Jun 4, 2020
Professor Jorge Torres

The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science honors Jorge Torres for his lifelong commitment to mentoring students.

Torres received the organization’s 2019 Outstanding College/University Mentor Award and the 2019 Outstanding Hispanic Student Mentor Award. He is also being honored this month as SACNAS’ June Mentor of the Month (see below).     

"This recognition is well-deserved," said chemistry professor and Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel García-Garibay. "Jorge's impact on our graduate program and our department has been extraordinary."

SACNAS is an organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM.

SACNAS Mentors of the Month are featured as part of the SACNAS Distinguished Awards program, which awards one Distinguished Scientist and one Distinguished Mentor each year. Outstanding Mentors are selected from among the top nominees for SACNAS Distinguished Mentor, and receive digital and multimedia recognition in the subsequent year.

The Outstanding College/University Mentor Award recognizes Torres’ record of encouraging historically underrepresented minority undergraduate students to pursue advanced degrees in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics or a related field. The Outstanding Hispanic Student Mentor Award recognizes his record of encouraging Hispanic/Latinx students to pursue advanced degrees in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics or a related field.

Torres was recognized at the organization’s meeting in 2019, however, the announcement of the awards were delayed until now due to COVID19 pandemic.

Professor Jorge Torres and his research group.

Torres received a bachelor’s degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from UC Santa Barbara in 1998 and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University in 2004. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Genentech Inc. before joining the UCLA faculty in 2009. 

Torres has served as a mentor for several UCLA diversity outreach programs including the Amgen Scholars Program, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative, and the Minority Access to Research Careers program. In 2019 Torres received the UCLA Academic Senate’s Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award and the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity. In 2018, he received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award.

To learn more about Torres, visit his group’s website.

From the SACNAS website:

SACNAS celebrates June mentor of the month Dr. Jorge Torres.

Image Credit: SACNAS

Dr. Torres is a professor, mentor, and SACNAS Lifetime member who has been involved with the community for several years. He prides himself in bolstering students and mentees alike in their careers and academic endeavors.

Torres enjoys the “positive influence you can have on the next generation of scientists,” saying that to him “this award means that [his] students have benefited from [his] mentorship, allyship, and advocacy and that is truly an honor.”

Dr. Torres was born to Mexican immigrant parents in McAllen, Texas and found himself working labor intensive jobs such as fruit picking in order to contribute to their household growing up (ASCB). In fact, Torres even remarked that if you ate “strawberries, grapes, wine grapes, apricots, oranges” during the 1980’s, you had perhaps eaten fruit he had picked himself (ASCB).

With such a grueling work ethic instilled at an early age, combined with his love for academics, Dr. Torres went on to receive his B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and later his PhD in Chemistry and Molecular Biology from Princeton University (Faculty Spotlight UCLA). Afterwards, he pursued postdoctoral work at Genentech Inc. and Stanford University School of Medicine.

Today you can find Dr. Torres teaching and serving as a guide and resource for countless students as a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, Los Angeles. Yet, where he most gets to exemplify his passion for mentorship, is in his role “as a professor and current director of the National Institutes of Health T32 graduate student training grant in Cellular and Molecular Biology” (ASCB).

Reflecting on his work at UCLA, Dr. Torres shared that he is “ fortunate to have the opportunity to foster inclusion and diversity through a multi-pronged approach that leverages my research program, teaching, mentoring, and outreach activities” (ASCB).

A truly dedicated mentor, Dr. Torres finds meaning in being able to utilize his own skills to aid and encourage students who may be in a similar position as he was growing up.

In further recognition for his commitment to helping diverse students in STEM, Dr. Torres also received the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award, as well as the UCLA Student Development Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Award in 2019. According to these award websites, these awards honor a professional who has demonstrated strong promise in encouraging underrepresented groups studying STEM related disciplines in pursuing their academic goals and providing effective mentorship. The UCLA award also specifically honors the contributions Torres made in “furthering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment at UCLA,”(DEI).

Torres urges students to “find a good support network inside the science world. Ideally you are being mentored by someone who cares about you… who will know you well and whom you can rely on for advice and mentorship on all aspects of your career” (ASCB).

In recognition of a lifelong commitment to mentoring students at all levels, SACNAS proudly recognizes Dr. Torres as our Outstanding University Mentor, Outstanding Hispanic Student Mentor, and June Mentor of the Month.

Learn more & connect with Dr. Torres:

Connect in SACNAS Online Community (members-only)

Watch Dr. Torres’ speech on mentorship


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.