• HSURV Blog

Troy Powell, the Electrifying D&D Expert

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

By: Maggie Chen, PRISE, Harvard College '22

Today, we had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful Troy Powell (PRISE Fellow), a rising sophomore in Eliot House who is planning on concentrating in Chemistry and Physics!

Troy’s journey to his PRISE research began in Physics 153, a class focused on electrodynamics that explores systems and matter (although the perfect systems modeled in the class may be theoretically appealing, they are sadly unrealistic). He really fell in love with the subject and the class as a whole. After talking to the professor, he joined a lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital focused on utilizing these exact electrodynamic principles learned in class towards practical applications. In particular, the lab focuses on using the physical properties of electricity and electrical systems to treating and detecting cancer. While there is a particular interest in targeting bronchial/breast cancers in the lab, Troy described the research focus as actively shifting from a clinical approach to a more theoretical approach of applying these systems and his research to target the issue of cancer as a whole.

Now, we asked Troy to possibly explain his research to a 5 year-old - just for fun! Here’s his take on it:

“You know when you rub your feet on a carpet really fast, then reach for a doorknob and get an electric shock? This happens because of a thing called voltage. Whenever you build up enough voltage, interesting things start to occur! Through our research, we try to build up voltage on a cellular scale, which gives us the ability to do interesting things with these cells. And, by applying this voltage toward cancer cells, we can get rid of them.”

Troy is a meticulous, focused scientist. His research philosophy is to do his work specifically and well and to share those results with the rest of the team; in essence, clearly communicating the bounds and achievements of what he is able to discover in his specific piece of the project so that the project as a whole may benefit from learning about what he is working on. That is the main reason why he was drawn to being a part of the HSURV community, as the scientific community here allows for the open sharing and understanding of so many different types of research.

Beyond the lab bench, something that Troy is passionate about is Dungeons and Dragons (HSURV Dungeons and Dragons group game, anyone?). He likes how the game is “unbreakable” - in that as players, they look for fun and interesting ways to “break” the system. He enjoys playing as a dungeon master and building storylines for his friends; interestingly, he likes characters that are less one-sided, so that the story is more morally complex! When we asked what he might use as a backdrop for a Harvard-themed game, he quickly replied, “Cabot Science Library.”

Fun fact: the first thing Troy would do after getting out of quarantine would be to “drop-kick my blocking group to say hello” - an interesting way to greet them, but a great way nonetheless!

That’s a wrap on Troy Powell - the amazing electrodynamics researcher and Dungeons and Dragons player, among many other things! Next time you see him, say hi or drop a wave react in the Zoom call - we loved talking to him :)

Bonus Question: If Cinderella’s glass slipper was supposed to perfectly fit her foot, and her foot only, how did it fall off?

“Glass as a material doesn’t stretch or contract too much, so the blame is probably on Cinderella. She must have clenched her foot in a weird position that allowed her shoe to fall off.”

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