Dr. James Scott

Dr. James Scott

Info & Affiliations

Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences (Deceased)
Dartmouth College

Ph.D., Biology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1999
B.S., Biology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1992

A tribute to James Scott by Ken Nealson

“His smile could melt the ice of Milwaukee in the winter.” -Ken Nealson

James Scott was one of the smartest, most insightful, and beloved people who ever worked in my laboratory.  As an undergrad, in 1989, he applied for a job as a dishwasher in my lab, but after an extensive interview, I informed him that he was overqualified, and should instead work as a technician in my lab. He knew more about chemistry, physics, and biology than most of the students in my lab, and coupled that with a photographic memory, and a love for science and life. He was equally at ease discussing sports, music (especially jazz), or philosophy. Guiding him on his pathway from an unsure undergraduate to a more mature graduate student, and finally to a Ph.D candidate and eventual Doctor of Philosophy was one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life. His presence in the lab had a major impact on the entire institute (The Center for Great Lakes Studies) – James delighted in explaining his work to others, from the philosophical perspective to the arcane (sometimes annoying) details!!

After finishing his work at UWM (and Caltech/JPL, where I had moved), James moved to Washington DC as a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institute, where he did groundbreaking work on the impact of high pressure on the survival of bacteria. On the basis of this work, he was offered (and accepted) a position as Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, 2006, where he worked until his untimely death by heart attack in 2010 at the age of 48.

At his memorial service at Dartmouth, he was remembered by his students and colleagues as an inspiring teacher and scientist. His most productive time was still in front of him, and he is thus not remembered for the awards and honors he would have certainly attained. We were robbed of a great scholar and one who could think original thoughts – it is such a pity that he died so young. Teaching to, and learning from James Scott, changed my life for the better, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity. In an institute of several hundred employees and students, James was the only person of color, and he taught us all far more than we taught him!  He was a renaissance man in the science world of Milwaukee.


Highlighted works:

Scott, J.H., O’Brien, D.M., Emerson, D., Sun, H., McDonald, G.D., Salgado, A., Fogel, M.L., 2006, An examination of the carbon isotope effects associated with amino acid biosynthesis: Astrobiology, v. 6, p. 867–880, doi:10.1089/ast.2006.6.867.

Sharma, A., Scott, J.H., Cody, G.D., Fogel, M.L., Hazen, R.M., Hemley, R.J., Huntress, W.T., 2002, Microbial activity at gigapascal pressures: Science, v. 295, p. 1514-1516, doi:10.1126/science.1068018.

Cody, G.D., Boctor, N., Hazen, R.M., Scott, J., Sharma, A., Yoder, H.S., Jr., 2001, Chemistry and origins of living systems: Astrobiology, v. 1, p. 293–316, doi:10.1089/15311070152757519.

Scott, J.H., Nealson, K.H., 1994, A biochemical study of the intermediary carbon metabolism of Shewanella putrefaciens: Journal of Bacteriology, v. 176, p. 3408–3411, doi:10.1128/jb.176.11.3408-3411.1994.

Smith, D., Scott, J., Steele, A., Cody, G., Ohara, S, Fogel, M., 2013, Effects of metabolism and physiology on the production of okenone and bacteriochlorophyll a in purple sulfur bacteria: Geomicrobiology Journal, v. 31, p. 128-137, doi:10.1080/01490451.2013.815293.


geomicrobiology, extremophiles, astrobiology, Black geobiologists, passion for teaching, undergraduate research

Bio written by Ken Nealson, September 2020