Boyce Finding Niche with Alum

by Clayton Randolph '16

July 16, 2014

Nick Boyce ’15 is a runner at heart. But this summer he is on course preparing for his future career.

Boyce qualified in the steeplechase for the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and served a key role in North Coast Athletic Conference championships in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track this year. Boyce was also part of the regional championship cross country team, earning the first regional title in 18 years. And, to top it off, he earned a place on the U.S. Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Division III Cross Country All-Academic Team.

Boyce is focusing his attention right now on research with Dr. Timothy Sipe ’78. Sipe is an associate professor of biology at Franklin and Marshall College, a small liberal arts college located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sipe is studying tree density, regeneration of forest, and the amount of carbon contained in dead trees at the Wabash owned Allee Memorial Forest.

The research opportunity provides a perfect chance to work with an alum that shares the same interests in ecology while simultaneously training with his teammates. He did not even realize Allee forest existed. It was a chance he could not pass up. “It is a great opportunity we have at Wabash, especially for guys looking to do something in ecology,” Boyce said.

Sipe studied at the forest while attending Wabash. His eyes lit up when he spoke of his passion and affection for the woods. “It’s a relatively rare remnant of old forest in Indiana,” said Sipe. “It has not been heavily disturbed by human activity. It has a different feel to it. You walk into Allee Woods and you really get a sense of deep time. You get a sense of you’re walking back into the history of Indiana.”

This is the third year Sipe has researched at Allee Forest. Joining Sipe and Boyce is Franklin and Marshall College junior, Sara Lobdell. Both help Sipe at the forest and in the lab. He says the experience pays off in many different ways.

“We do not bring on students to be laborers,” Sipe said. “We bring them on board to be collaborators, investigators, and help train them to be scientists. “All of those skills they develop are transferable no matter what field they are going to go in to.”

For Boyce, being in the field is more fulfilling than the lab work. It puts his knowledge to work outside the classroom setting. “It’s more fun for me going out to the field, working with plants or bees and getting in the river,” Boyce said. “Those lab experiences have been more fulfilling than sitting at a workbench.”

Sipe has found Boyce’s work ethic to be remarkable. The amount of time Boyce dedicates to running, coupled with a full day in the lab or field, is impressive.

“Our work is mostly field oriented,” Sipe said. “[Boyce] is a natural in the field. I think he really likes to be out there. I can’t imagine running six to eight miles in the morning and then spending a whole day in the field, but he’s pretty good at it.”

Sipe says smaller institutions help provide graduates easier access to come back and research because of the relationships built between faculty and students. For Sipe, Professor Robert Petty was a heavy influence on his time at Wabash, which is why he returns nearly every year. Now, Sipe is able to continue that legacy and mentor Boyce in a way most students do not experience.

The mentorship has paid off as Boyce is starting to make connections between running and research.

“All of the guys on the team have something they are better at,” Boyce said. “The fact we can take all our different talents and work together to get a conference championship is big. Likewise, Sara is great in the lab and great at analyzing all of the data. That stuff is tough for me.”

Right now Boyce runs close to 60 miles a week to prepare for the upcoming cross country season and hopes to see that number increase to 110 - all while lifting four days a week.

“He is very focused and driven,” said Fabian House ’16, Boyce’s teammate. “He’s driven by his goals to exceed outside the classroom which I think helps him perform well inside the classroom.”

Boyce’s summer research is being financed by the Robert O. Petty Fund. It is given to a student who interns in field biology.


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