Sarah Carter ’24
News Staff Writer
The Holy Cross Biology department offers myriad opportunities for students looking to realize their scientific potential – from courses in developmental biology and field botany to biochemistry and behavioral ecology. Moreover, the department possesses a slew of passionate faculty whose expertise manifests itself in lecture halls and research labs. This semester, the College welcomed new hire, Assistant Professor PJ Torres, to its arsenal of professorial staff. The Spire met with him in an online interview curated for this article.
Torres received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Puerto Rico and later procured his PhD in Ecology from the University of Georgia. He cites that, while first interested in Environmental Policy and a potential career in law, he soon became privy to an untapped passion for field research and ecology after taking a college course. Following this, Torres completed a summer research internship working with streams in Costa Rica – prompting him to fully upend his after-college plans and pursue an upper-level ecology degree. Before coming to Holy Cross. Torres was an active researcher in the Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research project and worked as a visiting professor at Denison University, Colgate University, and Allegheny College.
Torres attributes his passion for teaching to his experiences as a graduate student. He says, “I always enjoyed teaching as a Lab Assistant at UGA, and being a Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) mentor while doing my graduate research in Puerto Rico. After getting hired at Denison University as a Visiting Professor I realized that being a professor at a small liberal arts college would allow me to continue doing that on a permanent basis. It was an easy decision after that.”
Regarding his proudest academic feat, Prof. Torres commented that last fall he had the opportunity to take two undergraduate research students from Allegheny College with him to Puerto Rico to participate in field research there. “I’ve always wanted to take students to the island, so that was really special for me. I’m looking forward to taking Holy Cross students there for research as soon as possible.”
Upon inquiring about his experience at Holy Cross thus far, Prof. Torres responded with patent excitement and enthusiasm. He accredites his success at the College to the contributions of other professors within the department, in particular Professor and freshwater ecologist Bill Sobczak. Regarding their professional relationship, Torres commented, “[Sobczak] has been my reliable source of information during these first weeks at Holy Cross. Plus he’s been super generous with his time and has been showing me the different natural areas around Worcester so that I can use that for my courses and research projects.”
This semester he is teaching Ecology (BIOL280) and is scheduled to teach Environmental Science (BIOL117) and Biostatistics (BIOL275). He does hope to develop a course in Tropical Biology at some point in the future, but would also like to teach other pre-existing courses at the College, like Freshwater Ecology and Conservation Biology. He is most excited to introduce Food Webs to his current students in lecture, noting that, “there are some really impressive research examples to discuss.” In the coming weeks, he looks forward to working with his students on the Fish Population Lab.
Throughout the semester, he endeavors to help students navigate different opportunities and career options available, as well as cultivate the practical skills needed to succeed after graduation.