PhDs of CeSSIAM staff members

On 14th August, 2015 Gaby Montenegro, Dr. Monica Orózco and Maria José Soto Mendez were appointed to the Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences in Guatemala (Academia de las Ciencias Medicas, Físicas y Naturales de Guatemala).

María José Soto-Méndez


María José Soto-Méndez, after working since 2007 as a research nutritionist at CeSSIAM in an assortment of projects with base in the metropolitan Guatemala City area and on the Pacific coastal plain, she became a graduate student.

She enrolled in the University of Granada, in Spain, with a capacity-building scholarship from the Hildegard Grunow Foundation (Munich). She initially enrolled in January 2011, and completed her MSc studies in Spain in September 2011.

Returning to Guatemala, she wrote her doctoral protocol, “Study on the Normative State and Inter- and Intra-Individual Variation in Growth, Hematology, Hydration and Markers of Oxidation, Infection and Inflammation in Preschool Children with a Similar Dietary Intake”, received approval to begin her data collection in April 2012, and completed the enrolment of subjects from May through November, 2012.

The project seeks to describe and compare the situation with respect to markers of the different dimensions of health and nutrition in a rural area and in the city, itself. An innovative thrust of the study is the fact that, with the exception of blood specimens for anti-oxidation enzymes and anti-oxidant vitamins, the remainder of the measurements of interest is being made from specimens of urine, stool and saliva, which can be collected in a painless and non-invasive manner from young children. Her advisors include Prof. Angel Gil of the University of Granada and Prof. Klaus Schümann of the Technische Universität München.

Ms Soto Mendez defended her thesis on October 8 in Granada, Spain and received her doctorate degree.

Gabriela Montenegro-Bethancourt

Gabriela Monetnegro-Bethancourt

Gabriela Montenegro-Bethancourt, after working since 2004 as a research nutritionist at CeSSIAM in an assortment of projects with base Quetzaltenango, was a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition of the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany, stationed at her work-site of the Institute for Child Nutrition in Dortmund, Germany.

2010 Gabriela Montenegro-Bethancourt was awarded the National Young Scientist Prize of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS) (

In September 2011 she began her PhD-studies under a DAAD fellowship in the study-group of Prof. Thomas Remer.

Her first project, on the relationship of dietary variety and hydration in the DONALD cohort of children has been completed and published. The second project relates to food-selection and iodine status in the same DONALD cohort.

Ms Montenegro-Bethancourt successfully defended her thesis on November 9, 2015 in Bonn, Germany,  received her doctorate degree (cum laude) and returned to Guatemala where she was appointed director of a new University institute for public health.

Mónica Orozco

Monica4Mónica Orozco obtained her Bachelor´s degree in Biochemistry from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) in 1999. In 2004, she received a Master´s degree in Food Science and Technology from the same University. That same year, she initiated her doctoral studies at the University of Manitoba, Canada, titled “In situ and in vivo modification by palm fruit-derived carotenes and tocotrienols on the oxidative response to commonly-prescribed doses of oral iron”. She graduated as a PhD in Food and Nutritional Sciences in 2008.

Monica has worked for the Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM) since 2001 as a researcher rising to Project Leader for Iron Safety Studies. She also works for UVG since 2008, where she has been a lecturer, associate researcher and head of the MSc in Food Technology and Management program.

In 2012 she was awarded with the TWAS prize for young investigators ( TWAS published a report about about her work:

During the fall of 2013, she was appointed as Director of the Lake Atitlán Research Center, UVG.  With her colleagues, she has published a considerable number of articles on micronutrient home fortification, the safety of iron supplements, antioxidants and biological oxidation in prestigous international journals.