Dra. Lilliam Casillas Martinez

“I am a first generation Latina in STEM”

Role: Professor

School: University of Puerto Rico at Humacao

Department: Biology

Telephone: (787) 850-0000 x-9162

Email: lilliam.casillas@upr.edu

For the past decade Casillas has lead several research funding initiatives that allowed the training of Hispanics in emerging fields such as Metagenomics and Geomicrobiology. Her personal research experience in these highly masculine fields has ignited her desire to make these disciplines more accessible to other Latinas. She is the director of the Cybernetic girls can be Pinky proposal to allure Latinas into Computational Biology through initiatives like imparting gender and programming workshops, implementation of the Small World Initiative and a Women in Science course where students discuss the relevant contributions of Latino women. Dr. Casillas was designated the 2016 AAAS Delegate to the Gender Summit in Mexico City to share these
initiatives worldwide. In 2011, she was the first Latina to receive the Carski Award for Excellence in Teaching Microbiology from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). She has co-authored with her undergraduate students more than 20 publications including a book for elementary level students. All these efforts are directed to change the sad statistics that less than 5% of the Latinas in the US currently pursue a doctoral degree in STEM fields.


Education – Professional Preparation:

1998    PhD    Microbiology                                  University of Connecticut, Health Center

1989    BS      Industrial Microbiology                  University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez



Relevant Professional Positions:

  • 2014-2017, Associate Dean of Research Affairs, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao.
  • 2011-2013, Biology Department Senator, Academic Senate, UPR-Humacao.
  • Summer 2008, Visiting Scientist, Bosak Lab, Geology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA.
  • 1999-Present, Professor, Biology Department, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao, PR.
  • 1998-1999, Professor, Biology Department, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.
  • 1990-1991, Quality Control Technician, Johnson and Johnson, PR,
  • 1998-1990, Laboratory Technician I, Syntex, F.P., PR,



Member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).
Member of the Society for General Microbiology.
Member of the American Society for Microbiology in Puerto Rico (ASM- Puerto Rico).



English and Spanish


Member of the National Advisory Board of Project Kaleidoscope, American Association of Colleges and Universities. 2016-present.


2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Travel Award for 2016 Ambassador Program to Latin America. Gender Summit.


2016 Society for Toxicology Travel Award to increase minority participation.


2011: Arturo Carrion Award for Excellence in Microbiology. American Society for Microbiology Local Chapter in Puerto Rico.


2012 Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Microbiology Teaching Award. American Society for Mirobiology.


2002- 09: Member of the Microbial Observatories, Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB). Division Review Panels. National Science Foundation. Washington, D.C.


2006- 07: Member of Competitive Programs and Genetic Processes & Mechanisms of Agricultural Plants Developmental Processes of Agricultural Plants Plant Biosecurity Review Panels.

Synergistic Activities

Research advisor to more than 120 undergraduate students in Microbiology, Geomicrobiology and Metagenomics with 40% of graduates following post baccalaureate studies and more than 15 publications with undergraduate students as co-authors.

Main leader of an outreach program that has impacted more than 1000 students and teachers from the public system with workshops, conduction of scientific fairs projects and conferences.

Coordinator of Semillas de Truinfo a project from Amgen Foundation to increase the number of females following STEM careers at UPRH.


Coordinator of the Small World Initiative for curricular enhancements of the Molecular and Cell Biology courses and laboratory at UPRH.


PI of the Cybernetic girls can be pinky initiative to increase the number of females biologists entering Computational Biology via the Kaleidoscope project of the American Association of Universities and Colleges.


Development of a Microbial Observatory within the Cabo Rojo salterns for biodiversity and conservational studies. Establishment of a Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) for studies in Geomicrobiology at UPR-Humacao.


Active member of CienciaPR.org, a cybernetic platform designed to promote science education and co-author in their book Ciencia Boricua published for local public schools.


Collaborator in USDA-funded proposal to generate metagenomic libraries from two forests within Puerto Rico. Geomicrobiology and Metagenomic Studies (GeMS) from puertorrican soils.


Design of a Certificate of Techniques in Industrial Biotechnology for the Continuous Education Division at the UPR-Humacao to train dislocated professionals in Industrial Biotechnology.


Ad hoc grant reviewer for Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Member of the Microbial Observatories, Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) and Frontiers in Biological Research (FIBR) Division Review Panels. Ad hoc grant reviewer for Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C. Member of Competitive Programs and Genetic Processes & Mechanisms of Agricultural Plants Developmental Processes of Agricultural Plants Plant Biosecurity Review Panels.

Current funding:

Principal Investigator (P.I.) “Cybernetic girls can be pinky”. American Association Universities and Colleges. $299,000. 01/06/14 to 04/16/18.


Prior funding:

RUI-Cabo Rojo Microbial Observatory. National Science Foundation. Microbial Observatories Program. $1,400,000.00, 02/01/05 to 02/01/12.

Co-Principal Investigator (co-P.I.) Geomicrobiology and Metagenomic studies of tropical forests. USDA-CSREES Program. $295,000. 07/01/07 to 06/31/09.

