Boydston featured in L&S faculty focus

New Faculty Focus: Andrew J. Boydston

Katie Vaughn

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Title: Associate Professor and Yamamoto Family Professor of Chemistry

Hometown: Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but grew up in Eugene, Oregon. I consider Eugene my hometown.

Educational and professional background:

I earned BS and MS degrees at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I worked with Professor Mike Haley and started in his labs during my sophomore year. It was the turning point for me and opened up the path that brought me here. I did my PhD in Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. There, I was advised by Professor Chris Bielawski and Professor Grant Willson. That was an incredible experience. I grew a lot as a scientist and person. Then, I moved to Pasadena, California, and worked under Professor Bob Grubbs at Caltech. Professor Grubbs really emphasized independent growth and exploration of ideas. That experience gave me a lot of confidence and training toward leading a research group.

How did you get into your field of research? 

I was lucky to have a lot of exposure to different kinds of research. My passion for chemistry was discovered as an undergrad and I am grateful to Professor Haley for that. The transition toward my current field doesn’t really have an exact starting point. My interests evolved and hybridized as I went on. My mentors in graduate school, especially professors Bielawski and Willson, praised our ambitions and encouraged our curiosity. So, as I found flavors of chemistry and materials science that I like, I ran with it. That continued as a postdoc and I was even allowed to try out some of my own projects there.

Please tell us about your work.

The Boydston Group studies functional materials at multiple length scales. New reaction development at the molecular scale enables precision synthesis of polymer and network materials, with an emphasis on controlling function through structure. At nano- and mesoscales, the team applies chemical principles to control energy transduction such as conversion of mechanical impact into constructive chemical output. Additionally, they focus efforts toward discovering and developing new chemistries for advanced additive manufacturing (3D printing).

What attracted you to UW-Madison? 

The outstanding science and opportunities for collaboration. I’m excited that the Department of Chemistry strives for excellence in all aspects of their program – research, teaching, mentorship, outreach, etc.

What was your first visit to campus like? 

The very first was as a grad student recruit. It was so cold that I could not have my hands outside of my coat pockets, despite also having gloves on. That was a new experience for me.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? 

An appreciation for problem-solving.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. 

Absolutely. In my program we are driven by the potential to improve lives through scientific breakthroughs. The work we do is ambitious, unpredictable and sometimes slow-going due to the challenging nature. Nevertheless, the science itself is aimed at technological capabilities such as advanced plastics and 3D printed devices. Moreover, the Department of Chemistry teaches and trains the next generation of scientific leaders. The impact reaches the world and by design it is not withheld to the campus.

Hobbies/other interests: 

Dogs (all of them).