Sylvia Torti - VERVE - 5 | KUED.org
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KUED's online series exploring creativity

Sylvia Torti

Sylvia Torti earned her Ph.D. in Ecology. Although she loves the application and practice of Ecology, as she was finishing her Ph.D. she began to feel like she wasn’t going to pursue a career as a research scientist. Searching for other ways to explore and process the world, she started to write…fiction.

“I was playing when I started writing creative work, I never pretended to have a career as a novelist.” says Sylvia. “That never even crossed my mind that that was a possibility, and I think that freed me.”

She loved the world a reader could fall into when opening a book and she wanted to take the scientists, the labs and the research and creatively represent those experiences in the form of the novel.

“I think creativity is simple - it’s the interplay, and the word "play" really matters here, it’s the interplay between curiosity, observation, thinking and then making,” says Sylvia.

By inviting the reader to experience a world that they might not have access to in their day-to-day lives she hopes to further the understanding of being human.

With a smile, Sylvia remarks, “You know, there are a lot of parallels between being an artist and being a scientist; you don’t always know if you’re going to find the answers to the questions you’re looking for.”

As Dean of the Honors College at University of Utah, she works hard at finding interdisciplinary avenues where students, professionals, scientists and artists can come together. She’s also part of a collective, Mapping Meaning which supports the creative work and scholarship of those who are pushing against traditional disciplinary boundaries.

At the beginning of her Ph.D. work, she had been in Chiapas Mexico studying Tropical Ecology when the Zapatista Rebellion of 1994 erupted around her. Processing that traumatic experience, Sylvia started writing short stories — which later became her first novel, The Scorpion’s Tail.

Sylvia Torti grew up in Salem, Ohio, with an Argentine father and American mother. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at Earlham College and her Ph.D. in Tropical Ecology at the University of Utah. She is the author of award-winning novels such as Cages and The Scorpion’s Tail. Her research has taken her to Europe, Africa, Mexico and South America.

Produced by

Lizzi Brosseau

Edited by

Stéphane Glynn and Lizzi Brosseau