Ian Spencer Gilman


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Yale University, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My main interests are in phylogenetics and the evolution of CAM photosynthesis. That is, I'm very interested in what DNA data can tell us about plants' evolutionary histories, and how these histories explain the diversity we see in plants today. My dissertation revolves around the evolution of CAM, a modified version of normal photosynthesis that plants like cacti use to preserve water. I'm working to determine the order in which traits are modified to generate the diversity of CAM phenotypes. This involves field collection of plants, greenhouse experiments, phylogenetic and transcriptomic analyses, and machine learning.

  • Do you have previous experience in mentorship or educational outreach? Please list here (200 words)
    During my undergraduate I was a TA in the physics department at Bucknell University. I helped lab sections tackle topics in calculus based physics such as classical mechanics, relativity, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics. When I shifted my focus to botany and evolution in graduate school at the University of Idaho (UI), I became a PLANTS (Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Tomorrows Scientists) mentor for the Botanical Society of America in 2016. I was a TA at UI at the graduate and undergraduate level for Computational Skills for Biologists, Advanced Field Botany, and Form and Function; teaching everything from plant identification to GitHub and coding in Python. During my PhD at Yale, I have taught introductory biology, a botany for non-majors course, and plant diversity and evolution.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    In second grade, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote "a scientist", so I've had it in my mind almost my entire life. The problem was deciding what to study. My parents heavily influenced this choice; my dad, a surgeon, has a background in physical and life sciences, and my mom, a MS in psychology, studied life and social sciences. They stressed the importance of school, which I naturally loved (and still love), and encouraged me to explore the natural world.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is a typical day like for you?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    I'm a morning person, so I get up around 6 and head to the One World Cafe to begin my day with some coffee and slog through emails or read an article. Then, if I have classes to attend or TA, I'll head to my office to work. If I have lab work, I try to do those on days without any classes or meetings and so sometimes that spills over into the weekends. Part of the reason I love working in the morning is the quiet but it also allows me to leave while there's still some daylight. I'm an avid rock climber, trail runner, snowboarder, and try to hold my own in pick up basketball.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    Two things: being encouraged to pursue what interests me the most, and learning every day. Given that you can convince others that your work is meaningful, science provides a platform to think about, experiment on, and explore anything you find interesting. Science is also the perfect profession for someone who get's bored easily. Working on a university campus let's me attend tons of captivating lectures in- and outside my field, and collaborate with people on new projects.

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

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

Recent Posts

The Practical Pears Ian Spencer Gilman
commented on a blog post

Awesome poster! I see you made that change to the graph and that flipped your results--crazy! I hope all of you have a good summer and take some time to look at the plants growing around you outside.



The Practical Pears Ian Spencer Gilman
commented on a blog post

Thanks! It was a lot of fun to work with you and watch your experiment unfold. I hope to see you again on here!

The Practical Pears Ian Spencer Gilman

Hey guys, everything you keep giving me looks really good. I'll just remind you that you should remove the data from the plants that died or broke. Because these plants did not grow normally (or at all) they cannot be compared to the plants…


Skills & Endorsements

  • Challenges Student Thinking
    Carlos Jose Pasiche-Lisboa
  • Encouraging
    Carlos Jose Pasiche-Lisboa
  • Experienced
    Carlos Jose Pasiche-Lisboa
  • Knowledgeable
    Carlos Jose Pasiche-Lisboa
  • Responsive
    Carlos Jose Pasiche-Lisboa