Growing towards the light: Plants with Ian Street at Real Scientists

This week we are delighted to welcome Dr Ian Street (@IHStreet), a plant developmental biologist at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Ian writes for SciLogs at The Quiet Branches, and also runs a plant science advice tumblr blog. Here’s everything you need to know about Ian, and why plants, apart from being indispensable, are absolutely fascinating.unnamed


I’ve had a long standing interest in science, not sure where it came from, but I’ve always gravitated towards it since I’ve been young and I always wanted to ensue a scientist, though I didn’t know what that meant exactly. My first love was physics/astronomy. Then I had a professor in college that really got me into plant biology. And that’s when I started pursuing plant biology as a career path. I’ve also had a long standing interest in teaching/education, and pursuing science seemed like a way to do just that.


I realized I wasn’t that good at the advanced math required for physics (fixed mindset at the time…wish I’d known about growth mindset at the time), and so i decided to major in biology, since I liked that well enough too. And then I had a plant physiology class that got me into plants. I applied and got into grad school at Washington University in St. Louis and I’ve been pursuing it ever since.


I’m a plant developmental biologist, working on how plants use small molecule hormones as cues for coordinating plant cell behavior and how two plant hormones, cytokinin and auxin, interact with one another in root development. In the Schaller lab, we use genetic and biochemical approaches to work out how cytokinin, ethylene, and auxin work together to shape plant gene expression and how that can lead to changes in plant form or behavior.


I do basic research, but the ultimate hope is to work out how plant hormones work in plants, and their effects on plant growth. Hormones are involved in every aspect of plant’s responses to their environment and their ultimate shape, including things like pathogen resistance and plant grain yield (lacking a gene involved in degrading cytokinin leads to higher grain yield in rice, for example). Hormones are part of translating environmental and developmental cues (e.g. transition to flowering) into plant behavior/responses. And we are working out how plants interpret their hormone profile into an integrated response. For instance, often, though not always, auxin and cytokinin oppose one another’s activity, and I work on just how these hormones work together in the roots. I work on plant roots, and those are important for shaping the soil environment as well as uptake of water and other nutrients. Learning how plants use hormones to alter root growth and behavior can lead to more efficient and better plant health (leading to higher yields).


I write a science blog, The Quiet Branches. I am a moderator and writer for the Diversity Journal club blog/twitter discussions on issues is diversity and inclusivity in STEM. I also have been involved in the Amercian Society of Plant Biologists digital communications initiatives and online community management. I am a prolific conference tweeter.


I am a runner. I own a cat. I volunteer at the local science museum when I can. I love to read, both fiction and non-fiction. And I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love learning and thinking. And I do like a lot of geeky/nerdy pursuits: Star Trek, Star Wars. Marvel Movies…I like them all.


Ideal Day Off? I go for a run in the morning, then the coffee shop to write, read, or do some digital artwork- I love playing around with Adobe software. Then I’d go for a walk, have lunch, and then read some more, or perhaps listen to some of my favorite podcasts. I’d try to catch the sunset and watch the stars pop out after dinner before heading to bed.


Please welcome Ian to Real Scientists!


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