Gillian Bergmann


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    University of California-Davis

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am fungal ecologist with a focus on plant-fungal interactions and relationships. In my research, I am interested in studying the mechanisms of community assembly in the seed microbiome of various species. Moreover, I am interested in how seed fungi can alter plant fitness, particularly in the contexts of sustainable agriculture and restoring native plants. More broadly, I am interested in seed ecology, plant biodiversity, and plant responses to abiotic stress.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    My favorite plant would either be a Douglas-fir tree (Pseudotsuga menziesii) or a Trillium flower (Trillium spp.). Both of these plants are native to my home state of Oregon, and they are present in many of memories hiking around in forests. Douglas-fir is Oregon's state tree, and is well-known for its large size, quick growth and fire-resistant bark. It is long-lived and provides habitat for understory plants and a variety of animals. To me, the Douglas-fir tree is a majestic plant, and critical to the health of the temperate rainforests in the Pacific Northwest. Trillium is my favorite flower by far because it has three distinct white petals that turn pink with age. You see them around Oregon (and other parts of North America, depending on the species) in the spring every year, which is always a special sight.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is tough about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    I think the hardest part for me about being a scientist is being patient with myself. The research process is often long, and can involve troubleshooting unforeseen problems and learning a bunch of new skills in the process. This can often be frustrating if you want to feel productive or get through different tasks easily. For example, for my honors undergraduate research, I had to learn how to program in R to do the statistical analysis of my data. I didn't have any background in computer science, so learning a programming language seemed foreign and daunting. Learning to program was frustrating to me for a long time because I just didn't understand how the language worked. Through a lot of practice and learning how to find documentation for the language online, something clicked and learning to code in R became easier and even fun. At a certain point, you have to be okay with not knowing everything or learning everything easily. Being patient with yourself can make that process a lot easier.

  • Profile Question 3
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I think my biggest piece of advice about getting into science would be to stay curious and be open to new opportunities. When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a scientist, but I didn't know what kind of scientist that was. Discovering what you want in a scientific career is closely tied to discovering who you are, your passions and your values, and that can take a while to do. Exploring things you're curious about through classes, self-teaching, jobs and volunteering opportunities can help you discover what your passions are and maybe a pathway to turn those passions into career goals. While you're exploring, sometimes you'll come upon opportunities that you didn't originally consider. While I was in college, I got to study abroad in New Zealand, and got to conduct research while I was there. I couldn't have imagined doing this a few years before, and it was a daunting opportunity. Sometimes trying out a new volunteer position or research experience can be nerve-wracking, but by staying open to them, you may discover something exciting or transformative in your scientific journey.

    One last piece of advice: building strong relationships with scientific mentors through school, research and other experiences can make a tremendous difference in becoming a scientist. Mentors can guide you to new projects and ideas, help you make new connections in your scientific community, and support you as you work through the frustrations that come with research sometimes. I wouldn't have my current research job or career goals if it weren't for all the amazing mentors I've had in middle school, high school and college.

  • In addition to English, I am comfortable communicating with students in the following languages:
    None of the Above

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

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