Scott Tan, alumnus, physics, research, MIT, football, student athlete,

Major: Physics

Profession: Mechanical engineering doctoral student

Hometown: Kaneohe, Hawaii

What are you doing now?

I’m at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) working toward my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. My research focuses on neuromorphic devices, which are brain-inspired computing elements for self-adaptive intelligent machines.

How did you get there?

I arrived to Pomona undecided about my major, but knew that I wanted to have a positive impact on the world. In my first year, my grades started off pretty low because it was tough for me to be away from my family in Hawaii. However, joining the football team and getting more involved in the Physics Department allowed me to make the connections and gain the support that I needed. My professors consistently checked in with me to make sure my work load was manageable, and my coaches emphasized that doing well academically took priority over football. In my final year at Pomona, Professor Janice Hudgings helped me develop my writing and interview skills, and Professor Dwight Whitaker and Coach Roger Caron wrote me strong letters of recommendation that helped me become a Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships finalist, receive the Stauffer and National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarships, and get in to graduate school at MIT.

How did Pomona prepare you?

Pomona helped develop my curiosity and passion for applying science to real-world problems, broadened my perspectives on global issues, and connected me to a community of lifelong friends. Applying the physics and chemistry that I learned from my professors at Pomona, I manipulated carbon materials to create nano-sized architectural structure in supercapacitor electrodes, which allowed for over twice the amount of energy storage compared to state-of-the-art electrode designs. This experience helped me realize that I had the preparation and determination to change the world by advancing the forefront of technology. Following this internship, through Pomona’s study abroad program, I spent a year at the University of Oxford in England, where I also played football and made some great friends who I still keep in touch with daily.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’ll probably still be finishing my degree, but eventually I hope to become a professor at a place like Pomona so that I can continue doing exciting and new research while closely mentoring students.

Any advice for prospective or current students?

Ride a skateboard from Harvey Mudd down to Frank Dining Hall, camp out at [Joshua Tree], take surfing class, try the ahi poke at Frary Dining Hall, and bring all your friends to go watch the Sagehen football games.