Daniel Gillis in front of some trees and shrubs. Photo provided by Daniel Gillis
Daniel Gillis in front of some trees and shrubs. Photo provided by Daniel Gillis

Dan is an Associate Professor & Statistician in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. His research includes community-engaged software design, bridging the digital divide in remote and rural communities using wireless mobile mesh technologies, transdisciplinary pedagogy in higher education, and ecological and public health risk assessment.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

I have an 11 year old cat named Elliott. He’s extremely snuggly.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Not really, although I have just installed a hexagonal tile in my kitchen, and I have a set of dice with mathematical constants on the faces.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

When I was young, I wanted to be an animator. I went to university as a back up plan.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Probably epidemiology, or chemistry, or physics, or…

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Everywhere. I’m hoping to save up enough to do a round the world adventure.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. In a blink of an eye, I could be anywhere.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

I recently finished reading “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World” by Steve Brusatte. I LOVED IT. Like most kids, I loved dinosaurs when I was growing up. This book brought me back to that time in my life.

Also – John Krasinski’s Some Good News videos on YouTube. They are the medicine I need during the pandemic.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

If I’m in Guelph, head downtown for a coffee and to visit the farmers’ market. After that, lunch at my favourite pub, then meet up with family or friends.

If I’m traveling, I love starting my morning off early at a local cafe where I can enjoy breakfast and coffee while people watching.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Coffee. Travel. My cat. (I assumed that family and friends were a given, so I opted for other things)

15 What beverage gives you life?

Hot: Black coffee.
Cold: Grapefruit Juice.
Alcoholic: Scotch.

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

To Kill A Mockingbird

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

An animator

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

My students. They teach me so much.

19 What got you excited in science?

As far as I remember I was a math person. I loved playing with number patterns as a kid – so much so, that I’d have trouble getting to sleep because I was doing math in my head.

20 What excites you about science now?

So many things! I’m a very curious person who gets excited about almost any question that pops into my head. It means that I’m often excited about the work that I’m doing, but it also means that I usually don’t have enough time to explore all of the questions. I am particularly excited to work on interdisciplinary teams because I get to learn about so many things beyond my own discipline – and I get to learn new tools to solve problems that I can share with my students.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Watching auditions for the various talent shows on YouTube. Especially the “golden buzzer” ones. So many feels!

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I can wiggle my ears

23 What is your favorite game?

It varies depending on my mood – but I love Ken Ken (http://www.kenkenpuzzle.com/).
Also – Super Mario Brothers!
Also the science and geography puzzles at Sporcle.com

24 What is the last book you read?

Currently reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr.
Last book I finished was The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

My dad told me when I was younger that I should never call myself an expert, because that suggests that I believe I’ve got nothing left to learn. Let others give you that label; but keep striving for more. I think of this a lot.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

I honestly don’t know. I used to be afraid of heights, so I jumped off a cliff, then went skydiving several times, and then bungee jumping. I used to be arachnophobic, then I held a couple of tarantulas. I tend to approach my fears head-on.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

What’s the worst that could happen?

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Travel. Coffee. Reading. Naps. Scotch. Not necessarily together or in this order.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The Capture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSSmitzvmUU).

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

My cat. He’s an awesome little weirdo.

31 What is your favorite animal?

My cat. But I also love otters.

32 What is your favorite book?

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This book began my love of reading.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?


34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Pi Day (March 14), because it’s an excuse to eat pie. Not that I need an excuse.

35 What is your favorite plant?

When I had a garden (I’m in a condo now, so no yard for a garden), I loved planting hostas.
I also am partial to palm trees because it implies I’m traveling.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Euler’s identity: exp(i*Pi)+1=0

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Fresh coffee and bacon

39 What is your favorite sound?

Wind blowing through trees, or the sound of water crashing against the shore.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Hmmm. Good question. I like that I can accomplish challenging things and that I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

The first words that popped into my head were protactinium and dysprosium, and I have no idea why. They are fun words, though.

42 What is your proudest moment?

Watching my students carry on with a community-engaged classroom project when I was 50 minutes late to a 90-minute class. Briefly, I got stuck in traffic on the way to campus after a meeting in another town. Assuming the students would have left (because who stays when the prof is more than 10 minutes late?), I was surprised to enter the classroom to see four of the students leading the discussion because they knew how important the work they were doing was to our community partner. I still smile from ear to ear when I think of that day. I was (and am) so bloody proud of them.

Other moments include: finishing my first marathon and making it to Everest Base Camp.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A maple tree

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Guelph is awesome. There are so many great restaurants and brewpubs. The people are great. And there is a sense that the community looks out for one another.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I do a lot of stupid things. I once was so tired that I filled my kettle with orange juice. I was intending to boil water to make coffee in my french press. It took my brain far too long to understand that the orange “water” that I was seeing through the side of the kettle didn’t make sense. I’ve also walked into walls while walking with people. And I’ve poured coffee into my oatmeal.

Finally – in relation to the question about night owl vs early bird – I’m technically both. It’s rather normal for me to go to bed between midnight and 1:00am, and then get up between 6:00am and 6:30am. I average about 5.5 hours of sleep a night.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

@shoshanahjacobs, @DustinGrowick, and @DrJenGunter