Pride Month: Guerrino Macori

Posted on June 7, 2024   by Microbiology Society

Pride Month takes place annually during the month of June – honouring and celebrating those within the LGBTQIA+ community, recognising their ongoing fight for equal rights and acceptance. To highlight the importance of this month, we caught up with Irish Division and Members Panel member, Guerrino Macori, who shares his experiences and insights as someone within academia who is openly part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Headshot of Guerrino Macori
© Guerrino Macori

Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

My name is Guerrino Macori, a member of the Irish Division and a representative on the Members Panel at the Society. I’m originally from Italy and now based in Dublin, Ireland, where I am an Assistant Professor and Lecturer in Applied Bioinformatics at University College Dublin’s School of Biology and Environmental Science. My academic and professional journey includes food microbiology and bioinformatics, with robust experience in industry, official control laboratories and regulatory agencies.

The month of June is Pride Month; what does Pride mean to you?

To me, Pride is a vibrant celebration of diversity and a powerful platform for visibility and advocacy. It represents the embrace of our unique identities and the continuous push for equality and acceptance across all aspects of life. In professional environments, especially academia, Pride takes on the additional role of educating and setting a practical example of inclusivity. It's about showing that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, has a valuable contribution to make.

What is the significance of highlighting Pride Month and why do you think it’s important to celebrate it?

Highlighting Pride Month is crucial because it draws attention to both the ongoing struggles and the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community. It serves as a powerful force for progress and discovery, similar to our work in research. Celebrating Pride not only expands the sense of belonging among community members and their allies but also reinforces the message of inclusivity and equality. It acts as an educational tool that fosters a supportive culture, valuing all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. By dedicating this time to recognition and celebration, we ensure that these important conversations continue and that both historical and future progress are celebrated and built upon.

How has being someone who is openly part of the LGBTQ+ community affected your career in academia?

I am very happy to share my experiences, which have been a journey marked by both challenges and empowerment. Being openly part of the LGBTQ+ community in academia has exposed me to biases but has also empowered me to contribute significantly to fostering a more inclusive academic culture. I've had the opportunity to advocate for diversity and mentor the next generation of scientists.

At times, the journey has been tough, particularly in environments not yet ready for change. However, embracing my identity as a gay man taught me that change must often start from us. Initially, being myself felt risky and was met with resistance. When education and dialogue didn't bridge the gap, I chose to move on and this opened up even more opportunities and challenges that encouraged my personal and professional growth.

Now, I understand the profound importance of role models in academia. My goal is to help the current generation realise they are not alone. By creating opportunities for community connections and enhancing visibility within STEM, I aim to help pave the way for a more inclusive and accepting academic environment.

Could you tell us about what you’re currently working on?

My research is focused on revealing the 'microbial dark matter'—a term we use to describe microorganisms that are not yet culturable. Currently, I'm exploring the microbiomes of various environments, such as those of wild animals and foods. My work involves developing computational approaches to detect pathogens with high precision using culture-independent methods. In the lab, I validate these predictions within model ecosystems; currently, I am working with water kefir, a fantastic fermented beverage not as well-known as it should be, for its natural resistance to pathogens and spoilage organisms.

In addition to my research, I am heavily involved in teaching and I am currently designing two new modules for the upcoming semester: one on Pathogen Genomics and the other on Metagenomics Analysis. Creating new educational materials is always challenging, but it provides a rewarding opportunity to develop a curriculum that ensures accessibility for all students, including those who are neurodivergent or have disabilities, to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to succeed.

Are you doing anything this year to raise awareness for Pride Month?

Yes, this year I am speaking at an event that highlights the importance of mentorship and allies in science and beyond, and my message will be around emphasising how these relationships support personal and professional growth within diverse communities.

I am also participating as a presenter at a one-day symposium, Pride in Research, in Dublin, celebrating the work of LGBTQ+ researchers or allies conducting LGBTQ+ related research in Ireland. It is open to researchers at all career stages, from any discipline and will be held at Trinity College Dublin on Thursday 27 June.

Additionally, I am contributing to various platforms, including the Microbiology Society, which has long championed initiatives around diversity and inclusion. These efforts not only celebrate Pride but also encourage ongoing professional development.

Have you experienced any bias or prejudice in academia as a result of your LGBTQ+ identity?

Yes, like many in my community, I have faced challenges and biases in my career. I experienced insidious, non-verbal comments and exclusions, which were just as damaging. While these experiences have been difficult, they have also been motivating, driving me to work harder towards creating a more accepting and supportive work environment.

What is your advice to those in the LGBTQ+ community who are searching for their tribe within the science community?

Seek out networks and groups both within and outside your immediate academic and professional circle. Many societies and organisations now have LGBTQ+ chapters or diversity offices. Engaging with these can provide support, mentorship and a sense of community. Additionally, consider attending LGBTQ+ focused scientific conferences and workshops to meet like-minded individuals and expand your professional network. All these suggestions, especially building meaningful connections, can take time, but finding a supportive community within your field can enrich your personal and professional life significantly.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the development of novel molecular-based methods and DNA and RNA sequencing. This work has significantly advanced the field of food safety and public health. These approaches, including workflows and bioinformatics pipelines, are now widely used in food safety protocols. One example has been research on the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in meat processing plants. With my research, I provided insights into viral transmission pathways and developed protocols for precise identification of this and other pathogens. I collaborated with leading academic institutions and research centres in Ireland and developed pandemic preparedness platforms, funded by World Health Organization (WHO) and Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Recently, I have started to coordinate a specialisation in applied bioinformatics for an MSc programme and mentored numerous students and early career researchers, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers in academia, industry and regulatory agencies. These outputs reflect my commitment to advance scientific knowledge, innovate and prepare the next generation of scientists through education and mentorship.

What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?

In the future, I aim to continue advancing the field of pathogen genomics by developing more sophisticated diagnostic tools and methods that enhance food safety and public health surveillance. I plan to explore emerging sequencing technologies to improve the accuracy and speed of pathogen detection, integrating genomics with transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics, to gain a comprehensive understanding of pathogen biology and its interactions within various environments.

Additionally, I am committed to leading the development of innovative bioinformatics education programs. These programs will be designed to equip students and researchers with the skills needed to meet the evolving demands of the field, ensuring they are well-prepared to tackle future challenges in biology and beyond. Looking forward, I aim to expand my efforts in advocacy and mentoring within the microbiology community. I hope to help shape a future where all scientists can thrive, be respected and empowered by their unique identities.

Could you tell us why you joined the Society and the Members Panel?

I joined the Microbiology Society and the Members Panel to learn how to make a meaningful difference. It has been an opportunity and a privilege, especially collaborating with thoughtful colleagues, exchanging diverse viewpoints and helping to shape the future of our community. Representing Ireland, I bring my unique experiences from various international European work cultures and backgrounds. My aim has been to advocate for changes to promote inclusivity, starting from our conferences, and contribute directly to advancing both our scientific community and the broader societal understanding of microbiology.

To find out more about our EDI initiatives and take part in an upcoming Awareness Day, view our equality, diversity and inclusion webpages.