An R.A Long High School alumnus just pulled off an academic mission impossible.
Alex Boyd just graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average from the prestigious California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The software engineering major also earned the College of Engineering’s Academic Excellence award.
Interim associate dean Lizabeth Schlemer said Boyd’s feat is incredible.
“I have not seen a 4.0 for at least a decade,” Schlemer said in a Cal Poly School of Engineering press release. “If you can imagine getting an A in both an English literature class and an advanced engineering course — not just for one quarter but every quarter, every course — this takes an extremely intelligent and diligent individual.”
Boyd told The Daily News that his stellar grades didn’t require lots of sacrifice or even a single all-nighter.
“What I would attribute (my 4.0 GPA) to was maximizing the time and efficiency of what I did put forth,” Boyd, 22, said Monday. “I would never skip class, and when I went, I would always be alert, paying attention, asking questions and being engaged. Outside of class, I would always have study sessions with friends.”
Boyd was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but moved to Longview at a young age. Although he enjoyed playing with computers as a kid, Boyd said his interest in tech only blossomed when he joined the robotics team at Mark Morris High School as a freshman (R.A. Long students compete jointly with he Mark Morris team).
“I got a chance to actually start using (computers) and create things with them, and I really fell in love with it,” he said.
Neither of Boyd’s parents attended a university: His mother, Theresa Boyd, is a medical transcriptionist and his father, David Boyd, is an electrician. Theresa Boyd said her son had a innate gift for math since he was five years old.
“We were … at what used to be the Pantry restaurant, and (Alex) asked my husband some kind of math question. He explained it to him, and the expression on Alex’s face was like a light switch went off, and he just got it,” she said. “From then on, he had such a tremendous grasp of math.”
After graduating from R.A. Long in 2014, Boyd chose Cal Poly partly because he wished to stay on the West Coast and because the university has a hands-on approach to learning.
“Any sort of element in the class that we’d learn, we’d implement or exercise it in real-world scenarios,” he said. “That really drew me in, because I’ve learned about myself … that I learn well when I would actually put into practice what we learned in the book or on the whiteboard.”
Boyd said he also thrived at Cal Poly’s laid-back, friendly vibe.
“Going into college, I was worried that things would be competitive. ‘Why would I help you, that would hurt my chances of getting a better grade,’ that sort of thing,” he said. “Being able to be in a collaborative environment helped enable me for success.”
Of course, the hip college town of San Luis Obispo, located only 15 minutes from the beach, was a plus, too.
“It’s a fantastic little spot,” Boyd said of the Central California city. “About the same size of Longview, but about half of that population is college students. Plenty of opportunities to relax and have fun when not working.”
Boyd’s focus on software engineering comes from his love of applying critical thinking skills in real-world environments, he said.
“I always enjoyed math in school, and this is a layer on top of that,” he said of software engineering. “Within school, I was able to take that initial yearning and really develop it and see how deep the hole goes.”
The next step for Boyd is earning a PhD in statistics at the University of California-Irvine. From there, he plans on pursuing a career in machine learning — a field involving automated problem-solving technology used in various items, from self-driving cars to Netflix recommendations.
“This to me really drew me in, because I really love math,” Boyd said of his career goals. “Machine learning is where the future of technology is going.”
Boyd said he plans on beginning his post-doctorate career in one of the West Coast’s tech hubs, like Seattle, Los Angeles or the Silicon Valley.
No matter how Boyd’s career shakes out, his parents will always be supportive and in awe of his achievements.
“Proud doesn’t even begin to describe it. I don’t think there’s a word that can describe it,” Theresa Boyd said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he accomplishes next, and we’re behind him all the way.”