Colleen Scott remembers Oct. 11, 2014, like it was yesterday. From her Illinois living room, she watched the Mississippi State Bulldogs rise to college football’s No. 1 team with a defeat over the Auburn Tigers. The Auburn chemistry graduate turned MSU associate professor said she still gets a chuckle out of this bittersweet memory.
“That game gave me a headache for a month. I wasn’t very happy with Mississippi State at the time, but I got over it really quickly,” she joked.
Scott said MSU’s kind people played a big role in that mindset change. She’s especially grateful for Edwin Lewis, a professor emeritus and former chemistry department head who invited her to visit the Starkville university in 2015.
“Mississippi State’s campus was beautiful, and it seemed like a really good fit,” said Scott, who at the time was an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “MSU’s chemistry department and the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies had the facilities I needed to conduct my research. Having access to people with the expertise to help me also was really exciting.”
In 2020, a year when excitement was needed most, the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program presented Scott with a $675,000 CAREER award to assist with her research, which focuses on the design, synthesis and characterization of organic materials for biological applications and functions. The award recognizes outstanding faculty for their potential as academic role models in research and education, as well as leadership in advancement of departmental or organizational missions.
“When somebody financially invests in your work, it is really helpful and encouraging,” said Scott, who enjoys working with undergraduate and graduate students in classroom and lab settings. “I like the community aspect of teaching and research. It’s fun working with students because they may be shy at first, but I can get them out of that shell by discussing their interests and finding projects within my research areas that also fit their passions. Confidence in who you are and what you’re doing is important. I want to do whatever I can to help my students grow and mature as they work to earn their degrees.”
Scott said she is equally driven to help a personal student, her son Sterling who is a sophomore at Starkville High School. He is a member of the school’s track and field team, which Scott supports as a volunteer coach.
“My husband and I both did the long jump and triple jump in college, so our son hopefully gets some talent from us,” Scott said with a laugh. “He’s strong and smart, and I love encouraging him to be the best he can be.”
Away from the classroom and lab, Scott enjoys traveling to theme parks and other fun destinations. She also cherishes opportunities to visit family both in the U.S. and her beloved hometown of Kingston, Jamaica.