Exploring the Universe Through Gravitational Physics May 26, 2022 Profiles AstrophysicsCAPSStudents Share this page: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Email Scott Perkins presenting his research at the ICASU Conference. Credit: Joaquin Vieira By Andrew Helregel Recent graduate and CAPS and ICASU fellow Scott Perkins discusses his love of astrophysics, software development and statistical analysis as well as what the future holds for him. What led you to your path of research in astrophysics and relativity? When did this area of science first pique your interest? I first really found my passion for physics as an undergrad. At first, I really appreciated how incredible it was to be able to mathematically describe things we see in the world. Then, I became very focused on astrophysics and astronomy because the scale of things in space was mind-blowing to me. It also felt more real or tangible to me than other fields in physics, which helped me stay interested, personally. Gravitational physics really drew me in after 2015 when the first gravitational wave detection was announced. This new field of physics seemed incredibly exciting and new and really captured my imagination. How have the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and National Center for Supercomputing Applications provided opportunities to support you and your research? UIUC and NCSA helped to provide the infrastructure for my research. After starting graduate school, I found that I loved software development and statistics almost as much as physics and astronomy. Since that realization, much of my focus has centered around computational sciences. Through the campus cluster and NCSA resources, I’ve been able to dive into that field very effectively. I’ve very much benefited from seminars and lectures hosted by UIUC and the NCSA, exposing me to all kinds of cool science. Focus on what kinds of work give you satisfaction and things will work out. There’s no replacement for being passionate about what you study. Focus on what kinds of work give you satisfaction and things will work out. There’s no replacement for being passionate about what you study. Congratulations on accepting a postdoc position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, working on astronomy survey data. What interested you in this opportunity? Thank you! This position really drew me for several reasons. The type of work they do is very computationally/statistics focused, which are huge passions of mine. I’ll still be doing work on fundamental physics focused on exploring possible explanations of dark matter, but in a context that will allow me to use new and exciting statistics techniques that I didn’t have an outlet to explore previously. Furthermore, working at a national lab can give me lots of opportunities to explore other fields of science. I would love to work on topics outside of astronomy and astrophysics as well, and the lab is structured such that I can do just that. You grew up and earned your undergraduate degree in Texas, your master’s in Montana, your doctorate in Illinois and now you will be heading to California for your postdoc. Have you enjoyed seeing different areas of the country over the course of your educational career? Very much so! That was a huge draw over the last few years. I’ve been very fortunate to live and work in parts of the country with a wide range of things to do. Although, I’m excited to possibly stick in the next location for a longer period of time. Moving around is exciting, but having the chance to stick in one place for more than a few years would be nice too! What advice would you give prospective students and researchers who wish to pursue careers in this field of study? I would say to follow your passions! Graduate school can be an exhausting process, but if you’re doing what you love, it can definitely be worth it! Focus on what kinds of work give you satisfaction and things will work out. There’s no replacement for being passionate about what you study.