With a vast interest in the environment, Nyah Maria Torres knows how to get the most out of the college environmental science experience.
Torres (BS Environmental Science '22) makes juggling the roles of student, mentor, and athlete look easy. Her secret is simply a passion for everything she does: studying the environment, helping fellow students, and being the best athlete she can be.
Torres, a third-year student in the Department of Environmental Science, grew up in Avondale, Arizona, a rural town surrounded by farm fields and dairy farms just west of Phoenix. She was introduced to the life sciences through Future Farmers of America. Her love for the environment and all things STEM were apparent at an early age.
“I have always been a STEM kid; science has always been my jam.
A Passion for STEM
Torres was inspired by her Trivium Preparatory Academy Earth Science teacher’s excitement for the environment. “She would tell us about all these animals, how Arizona is so important, and the ecosystem. I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Her passion made me really passionate about it.”
Her eureka moment was participating in the Arizona Envirothon competitions. Envirothon students form a five-member team to study and learn about the environment. Some of the events are held at the University of Arizona. Through this experience, Torres realized she wanted to solve complex environmental problems. Not only that, but she had a knack for it.
“I learned about environmental management plans and conservation. I was like, ‘That is what I want to do with my life!’”
Path in STEM Field
Envirothon students and their coaches prepare for the competition with the assistance of environmental science professionals. As a result, Torres met Professor of Practice, Dr. Scott Cowell. “He was one of the judges at our final competition. He asked if anyone was interested in soil science. I said, ‘Me, sign me up.’”
Cowell remembers it was his first year at Envirothon, “I walked up to the team and asked them some follow-up questions I didn’t get to ask. She was very animated in answering, 'I love soil science!' I handed her and the others my business card. I think that sealed the deal.” The connection with Cowell made all the difference for Torres when she decided to attend the ENVS undergraduate program. The reputation of the department as well as its value also influenced her decision.
In the future, Torres wants to pursue her graduate degree focusing on international conservation and has her sights on working for a large conservation organization. Since Torres joined the ENVS Department, she became involved with the ENVS Peer Mentor Program. She routinely suggests to her mentees, “If you’re passionate about it, then this is the major for you. You have to be passionate about environmental science. You have to be willing to do the STEM classes like organic chemistry and physics. Studying the environment is complex.”
In addition to being a Wildcat, she is dual-enrolled at Pima Community College where she runs track and field. Track and field are her first passion before the environment. So how does she do it all? Torres provides some words of advice.
“I am a normal student that’s pursuing things I am passionate about. But I make time to take care of myself. Put your self-care above everything else."