Before he leaves for class each day, Cullen College of Engineering junior Eden Torres has a tradition that he does to help him focus as he heads out the door.
“My family has a little routine before I leave for the day. We do a quick prayer,” he said. “As I walk out the door, my wife says, 'You got this,' and now my 3 year old daughter says, 'You've got this papi!”
Although he didn't take a direct path to get there, Torres always knew he wanted to earn his bachelor's degree in Petroleum Engineering, and he's not just succeeding in that effort – he's excelling.
Torres is the 2023 Outstanding Junior for the Petroleum Engineering Department, and one of the 16 students honored across the junior and senior classes of eight branches of engineering at Cullen. He's earned this distinction while also working part-time and being a father for two children – Eliana and Alexander – with his wife, Ana.
Torres said the economic situation of his family made it tough to consider four-year universities after graduating from Cypress Creek High School. However, his parents always stressed the importance of education, and he enrolled at Lone Star College. He earned several associate's degrees there, got hired full-time in the Oil & Gas industry and married his wife.
“I got married, and I told my wife that I wasn't done,” he said. “I had a good job with the associate's degree, but my dream was to have my bachelor's. I told her it didn't matter if I was 60 or 70, I was going back to get it.”
Torres noted that it was having his children that gave him the final push he needed to enroll at UH.
“After having my daughter, and planning to have a second child, my son, that's when I decided it was time,” he said. “I was content with life and we lived comfortably, but I knew that was one of my life goals. Becoming a parent really opened my eyes to the importance of being a role model for them.”
Torres was born in the United States, but he lived in Mexico until he was 12. At that point, his parents moved back to the U.S., which Torres realizes was primarily for the benefit of him and his siblings.
“Now as an adult, I realize the sacrifice they made for me and my siblings, of leaving everything behind for a better education for us,” he said. “Obtaining my bachelor's degree I feel will be honoring that sacrifice.”
He identified John Skopak, a Lone Star College professor in the University Park Engineering Technology Department, as a positive academic influence. Torres said Skopak's experience in the oil and gas industry before becoming a professor allowed him to impart practical wisdom to his students.
“He was very passionate about petroleum engineering,” Torres said. “I knew I wanted to do petroleum engineering, but I wasn't 100 percent sure. His energy and his passion for the field, it guided me toward petroleum engineering for sure.”
Torres enrolled at UH in Spring 2021, and his academic success has already been recognized with opportunities outside of the classroom as well. He is completing a co-op with Oxy (Occidental Petroleum), which started in Spring 2022 and runs through the Spring 2023 semester. He also has an opportunity lined up for this summer already.
“I'll be doing a summer internship with BP (British Petroleum), and I'll be doing production engineering. I think at the end of the day, my career will be in production engineering or reservoir engineering. Those are two aspects I really enjoy about petroleum engineering.”
When asked about advice he would have for other students, Torres noted that he tries to be as organized as possible with his tasks and his schedule. In his home office, he has a large dry erase board that he uses to track his parenting responsibilities, work schedule and his academic tasks. He stressed the importance of finding people to provide support, whether that was family, peers, professors or other groups.
“I believe that anyone, it doesn't matter their circumstances, if they have a good support system they'll make things happen,” he said.