine ecology, which refers to habitats characterized by high levels of heavy metals and low levels of plant nutrients, is so extensive he is recognized internationally as a leading expert in the field. In 2001, a previously unknown insect species, Melanotrichus boydi, which feeds on the metal-accumulating plants in these areas, was named after him. In the classroom, he specializes in courses dealing with conservation biology and ecology, and was recognized with the Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award in 1998 and the College of Sciences and Mathematics Dean's Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1999. Additionally, Boyd was given Auburn's 2005 and 2009 Faculty Mentoring Award, the College of Sciences and Mathematics Award for Outstanding Faculty Advising in 2009, and in 2010 he was named Auburn's Outstanding Graduate Mentor. Most recently, Boyd was named Learning Community Coordinator of the Year. For more information about Boyd and his work, visit his website at the following link:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?

I've been interested in nature since grade school when I caught frogs, butterflies and salamanders, and that interest has led me step-by-step to where I am today.

2. What is your favorite thing about Auburn University?

Auburn is a leading university in the state and the region and it's rewarding to be part of such an important and well-known institution. I also am inspired by the dedication and commitment of the faculty, staff and students and the positive attitude and spirit that they bring to the university every day.

3. What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching at Auburn?

Being a part of the education of bright and energetic young people is very satisfying. Helping them to achieve their goals while at the university is wonderful, but coming across them later in their careers and finding that they still remember me and the courses that I teach is very gratifying. These experiences help me see that I can make a difference in students' lives and this gives me great satisfaction.

4. What has been the most proud moment of your career thus far?

I was very honored to have an insect species named after me in 2001 (Melanotrichus boydi or "Boyd's Black-Haired Bug"). The discovery came out of the thesis work of graduate student Michael Wall, and I've enjoyed working that species into lectures and presentations, and seeing the response of students and colleagues. I've also given specimens to family and friends. It's something of a running joke with my daughters, because when a young man that they are seeing is given his very own specimen, it's a "sign" that he has entered the "inner circle" of our family. In fact, my middle daughter got married in December and I took a specimen to the wedding to give to her husband.

5. What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

Going to college is a privilege that will change your life. You have a chance to identify and build on your strengths and understand how to handle your weaknesses. You will make decisions that will direct your life, not only academically, but personally and spiritually. It's an exciting time and I hope you will embrace it with enthusiasm, but temper that with the need to stay balanced.

Apr. 18, 2011