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Thomas R. Scott
Thomas R. Scott retired from UD in 1997, after service as chair of the psychology department and associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies.

In Memoriam: Thomas R. Scott

Photo by SDSU Research Foundation

Professor emeritus a pioneer in neuroscience of taste

Thomas R. Scott, 72, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, died May 15 in California, where he had served as a dean and vice president at San Diego State University (SDSU) for 14 years.

Prof. Scott is survived by his wife, Bonnie Kime Scott, a UD professor emerita of English.

Prof. Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in 1966 from Princeton University, where he majored in psychology and studied the emerging discipline of neuroscience. He went on to earn his doctorate in biological psychology at Duke University, specializing in the neural mechanisms of taste and the neurophysiology of feeding and reward.

He joined the UD faculty in 1970, serving as department chair from 1983-92 and as associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies from 1992 until his retirement in 1997.

From 2000-14, Prof. Scott held positions at San Diego State University as dean of the College of Sciences, vice president for research, dean of the Graduate Division and chief executive officer of the SDSU Research Foundation. For two years before his retirement, he returned to the classroom to continue his love of teaching.

He was a pioneer in the neuroscience of taste sensation, addressing some of the fundamental questions in his field, including how taste coding in the brain allows humans to distinguish one kind of food from another and how taste neurons change their responses to help an animal survive.

He published numerous articles in scientific journals and had just finished revisions for a popular scientific book, Quarks to Quasars: Touring Physical Science, under contract with Columbia University Press.

Prof. Scott was well known for his public speaking ability and his talent for communicating clearly about science, making complex research understandable to audiences that ranged from the general public to students of all ages and levels of education.

In addition to his wife, who is also the former chair of SDSU’s Department of Women’s Studies, Prof. Scott is survived by his brother, David Scott (Susanne); three children, Heather (Damon Jones), Ethan (Margie Mayfield) and Heidi (Colleen Flaherty); and six grandchildren, Evan and Avery Jones, Jasper and Malcolm Scott and Thomas and Rose Flaherty.

The family is planning a celebration of his life in San Diego’s Balboa Park this summer or early fall.

Information for this In Memoriam was provided by San Diego State University.

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