Antonio Torres’ passion for research is both personal and professional.

The UCF biomedical sciences major will present research that he and three other students recently conducted before thousands of people attending the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, the nation’s largest multi-disciplinary research conferences for undergraduates. Torres is one of 127 UCF students who will attend the conference beginning Friday in Fort Myers.

Torre’s presentation is focused on a cholera toxin, but it is only a starting point. He wants to dive into cancer research in the near future because he wants to become an oncologist and help people like his mother, Jackie Perez, who died from cancer last year.

Torres’ mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer when he was a freshman in high school. Years of advocating for his mother in the medical system, combined with the hands-on experience that he has received through UCF’s Transfer-Student Research and Integration Program, set him on a path toward medical school with a focus on oncology research.

“I think that if I can just help one patient the way my mother’s doctor helped her, I’ll be satisfied.” — Antonio Torres, UCF student

“My mother’s experience is why I want to go into oncology research,” Torres says. “I’m not aiming to go into research to cure cancer, which is something that may or may not be done in my lifetime…I think that if I can just help one patient the way my mother’s doctor helped her, I’ll be satisfied.”

Torres is one of 83 UCF students who will present at the conference. Aside from Florida Gulf Coast University which is hosting the event, UCF has the most students attending. The event is open to all undergraduate researchers in the state to present their research in a poster forum.

UCF students traveling with the Office of Undergraduate Research will depart Friday morning from UCF and will attend the reception Friday night with the poster sessions starting Saturday morning.

The conference boasts some of the nation’s best networking opportunities with fellow researchers and graduate programs across the country, as well as workshops and other professional development experiences.

Torres will be among those students at the conference exploring their next academic step. His path to UCF went through Valencia College, where he earned an associate degree while caring for his mother. He was introduced to research at UCF through the Transfer-Student Research and Integration Program, and worked in biomedical sciences Professor Ken Teter’s lab. Teter, has been recognized for his research excellence, and received UCF’s Reach for the Stars award. He is also well known among students for his guidance and mentoring.

Torres calls his time at UCF conducting research as life-changing.

“Going into a university, I didn’t even know what research was,” Torres says. “I barely knew that I needed research experience for medical school, let alone how to start research. Dr. Teter taught us about research, what science really is, scientific method, hypotheses, and we also learned about lab conduct before we got into a lab.”

Torres believes his experience at UCF, combined with his steadfast commitment to his mother’s care, has prepared him well for a future in medicine.

“I have a lot of time to make up for that I lost, especially near the end of my mother’s life,” Torres says. “I was always at the hospital and so I couldn’t do anything. So since then I’ve been really, at least for her, doing absolutely everything under the sun. I’m super busy now, but I prefer it to be that way.”