PhD Spotlight: Bryan Scott

By Alexis Smith |

Bryan Scott worked in GradSuccess as the Teaching Assistant Development Program's Lead Consultant during the 2021-22 academic year.


What did you get your degree in, and what are you doing now?

My PhD is in Physics and Astronomy. I work mainly on an observational technique called intensity mapping, where we make 3D continuous maps of the universe. We then use these maps to measure how galaxies and the universe as a whole have changed over cosmic time. I am currently the LSSTC Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astronomy (CIERA) at Northwestern University. 

What are the top 2-3 things you did while at UCR that helped you finish your degree (and get a position in your field, if you have)? What was most helpful to you as a student here?

Take advantage of what makes UCR one of the most unique universities in the country - it's a world class research university that truly lives by the values that knowledge belongs to everyone and that education shouldn't be locked behind gates and out of reach to most. The Making Excellence Inclusive Certificate program is a great way to start thinking about - and taking action on - the challenges of equity and inclusion. The Science to Policy and University Teaching Certificate programs are also both great follow-ups that help you maximize what you're doing in the classroom and in your career. 

What did you like best about your graduate work? What did you like least?

I was fortunate to be able to set my own direction in my research. My interests have been both observational and theoretical, and that can be hard to pursue simultaneously. My advisor was tremendously supportive and helped me identify problems that stressed both improved knowledge of theory and experimental methods while not being unmanageable. In terms of what I liked the least, I think it's a common frustration, but the flipside of manageable is the gap between your initial goals for a project and the final or stretch goals you'd like to meet. The good news is that this just means there are always avenues for future work and more to learn! 

Is there anything you wish you had done or regretted doing/not doing while a UCR graduate student?

Riverside and the Inland Empire are really fantastic places to live and work - it took me too long to really branch out and enjoy what our region has to offer. UCR ArtsThe Riverside Art Museum, and The Cheech are all right in our backyard. Riverside and inland southern california have some of the best mid-century architecture anywhere - including on our very own campusJoshua Tree National Park is otherworldly. 

What are you most looking forward to in your new position/post-graduate life?

I'm definitely excited about the next steps in my scholarship. But even more so, my new position will really help me grow as an educator. I'll be working to train astronomers in the next generation techniques that we'll need to answer questions about the solar system, exoplanets, dark matter, and dark energy using the vast amount of data the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will produce. 

What advice do you have for other graduate students at UCR about finishing their degrees, going on the job market, or life in general?

The main piece of advice I would give is to believe in yourself and your ability to succeed. One of the best parts of graduate school is that - despite also being an early career scholar - you're also still in school and can afford to take risks. Short term and temporary post-grad positions make that much more dangerous. Risk-taking now can help you learn what your priorities are and help you build the skills you need to make progress on them. That way you'll be positioned to compete for the jobs that are right for you and to make the absolute most out of the position you do end up in.