Torres, a 2010 December graduate, will head to Thomas Jefferson University in the fall to study Cell and Developmental Biology.
Meaghan Haugh

When Annabel Torres graduated from Trenton Central High School, she thought she had it all figured out. Destined for a career in veterinary science, Torres started taking biology classes at Mercer County Community College before transferring to Rider University. Her plans soon changed during her second semester when she left, got married and started a family.

Seven years later, in 2006, Torres decided to return to Rider to resume her studies in Biology, but this time she had another career goal in mind. She wanted to focus on biomedical studies and eventually become a nurse. With three young children at home, Torres of Westampton, N.J., enrolled in Rider’s College of Continuing Studies (CCS) and began taking one evening class at a time. She transferred out of CCS her last semester and will be walking in the Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 13.

“It was not as a difficult as I thought it would be. I found I was even more determined and motivated,” she explained. “I think I was a better student this time around because I realized how important it is to have an education.”

Torres, a December 2010 magna cum laude graduate, said it also helped having a great support group. Her mother would watch her children while she was at class and her husband, who works in AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design), would help her draft figures to include in her lab reports.

Meanwhile, Angela Walker, assistant dean in CCS, encouraged Torres to apply for the PEO Scholarship and Ronald E. McNair program at Rider.

“Angela was great. She kept me grounded. She was always there,” explained Torres, who was also a recipient of the Charlotte Newcombe Scholarship.

As part of the McNair program, Torres began conducting independent scientific research in the laboratory of Dr. James Riggs, professor of Biology, last summer. There, her research consisted of trying to switch on an immune response in a tumor-like environment. Though she never had classes with Riggs before, Torres reached out to him because of her interest in immunology and his research relates to cancer.

“I told him, ‘I’ll read any journals and papers,” she remembered. “I spoke to him and it just kind of bloomed from there.”

When it came time to apply to graduate schools, Torres said she not only received help with GRE preparation and applying to graduate schools from the McNair Program, but she also received guidance from Riggs.

Torres, who would like to work at a cancer research center, such as Fox Chase Cancer Center, in order to develop better treatments, is one step closer to her dream. Torres has been accepted into the cell and developmental Ph.D. program at Thomas Jefferson University for the fall.

“I think it will set me apart and show people how hard of a worker I am. In the science field, more things go wrong than right. It’s really important that you stick with it, that you don’t get discouraged in the lab, and it’s really important that you stay motivated,” she said.