COSAM Alumna Passes Love of Chemistry on to Students
As a high school student in Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Colleen Scott had a passion for science and for running track. When Auburn University offered her a track scholarship in 1993, she accepted and chose to study chemistry.
“I was strong in all of the sciences, so I enjoyed chemistry because it involved all of the sciences,” Dr. Scott shared. “It has physics, it has biology, it has math - so I consider it the core science.”
Although she originally planned to study to become a doctor, once she began conducting research as an undergraduate student she had a change of heart.
“Once I started working in an Organic Chemistry lab, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I’ve been doing research ever since. Having the chance to do undergraduate research really changed the trajectory of my career.”
Dr. Scott went on to earn her undergraduate degree in chemistry in 1998 and later earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. She is currently an assistant professor at Mississippi State University in the Department of Chemistry and teaches Polymer Chemistry and Organic Chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate level.
“I really enjoy teaching,” Dr. Scott said. “I like working with the students a lot, and I like coming up with new ideas and thinking about the science behind what we’re doing. It’s a very rewarding career.”
Dr. Scott also conducts research that focuses on the design and synthesis of organic compounds and materials with desired properties and functions and is currently focusing on biological applications and organic electrical devices. The Auburn University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry recently hosted Dr. Scott for a colloquium to discuss her research on Oct. 24 titled “Design and Synthesis of Organic/Polymeric Materials – Thermoplastics, Conducting Plastics, and Chemical & Biological Sensors.”
Dr. Anne Gorden, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, invited Dr. Scott to speak after meeting her at an American Chemical Society meeting.
“I knew her research was very interesting and quite different from other speakers we usually have. I thought it would be quite interesting and unique for the graduate students,” Dr. Gorden said, adding that the colloquium was well received. “She is doing some really interesting work in functionalized polymer chemistry.”
Although she doesn’t visit Auburn as much as she’d like, Dr. Scott said she remembers her time as a student at Auburn fondly.
“I remember being in the lab a lot,” she shared. “I remember being a staple in the chemistry department. If I wasn’t taking classes, I was doing research. It was a lot of work, but I had fun. I have good memories.”
Dr. Scott offered advice to any young student hoping to pursue a career similar to hers.
“My career advice to every young person is don’t follow the money, follow your passion,” she said. “If you’re passionate about chemistry, this is a great career. For me, the reward is in the science and the students’ successes.”
She also said she would encourage students to make the best out of every opportunity that comes their way.
“Don’t take it for granted that everybody gets those opportunities, because everybody doesn’t,” she advised. “So, whatever opportunity comes your way make good use of it.”