As a new cognitive science major, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the professors, because of the diverse specializations that are within the department. However, I definitely was not expecting UC San Diego’s sarcastic sweetheart, Professor Taylor Jackson Scott. Professor Scott is a relatively new professor, but he is no stranger to UCSD, as he served as an instructional assistant for Edwin Hutchins during his studies. But enough with the formalities, let’s learn more about the life of the man behind the podium.
Hailing from the small town of Hoxie, Kansas, what Professor Scott misses the most is the thunderstorms. “We get some rain but I’m talking about a full-on thunderstorm, with big rips of thunder and flashes of lightning and the smell of a late summer rain,” he notes. While he is in San Diego though, you can often run into him at the Vons off Regents Road where, “I once had a student ask me for a selfie there,” or perhaps while he is out on a walk, listening to a podcast. Maybe in the future, you can catch him during his future travels; “Iceland, anywhere [with] very natural environments mostly because I want to do a photography expedition.”
As for this summer, if he isn’t teaching he will be catching up on all of the shows and books that he doesn’t have time for during the school year. As for book recommendations, Professor Scott suggests, “Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer, “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami, and “The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul” by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. Summer also gives him more time to do what his students know him for: browsing Reddit in search of the spiciest memes. In fact, he prefers to start his mornings with a cup of coffee — due to his time in Seattle working on his doctorate — and browsing through Reddit to see what he has missed since falling asleep. After consulting his account, he explained why he is into the following subreddits.
“r/Perfectfit has oddly satisfying instances where two things fit together really, really well. It’s a specific thing, and I find it weirdly soothing and calming. r/perfectlycutscreams, I don’t know why they make me laugh so much, but they do. I also really [have] been liking r/shittymoviedetails, a parody of r/MovieDetails, which is its meme account.”
But like many professors, many of the most exciting parts of the job are, “For me, one of my favorite things is when I see students get excited about an idea. I also really like when students come to office hours and come talk about their hopes and fears. Those humanizing aspects of interactions between me and students, both in seeing them get excited about some topic or thing and interacting with them in office hours, those more one-on-one interactions are more rewarding. It keeps me going and excited to teach. Oh, and having summers off.” If you do find yourself in his office, be sure to check out one of his favorite pieces: an abstract painting that he commissioned from his friend. In terms of artistic vision, when asked who he would switch lives with, Professor Scott responded with, “Stanley Kubrick; he’s my favorite director and I would be able to get sight into how his mind worked and his own authorial intent with his own films, and then compare them to my own. I think it would be interesting to see a body of art through the perspective of the artist, than through the audience.”
You might be in for some insightful advice during office hours, too. When asked “What would you go back and tell yourself on the first day of freshman year of college?” I was met with an unexpected response: “How much time do I have? If I can talk for an hour, it’s different. If I can say ‘Don’t go to this place at this time!’ I would probably just tell myself that it’s gonna work or like, it’s gonna be OK. I feel like as students we focus too much on our worries and anxiety. And if future you comes back and says it’s gonna be OK, it puts your mind at ease a lot. But, it’s also a paradoxical way of saying ‘It’s gonna be OK,’ but then you don’t try as hard and then it doesn’t turn out OK. But if I knew it would screw things up or cause a time crisis, I probably would just tell myself everything is gonna be OK.” After questioning my existence and time paradoxes for a minute, I knew I had to ask what the key to passing his class was. He responded the way he does to most questions in his class, “It depends …”
If you ever feel like you need a human-computer interaction mentor or more help with his class, be sure to stop by Professor Scott’s office hours, because he offers a fun time with plenty of meme culture and great life advice for the struggling student. He left me with the following words of wisdom for all students to hear: “No decision is set in stone and you’ve always got options. Also, delete Facebook.”