Barry McNamara  |  Published May 20, 2024

Senior Profile: Luis Castillo

The opportunities he had at Monmouth were even more than he envisioned.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Luis Castillo sat down a few days before Commencement to chat about his Monmouth College experience, the discussion was held in Mellinger Commons in the Center for Science and Business.

LUIS CASTILLO: The senior from Chicago is shown receiving his diploma from President Clarence Wyatt on May 19. LUIS CASTILLO: The senior from Chicago is shown receiving his diploma from President Clarence Wyatt on May 19.Across the mostly empty room, physics professor Chris Fasano was working, perhaps going over his students’ final exams. It was a bit of a full-circle moment for Castillo.

As a high school senior, Castillo participated in the College’s Scholarship Day competition, and he ultimately received one of two Admiral’s Scholarships awarded that year. The scholarship recognizes first-time freshmen who have demonstrated exceptional academic achievement and leadership in their schools and communities.

Through the Posse Scholarship program, Castillo visited some other schools, as well. After attending Amundsen High School in Chicago, which has an enrollment of around 1,500 students, he was looking for something different. He said a response Fasano made on Scholarship Day stuck with him.

“I asked what makes Monmouth College special, and Professor Fasano talked about how the experience you’ll get at Monmouth is so much more than you’d get at a university. It’s above and beyond what a university has to offer in terms of the relationships you’ll make with your professors and the opportunities to be involved.” – Luis Castillo


“I asked what makes Monmouth College special, and Professor Fasano talked about how the experience you’ll get at Monmouth is so much more than you’d get at a university,” said Castillo. “It’s above and beyond what a university has to offer in terms of the relationships you’ll make with your professors and the opportunities to be involved.”


‘I was out there’

Even knowing that going in, Castillo said he was surprised by how many such opportunities there were, and he took advantage of many of them, often in leadership positions.

A member of the prestigious Stockdale Fellows leadership program, Castillo served as president of Scots Student Senate and was a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, the Scot Ambassador program, the American Chemical Society and the baseball team. He even served as a rock wall instructor.

“I was out there,” said Castillo of his exposure to the campus community. “I enjoyed being able to walk up to a variety of people and strike up a conversation. It was nothing like I envisioned when I first started.”

Something else he hadn’t envisioned was being part of a presidential search committee, but he was the lone student in the group that ultimately recommended Patricia Draves for the role of Monmouth’s 15th president.

“Being on the presidential search committee was a great opportunity and experience to see what it’s like to run a college,” he said. “You think you know what happens here, but I saw so much more about Monmouth through that process.”

Castillo also learned plenty through his own presidential role.

“COVID took the momentum of Scots Student Senate away, but I believe we made great strides rebuilding its strength and trying to express the importance of it to the student body,” he said. “We doubled the size of the average attendance at our meetings from about 12 students to 24.”

“It’s a cliché that your four years in college goes by quickly, but it really does. So take the opportunity to be as free as possible. It’s an opportunity to be young again.” – Luis Castillo


Just a few days before his college career came to a close, Castillo offered advice for those who are just beginning their journey.

“My main advice is to get involved,” he said. “There are so many opportunities to get to know about things outside your major and about what you might want to do beyond college. You get to know a lot more people. It’s a cliché that your four years in college goes by quickly, but it really does. So take the opportunity to be as free as possible. It’s an opportunity to be young again.”


Looking for the unknown

Within Castillo’s major of neuroscience, he also learned a lot, and he said an opportunity the summer before his junior year was particularly rewarding.

“The Doc Kieft Summer Research Program was a turning point for me,” said Castillo, who also minored in political science. “After I did that, I knew that I wanted to be involved with lab research.”

“I’d love to do work in that field and study how the environment can influence the biological aspect. You never know what the right answer is in science. I enjoyed trying to look for the unknown. There’s so much that’s yet to be discovered.” – Luis Castillo


Castillo’s next stop is not yet determined, as he’s in the interview process to work as a research lab assistant, potentially in the Pacific Northwest. He said he might also go on to get a master’s degree in biopsychology.

He is particularly interested in epigenetics, which is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself or, as Castillo phrased it, “how the environment can alter the genomic sequence.”

“It’s the whole ‘nature vs. nurture’ discussion,” he said. “I’d love to do work in that field and study how the environment can influence the biological aspect. You never know what the right answer is in science. I enjoyed trying to look for the unknown. There’s so much that’s yet to be discovered.”

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