Joyce Madriz can barely remember a time she didn’t want to be a marine biologist. The Oregon State junior says, like so many other girls, she was first inspired by Disney’s The Little Mermaid. But Madriz also grew up watching the Discovery Channel with her three older brothers in Vancouver, Wash.
Her loves of swimming, science and exploring the ocean made studying marine biology feel like a natural fit.
Only Joyce’s mother, Ana Moore remembers a time her daughter wanted to do something else.
“Joyce told me when she was little that she wanted to work with kids like I do,” she remembers, “But after one day she came with me to school, and the children were cranky and fussy, she said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to be a preschool teacher anymore.’”
Moore moved from Mexico to Vancouver where she teaches preschool. She raised her family in the Portland metro with hopes of a better life for them. Despite working long hours and living paycheck to paycheck for many years, she always stressed education to her children.
“Education is the best thing I can do for my children,” she says.
Joyce says she chose Oregon State because of its reputation as a world-class research institution as well as the strong biology program.
“I heard how great Oregon State was from friends who came here, and I always thought they were sugar coating it,” she says. “But I was wrong. OSU has been a delight. I couldn’t have chosen a better school.”
Moore remembers being thrilled when her daughter made the decision to attend Oregon State.
“I love Oregon State because they offer more,” Moore says. “I love everything about it, and I’m so proud of my daughter for being there.”
Studying abroad through Oregon State
But Joyce Madriz is nowhere to be found on campus in Corvallis this term. Instead, she’s attending James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.
Chief Biology Adviser Brock McLeod says it’s a goal Madriz has had since their first meeting.
“The first meeting I had with Joyce her freshman year, she told me she wanted to go to Australia as a student, and she made it happen. She got started on it right away,” he says.
Madriz says Australia is the first thing she’s done all by herself.
At James Cook University, Madriz is taking courses in ecology and conservation, tropical species, oceanography and more. She’s gone on several field trips and lives in housing with other international students.
“I’ve learned so much, not just about Australian culture, but about so many others,” Madriz says. “My roommates are from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Singapore, Brazil…”
The list goes on and on.
Her experience abroad will benefit her culturally as well as academically, and it’s exactly the thing McLeod says sets Oregon State students like Madriz apart.
The future is bright for Oregon State Biology students
“Joyce is fearless about the pursuit of her interests,” McLeod says. “Particularly given the clear constraints of when she was growing up. She goes after stuff in such a refreshing, lovely way.”
McLeod says he wishes more biology majors at Oregon State realized how simple studying abroad can be.
Madriz, for example, is paying Oregon State University tuition to attend James Cook University and is still on track to graduate in four years.
Biology and Zoology advisers within the College of Science work hard to encourage students to set themselves apart by studying abroad, completing internships and participating in undergraduate research.
McLeod says many of the students he advises are extraordinary in a variety of ways. Biology students take the ETS Major Field Test before they complete their education at Oregon State along with 458 other colleges and universities. Last year, biology majors scored in the 90th percentile. McLeod believes the future is bright for Madriz and her classmates.
Next up: Newport and Hatfield Marine Science Center
Madriz plans to apply for the biology course in Newport at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center when she returns to Oregon in January.
“If I really want to be a marine biologist, I need some hands on experience before I jump into the field,” Madriz says.
And that’s what studying marine biology in Newport is all about, McLeod confirms.
Hatfield is highly regarded by scientists as one of the top places to study marine biology in the U.S. With collaborative partners like NOAA and some of Oregon State’s top researchers, students spend a term working in the field and laboratories at Hatfield. They work individually to complete a research project, which they share with the scientific community at the end of the term.
“They eat, sleep and breathe marine biology out there,” McLeod said. “The students are really enthusiastic about it. It’s our highest rated course.”
Madriz is excited. And of course, her mother could not be more proud.
“She is happy at Oregon State,” Moore says. “And that makes me happy. I’m so proud of my Joyce. She always does her very best.”