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Student Spotlight February 2013


"Scott Smith epitomizes the single-mindedness needed to pursue a PhD in Physics. After receiving his Physics MS from UofL in 2005, family commitments forced him to take an extended break from his academic studies. But the desire still burned, and in 2009 he was admitted to our Physics PhD program. He entered candidacy this year, pursuing research in Optical Material Science ."

Dr. Chris L. Davis, Department of Physics and Astronomy


Scott Smith 1


Scott Smith received an Associates Degree in General Studies from The Ohio State University in 2000, a Bachelor of Science in Physics from The University of Louisville in 2003, and a Master of Science in Physics from the University of Louisville in 2005. He will graduate with a Ph.D. in Physics from UofL in 2014.




Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):
I am currently working in the field of Biophysics developing a sensor for detecting, sizing and counting sub-micron phytoplankton cells in the world’s oceans.  I chose this research because it allows me to use my advanced training in physics and mathematics to understand and gain data for calibrating NASA remote sensing platforms, which are used to determine phytoplankton biomass.

Awards, honors, publications:
I was accepted into the National Physics Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma, and into the National Mathematics Honor Society, Pi Mu Epsilon, during my undergraduate career. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Louisville and have presented multiple posters at UofL symposiums.

Long term goals/ aspirations:
Upon completion of my advanced degree in Physics, I would like to obtain a position within the academic community allowing me to further my understanding of the natural world.  Specifically, I would like to apply the research skills I am currently learning to problems encountered in disease detection in remote areas of the world.  The successful completion of my Ph.D. research will provide a basis for rugged field ready units capable of detecting bacterial and viral pathogens affecting human populations in developing areas.

What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?
To date the accomplishment I am most proud of is that I am the father of twins. 

What made you go into this field of study?
Upon returning to college as a non-traditional student, I discovered that the courses I enjoyed most were Mathematics.  As I progressed into this discipline I realized that pure Mathematics was not what I had hoped with respect to personal enjoyment and as a career. Dr. David Brown, the undergraduate advisor in Physics at UofL, suggested I look at Physics.  During my first Physics class it was apparent that I could use the type of Mathematics I enjoyed along with the opportunity to understand the natural world.  I have been hooked ever since.


What was your favorite part of the graduate school experience?
Problem solving.  As anyone who has ever undertaken research at the university level can attest: successful research is moving from one problem to the next after finding a solution to the previous problem.  The process of determining the potential problem(s) and then applying what I have learned along with ideas from my mentor, Dr. Sergio Mendes, and colleagues to address these issues is most rewarding when the problem is solved.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?
Time management, my wife is a saint!

Family life:
I am married to my lovely wife Sarah for thirteen years now, and the proud father of William and Margaret.  We live in Oldham County and our children attend Harmony Elementary.  My wife and I are both animal lovers so we have one dog, a lab mix, two cats and a guinea pig.


Fun Facts

A talent you have always wanted: The ability to dance.
Favorite book: Dune by Frank Herbert 
Favorite quote:  “a person’s a person no matter how small” Dr. Seuss
Role Model: My son
Pet Peeve: People who say it cannot be done without at least trying.
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? I would be a stay at home Dad!
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