Growing up, Jesus Romo never thought he would become a microbiologist. “I actually wanted to be a paleontologist as a kid and [my parents] always bought me books about dinosaurs and dinosaur toys,” he says. Now Jesus is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at San Antonio studying fungus in the lab. When not in the lab, Jesus enjoys investigating fungi of another kind: the mushroom.
Originally from Coahuila, Mexico, Jesus immigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was 10 years old. After a year of frustration and not wanting to go to school because he did not know the language, Jesus quickly became fluent in English. He attended the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) as an undergraduate while working six nights a week. Though he did well in his courses, he had no idea undergraduate research opportunities existed. He took a microbiology laboratory course in his last semester and the instructor thought he would make a good teacher and recommended he look into graduate school
Name: Jesus Romo
Job title: Doctoral candidate
Institution: University of Texas at San Antonio
Website: Research website
Twitter handle: @CandidaScience
He stayed at UTSA to complete a master’s program and immediately started teaching microbiology lab. In the second semester of the program, Jesus embarked in a research project for the first time and ended up doing his master’s thesis on Borrelia burgdorferi, the microorganism that causes Lyme disease.
The next two and a half years, Jesus taught medical microbiology at a nursing college when realized he missed research. He applied for the Cell and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program at UTSA and is currently starting his fourth year in a medical mycology lab specializing in Candida albicans biofilms and finding novel antifungal drugs.
Jesus saw the importance of mentoring and teaching throughout his own education and has spearheaded many outreach and educational program to reach other students. “The thing I enjoy the most is being able to reach students in underrepresented groups and help them see that there are people that ‘look like them’ in the science field. Something I did not have access to when I was in school,” Jesus says. Since he was not aware of research opportunities until he entered graduate school, Jesus has been working with STEM outreach programs at UTSA establishing microbiology labs in high schools. By developing experiments and curriculum for high school science classes, Jesus hopes to build awareness and interest in what a future in science can be like. After seven years in STEM outreach and education, Jesus has participated in and helped organize hundreds of events!
If he had to do it all over again, Jesus wouldn’t change a thing but to add undergraduate research and coding into the mix. “I love my path so far. I have fallen into a lot of things by chance and I believe that has made me a better person and scientist,” says Jesus.