Peter Scott, Professor of Physics

Peter Scott, Professor of Physics: Recollections of UCSC, 1966-1994

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2005, 32 pages.

Peter Scott, Professor of Physics: Recollections of UCSC, 1966-1994, is the edited transcript of a single interview conducted by Randall Jarrell on June 27, 1994. Scott received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He then taught as an assistant professor for three years at Stanford University. Attracted to UCSC because it represented an alternative to what he characterized as the machine-like educational atmosphere of UC Berkeley, Scott arrived at UCSC in 1966.


In this oral history, Scott describes his early history at UCSC, both in the physics board of studies and at Stevenson College. He relates a delightful opportunity to teach innovative seminars for sophomores at Stevenson College, among other anecdotes. He discusses the groundbreaking research undertaken by UCSC undergraduate and graduate students in physics, particularly the "Dynamical Systems Collective". Finally, he offers brief assessments of controversial issues within the University of California, such as the UC management of Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos Laboratories, the narrative evaluation system, and tenure review. Above all, Professor Scott is a proponent of UCSC's interdisciplinary approach to education, remarking that, "You can't really write a thesis or write a story or create something that is not about something else."


Scott's research interests have included experimental work on the optical and microwave spectra of impurity ions in crystals. In the late 1970s he became interested in dynamical systems, especially those exhibiting chaotic behavior, such as dripping faucets and various types of mechanical systems. Although he retired in 1994, Scott continues to teach courses for the physics board of studies on occasion. He also remains interested in nonlinear dynamical systems.
Peter Scott is also well-known in the UCSC and Santa Cruz community as an environmental activist, becoming involved over the years in efforts, along with his wife Celia, to preserve open space lands (the Santa Cruz North Coast, the Pogonip, the Gray Whale Ranch) and to work to facilitate the awareness of our remarkable natural surroundings by members of our community. In recent years he has focused on transportation issues, with particular efforts toward reducing our dependence on the automobile. His other creative interests include songwriting, singing in choral groups and woodworking.