Biochemistry faculty profile – Assistant Professor Scott Coyle

Photo of Scott Coyle
Assistant professor Scott Coyle.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in the East Bay of California in a town called Livermore. We’re famous for having the world’s fastest rodeo, the world’s longest running light bulb, and a giant laser.

I went to UC Berkeley for my undergrad — go Bears! Though, since I live in Wisconsin now, I’ve come to see what real college football is actually like.

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?

I did my postdoc at Stanford in Manu Prakash’s lab. He’s an amazingly brilliant, creative, and inspiring person to be around and do science with. We should have him come to Madison some time!

Why did you decide to study science?

I always liked mysteries as a kid, and the biggest mystery of all is how stuff works. So I guess getting into science seemed like a way to be a “detective” of the natural world every day.

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I knew right after I interviewed at UW-Madison that I was really excited about the idea of coming here. The science is awesome, the colleagues were great, and I loved the idea of getting to work at a big public university just like where I did my undergrad at Berkeley. I joined the Biochemistry Department in Fall 2019.

What do you like most about being a professor?

Getting to interact with students – its so much fun to help get younger people excited about cells and proteins, and to help them learn how to be strong independent scientists.

What is the focus of your research?

In my lab we’re interested in how cells integrate sensing, motility, and activity to produce complex cell behaviors like tiny robots. We hope to eventually find something like a “programming language” that can help us not only understand cells, but also make them do new things.

What advice would you provide to a new assistant professor who is just starting his/her career?

Just stay true to yourself and work on the things you feel most passionate about. You’ve got a shot to explore the questions you want, and build out a team the way you see fit – so go for it!

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

I like cooking and grilling, watching sports, and being outside. Madison is great because there’s this awesome collection of both culture and outdoor activities right here. And I love the lakes – I could sit out there on a nice summer day forever. Oh, and I really love playing Mario too.

Fantasy Dinner Guests

David Lynch, Annie Clark, Emolga, and Jeff Simcox

Best Advice I Ever Received

Believe in yourself (corny but true)

My Undergrad Alma Mater


My Worst Subject In School


If I Weren’t A Professor, I Would

Run a cafe

Favorite City

San Francisco

Favorite Movies

Demolition Man, Hackers

Favorite Coffee

Iced coffee, black