I. RUI-Microbial Observatories: Diversity of halophilic bacteria and geochemical signatures in a tropical solar saltern. National Science Foundation. Microbial Observatories Program. $608,000. 02/01/02 to 02/01/05.

Co-P.I. UPR-Humacao Women’s Educational Equity Act Program. U. S. Department of Education. Educational Equity Act Program. $524,850. 08/01/00 to 07/31/05.

Relevant Publications: (* publications co-authored with undergraduate students):


Casillas-Martinez L. 2020. Strategies to foster latinx inclusion in microbiology programs. J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. 21(1): doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i1.2077


Casillas-Martinez, L. and W. Gonzalez –Espada. 2019. Cybernetic Girls can be Pinky: Strategies to recruit and retain Latinas into STEM in the context of Faculty-to-Student Empowerment. In Culturally Responsive Strategies for Reforming STEM higher Education: Turing the TIDES on Inequity, p. 33-51. Emerald Publishing Limited. (Mack K, K. Winter and M. Soto, Eds). DOI:10.1108/978-1-78743-405-920191003.


Perito B., L. Casillas and M. Marvasi. 2018. Factors Affecting Formation of Large Calcite Crystals (≥1 mm) in Bacillus subtilis 168 Biofilm, Geomicrobiology Journal, 35:5, 385-391,


Sills, J. et.al. 2017. E-letter. Prejudgment Call. Science. Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 22-23, DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6320.22


*Marvasi M., Casillas-Santiago L. and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2016. Involvement of etfA

gene during CaCO3 precipitation in Bacillus subtilis biofilm. Geomicrobiol. J.


Mack, K, Soto. M., L. Casillas-Martinez and Mac Cormark E. F. 2015.Toward Achieving Equity for Woman in Computing: The imperative of Critical Pedagogical Reform. Gender Equity in Education. Association of American Colleges and Universities. 18:8-10.


*Marvasi M., Y. Davila and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2013. Laboratory activity to effectively teach Introductory Geomicrobiology concepts to Non-Geology majors. J. of Microbiol. and Biol. Education. 14: 206-212.


Marvasi M, K.L., Gallagher, L. Casillas-Martinez and P.T. Visscher. 2012. Importance of B4 medium in determining organomineralization potential of bacterial environmental isolates. Geomicrobiol. J. 29:916–924.


Marvasi M, P.T., Visscher and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2010. Extracellular Polymeric Substances (EPS) from Bacillus subtilis: polysaccharides polypeptides, and genes coding for their synthesis. FEMS Microbiology Letter, 313:1-9.


Marvasi M., P.T. Visscher, B. Perito, and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2010. Physiological requirements for carbonate precipitation during biofilm development of B. subtilis etfA mutant. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 71:341-350.


*Visscher P.T., C. Dupraz, O. Braissant, K.L. Gallagher, C. Glunk, L. Casillas and R.E.S. Reed. 2010. Microbial Mats: Modern and Ancient Microorganisms in Stratified Systems, In: Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology. J. Skeckbach and Oren A. (Eds). 14:443-468.


Hernandez B. and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2009. Design and Assessment of an Introductory Geomicrobiology Course for non-Geology students. J. of Geoscience Education. Vol. 57, No.1.


Rios-Velazquez C., L. Casillas-Martínez and P.T. Visscher. 2007 . Learning Geomicrobiology as a team using microbial mats; a multidisciplinary approach. J. of Microbiol. and Biol. Education. 1:28-35.


Cantrell, S., M. Molina and L. Casillas-Martinez. 2006. Halophilic fungi from the Cabo Rojo Salterns. Mycological Research. 110: 962-970.



Casillas-Martinez, L., et al. 2005. Interrelations among communities, physiological structure and resulting mineralogy in the hypersaline mats of the Cabo Rojo salterns. Geomicrobiol. J. 22: 269-81.2.



Casillas-Martinez L., A. Driks, B. Setlow and P. Setlow. 2000. Lack of a significant role for the PerR regulator in Bacillus subtilisspore resistance, FEMS Microbiology Letters, 188: 203–208.


Casillas-Martinez L. 2020. Strategies to foster latinx inclusion in microbiology programs. J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. 21(1): doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i1.2077

Basat N. A. Herbig, L.Casillas-Martinez and J. Helmann. 1998. Bacillus subtilis contains multiple Fur homologues: Identification of the iron uptake (Fur) and peroxide regulon (PerR) repressors. Molecular Microbiol. 29(1):189-98. DOI10.1046/j.1365-2958.1998.00921.x


Casillas-Martinez, L., and P. Setlow. 1997. Alkyl hydroperoxide reductase, catalase, MrgA, and superoxide dismutase are not involved in resistance of Bacillus subtilis spores to heat and oxidizing agents. J. Bacteriol. 179:7420-7425.

Inicio Departamento
UPR Humacao – Departamento de Biología – Call Box 860 – Humacao, PR 00792
Teléfono: (787) 850-9388, (787) 850-9483
biol.uprh@upr.edu, @UPRH , UPRH