Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Research Recap: March

Kara Lee

This February, UTSA faculty and students have been at work in a variety of subjects. This month’s Research Recap details the endeavors of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology professor Dr. Jesus Romo as he explores the intricacies of how bacteria and fungi interact. Join The Paisano in learning more about the research around UTSA with this month’s Research Recap. 

 Professor works to understand interactions between bacteria and fungi

Dr. Romo defines research as the ability to formulate questions about how the universe works and the ability to methodically design ways to address those questions. 

“For me, it really is, ultimately, the ability to answer what we’re curious about, whatever is interesting to you,” he said. 

Romo added that his research demonstrates how he values the ability to further understand the world around us. “A lot of my work focuses on two large fields. We’re interested in how fungi, which are everywhere, including on and in our bodies, and bacteria, which are also everywhere, including on and in our bodies, [and] how they interact with each other inside of the human body.”

Romo explained that his work specializes in interactions between fungal and bacterial infections in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, specifically referring to Nakaseomyces glabrata and Clostridioides difficile. 

“We’re interested in and trying to understand how fungi are colonizing [a person’s] gastrointestinal tract,” Romo said. 

As explained by Romo, when someone takes antibiotics, the bacteria naturally present in the GI tract are wiped out, allowing bacteria that tend to proliferate in antibiotics with little competition, such as Clostridioides difficile, to become a dominant species in the GI tract. 

Similarly, when taking antibiotics, fungi are unaffected and species such as Nakaseomyces glabrata, known for its immense resistance to environmental stressors, become dominant species in the GI tract. Combining both circumstances, it has been found that after antibiotic treatments, there is an expansion of fungi in the gut and an increase in the proliferation of Clostridioides difficile occurring at the same time, making these two organisms codominant in the human GI tract. 

This scenario alone leads to a higher frequency of interactions between fungi and bacteria in the GI tract. Romo’s lab was among the first to map the locations where Nakaseomyces glabrata tends to colonize in the human GI tract. He focuses on the anaerobic properties of these infections and their interactions in the human microbiome, striving to understand how the interactions affect the human body and how they can be applied in antibiotic treatment. 

Romo states that his lab is interested in the ecology present in the human microbiome. He recommends that students interested in research and curious about how the world works “should get into research as soon as they can.” 

He emphasizes how UTSA has a wide variety of programs like the MARC, RISE or McNair programs that introduce students to research and give them prior training to have a greater impression of research labs. Romo also mentioned how important it is that “if a student is interested in a particular principle investigator, they should look into their work and reference their work in emails to show genuine interest in their research.” 

Upcoming Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Symposium 

In the same interview, Romo also shed light on how UTSA’s Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) Department is preparing for its second annual MMI Spring Symposium. Romo describes the symposium as a celebration of the wonderful work performed by UTSA MMI faculty and students. The symposium will include an open round table for academia where students can approach faculty and other students about any questions and networking needed to guide them toward their dreams in research. The biggest theme of the symposium is the value of the students and the potential opportunities offered through UTSA’s MMI Department. 

The symposium will hold three-minute thesis competitions, oral presentations and poster presentations open to undergraduate and graduate students working or interested in working in microbiology. UTSA’s MMI Symposium will bring the value of science communication to the spotlight. As Romo explained, communication is a vital aspect of science and research. Researchers should be able to effectively communicate their work to potential agencies interested, but also to the community contributing to the finances of the work. To visualize the value of communication in science, the MMI symposium will display presentations of the research performed so that attending guests, students and faculty can learn about the work done at UTSA. 

The MMI Symposium will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 19 at the H-E-B Student Union 1.100B Ballroom. It will feature presentations and work done by undergraduate students involved in UTSA’s CUREs program. Students and faculty interested can email [email protected] and look around the Flawn Sciences building for registration papers posted on the walls. 

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About the Contributor
Kara Lee
Kara Lee, Graphic Editor
Kara is a communication major on track to graduate in 2025. After graduating they hope to work for non-profits that specialize in environmental concerns so they can give back to the planet that provides so much for us. When Kara is not in school or working they can be found either drawing or hiking.

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