With Researcher Spotlights, the Microbial Systems Initiative aims to introduce you to the breadth and diversity of research interests and potential growth opportunities at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. We hope that by highlighting both the researchers and their research, we can help you to learn more about and connect with your colleagues to enhance multidisciplinary research and education in microbial sciences here at Illinois.
Guillermo Monroy, PhD
Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory
Department of Comparative Biosciences Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Guillermo Monroy is a postdoctoral research associate in Stephen Boppart's Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D from the University of Illinois. He completed a postdoctoral ORISE Fellowship with the Division of Biomedical Physics, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL), Center for Disease and Radiological Health, at the FDA before returning to Illinois in 2020.
Monroy's research on diagnostic imaging for otitis media focuses on developing new therapeutic techniques that avoid antibiotics and preserve patients’ microbial diversity. He is motivated to design and implement intuitive systems, devices, and software that improve human diseases and overall health. Monroy values collaborating to enhance the effectiveness of his projects and promote personal and professional development.
Do you have a personal story to share or path that led to your interest in this area of study?
When microbiome research first started coming out years ago, this field of study fascinated me. I thought it was so interesting how there was a completely new aspect of the human body we did not fully understand, and that it was even possible to influence with dietary changes!
Last year, I had COVID, which severely impacted my gut/microbiome, making that experience more personal and focused. I looked into and tried a range of dietary changes and supplements that may help get me back to normal. I eventually found a solution that worked for me (ask me what it was!), but I suspect it’s very individual. My experience is consistent with literature, and unfortunately there seems to be some time course that must pass – but it will pass!
Otherwise, I have been researching advanced diagnostic imaging for otitis media since ~2011, which has led me and my colleagues down many related and strange routes to understand disease pathogenesis – analyzing middle ear fluid, earwax, and tracking subjects response to treatment in multiple IRB-approved studies at Carle.
How will your work help to improve society or reach people?
I hope my work will be successful in developing a new therapeutic technique for otitis media that doesn’t require antibiotics. Even a reduction in the need for antibiotics could have major impact in kids all over the world, as ear infections are one of the most common reasons that antibiotics are prescribed. The downstream effects of taking antibiotics at a young age (a general loss of microbial diversity) impacts development or can influence disease if not restored.
Part of MSI’s mission is to support high quality education and professional development experiences for trainees. How do you support this mission through your teaching and mentorship?
I do my best to ensure my students are learning the technical and clinical knowledge relevant to our projects, and try to regularly share articles on personal and professional development. However, I have found that my own presence and input day to day helps the most.
How does being part of the microbial systems community (MSI) impact your research?
Being part of a supportive community is helpful to learn important and related knowledge, particularly in the aspects where I am not an expert. Likewise – it can lead to connections or potentially even collaborations that can really make the difference in the outcome of a project.
Do you want to tell us about any projects or activities that you are particularly excited about right now?
I am preparing faculty applications and thinking through my proposed plans. I will give a hint of what this may be at the end of my presentation this fall. Please stop by!
On a personal note, winter will soon be here, which is my dogs favorite time of year. On days with fresh snowfall, he loves to frolic and eat this particular snow. I look forward to this every year!