• YEAR: Master's student
  • MAJOR: Computer Engineering
  • HOMETOWN: San Luis Potosi, Mexico

Silvia Oliveros Torres

If ever anyone could combine the love of algorithms and tennis it's Silvia Oliveros-Torres. After picking up a racket at age 8, Silvia was soon playing in national tournaments all over her native Mexico. The game helped bring her to the U.S., where she earned an athletic scholarship at Michigan Tech. Now in her final days as a master's student in computer engineering, she's putting her technical skills into immediate practice to benefit the U.S. Coast Guard while helping tennis players at West Lafayette High School. A transformation maker on the court and in Purdue classrooms and labs, Silvia has adapted her skills to help others.

Engineering knack

As the daughter of two medical doctors, Silvia, most assumed, would stay in the family practice. But somewhat adverse to the "blood and guts" of hospitals, she found greater joy inside clocks and radios, constantly dissecting and reassembling them. She also knew her way around computers and tennis courts.

"I learned that you can still make a difference with your own talents," says Silvia, who hopes to find a meaningful job in the computer engineering field that will enhance people's lives.

Critical VACCINE

Silvia works in a Purdue lab sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. VACCINE, or Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments, has created software critical to national security efforts. One recent effort analyzed data from the U.S. Coast Guard to help streamline operations. The resulting dashboard software allowed the Coast Guard to prioritize decisions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last fall.

"It's very rewarding work," Silvia says. "You have to be open to the big-picture ideas. We're not just trying to make the fastest algorithms."

Computations for the common good

From greater efficiencies on the high seas to health care concerns like obesity and cancer, Silvia has lent a hand in varied VACCINE endeavors. In the latter project, she examined data that looked at dietary patterns among certain populations. She hopes the experience positions her for a job where she can continue to make a tangible difference in the world. "By understanding and presenting data in meaningful ways, we can answer questions and move forward," Silvia says.

Tennis transformations

The former MVP tennis player from Michigan Tech keeps up with the sport she's excelled at for nearly two decades. Silvia played club tennis at Purdue for three years, leading her coed team to the nationals in North Carolina last year, the team's first national appearance since its founding in 2006. And in her typical "give back" fashion, Silvia serves in a mentoring role for girls as a volunteer assistant coach at West Lafayette High School. Her advice is often less about court strategy and more about staying strong mentally. Coming from an athlete who always put academics first, Silvia provides a shining example of how to best balance both pursuits.