Microbiology and Immunology alum Ryan Gilley was featured in Mission Magazine’s Warriors for Health.
In November 2006, Ryan P. Gilley was a combat engineer who had spent almost a year in Baghdad clearing roadside bombs while trying to reconcile the dissonance between war and the smiles of Iraqi children delighted with the soccer balls he and other soldiers gave them.
After three years of active duty, Gilley yearned for civilian life. In January 2007, within two months of returning from Iraq, Gilley was sitting in college classrooms, immersed in science.
“I like to solve puzzles and fix things, and so I think inherent in that is kind of an enjoyment of things that are somewhat mysterious,” he said. “You know there are these microbes all over but we can’t see them. You can’t see the bacteria and the viruses. You have to have equipment that helps you find them.”
Gilley began doctoral studies in microbiology and immunology in 2012 and in April defended his dissertation. He will begin a post-doctoral fellowship this summer on the effect of streptococcus pneumoniae on the heart and how the heart cells die in response to the bacteria. Researchers found the bacteria can create holes in the cardiac tissue of mice.
“My dissertation has been based on further characterizing what happens and what the bacteria require, the protein requirements that the bacteria need in order to get into the heart to cause these little lesions,” he said.
As he works toward his goal of a faculty position and a lab of his own, Gilley said his time in the military seems both distant and fresh.
“I don’t regret at all my time in the Army,” he said. “I had a good time and there were bad times. That was not the life I wanted to have but I don’t regret doing it.”
This article was originally published in Mission Magazine. See the link for more stories.