Marta Torres, PHD
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
A Costa Rican kid with a "solid gold" head, she credits her father for helping her build the confidence to direct shipboard science.
son at home
As staff scientist, Marta was the person to go to for a researcher experiencing inappropriate behavior from someone in authority. “I closed the door — just him and me, and my heart was pounding, but I have a sort of strength built through my upbringing: you’re not going to faze me, I’m not going to let you walk over me.”
Marta recalls, "When I was growing up there were really no programs for youth. Family outings and having parents that listen to you and take your questions seriously was immensely valuable."
Her son joined KidSpirit, a summer program for kids at Oregon State University that was designed to accustom young people to a college campus, while having them interact with college students acting as coaches. "This took the mystery out of "the University" so kids would feel like college was a place they could be part of when they grew up.
Marta adds, "The other "Try This" is to rely on your community."She quotes the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Because she had to travel so much she relied on other parents with children of similar age that could help, both providing play dates as well as car pooling to the various activities (choir, soccer practice etc) when she was gone; then she did her share to help them out while she was home.
Marta had breast cancer — “the hardest thing,” she says. “Challenging, and scary.” Her son was 14 at the time. She relied on excellent coworkers. “I contacted a male colleague and said, ‘You’re my press secretary, because I don’t want everybody calling me. If anyone has a question, I’ll tell them to call you.” And I said, “if you have to cover me because I don’t show up at a meeting, it’s because I’m struggling with this.”
SON AT HOME
After one research cruise, Marta came home to her son’s report card, including an F-minus. “I said no Christmas presents unless the homework is done.” She count herself lucky that she missed only little things at sea. “On the other hand I think it made him independent. and self-reliant.”
Marta says she knows for a fact that at the beginning of her career she was not being paid at the same level as male researchers. “There was a push from the university and the dean had to go take a look.” The outcome? “The dean said, ‘You’re really being underpaid.’ I said thank you!” In part, she blames herself for not asking for more sooner — a common issue with women.
Marta found the staff scientist role aboard the Joides Resolution interesting. “I was the liaison between the International Ocean Discovery Program and the scientists — different from coming aboard as a scientist.” She understood the background of interpersonal dynamics among the technicians, and was able to help the scientists get their work done smoothly.