By Madelyn Ostendorf
Danny Gill, senior in biology and environmental science, came to Iowa State University with a mission: get in, get a degree and get out. But on his first walk around Central Campus, he got the feeling that this could be a place where he could find more than just an education.
During his freshman year, Gill decided he wanted to be involved in research. He emailed Daren Mueller, professor and extension plant pathologist in plant pathology, entomology and microbiology, to see if there were any openings in his lab. Mueller invited him to visit the lab.
“I didn't know it was a job interview because I'd never had one. The only person I've ever worked for is my dad in our company,” Gill said. “I rolled up in socks and sandals, trying to be a cool freshman, and suddenly I’m answering questions like, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ Long story short, I got the job and have been in that lab ever since.”
In Mueller’s plant pathology lab, Gill researches fungal pathogens and mentors younger students that have joined the team.
“People ask what motivates me to keep doing my job and the answer is simple – it is students like Danny,” Mueller said. “Inquisitive, hungry to learn, hardworking, kind, the list goes on. It has been so fun watching Danny grow as a student and a scientist during his time working in our lab.”
Outside of the lab, Gill has a passion for bringing new faces into the fold of Iowa State, serving as a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassador and giving tours to prospective students and their families. These tours allow future CALS students to talk one-on-one with the Ambassadors, who are all current CALS students.
“Danny is one of the most passionate students I know, about both biology and Iowa State,” said Kaci Conetzkey, CALS Ambassador adviser. “His smile is infectious, and he instantly makes prospective students and families feel at home."
One of Gill’s favorite things to do on these tours is take students to buildings where he has built a connection with a professor. In Agronomy Hall, odds are Lee Burras, Morrill Professor of Agronomy, will have his door open and be more than willing to chat with students.
“I’ve always enjoyed making a connection with professors,” Gill said. “It’s amazing how willing and excited they are to communicate and connect with students, current or future. Sometimes students think I plan to have professors come out to talk to them, but I don’t. They are just in their offices and ready to talk to whoever.”
Gill’s choice to attend Iowa State was quick, but he said it would have been even faster if he had gotten the chance to talk to a current student. That’s why he puts so much passion into making sure prospective students have a positive experience while visiting campus and walk away being able to see themselves as a future CALS student.
“It’s nice to think that maybe I had a tiny impact on a prospective student making one of the biggest choices of their lives,” Gill said.
After graduation, Gill will continue his education at North Dakota State University, working toward a master’s in plant pathology with a concentration in potato pathogens. His interest in potatoes stems from working for his family’s independent crop consulting business, helping grow row crops, canning crops and potatoes in Minnesota.