(This is the first of many 3° – a new, ongoing feature at The Approach in which we will ask researchers to explain their work in their own words. Feel free to write us with requests or suggestions of other researchers – faculty, student, or staff – you’d like to see interviewed.)
We asked Ravi Kane, the P. K. Lashmet Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer, about his research:
1. So what is nanobiotechnology, exactly?
Nanotechnology involves the design, fabrication, and use of nanoscale materials – for instance, materials that have sizes less than about 100 nanometers. Nanobiotechnology refers to applications of nanotechnology to problems in biology or biotechnology. Examples include the design of nanoscale therapeutics, drug delivery systems, and nanomaterial-based biosensors.
2. Why is so much of current research focused on such tiny stuff?
Tiny “nanoscale” materials can have properties that are quite different from, and in some cases considerably superior to, the properties of the corresponding large or “bulk” materials. In addition, a number of important biological molecules and assemblies – proteins, viruses, etc. – have dimensions on the nanoscale.
3. What drives you, as an engineer and a researcher?
A major driving force is the ability to work on important problems, such as designing approaches to treat important diseases, where solutions would have a major impact. In a sense, this is similar to RPI’s motto – “Why not change the world?” I also greatly enjoy the process of doing research; it’s challenging and a lot of fun. A sign that I saw on the Boston subway said “If you enjoy your work, the best part of the day isn’t the ride home”. I thought that the sign hit the nail on the head. Finally, being a teacher and researcher at a university is even more enjoyable because of the ability to interact with bright and motivated students.
4. Your research includes searching for ways to develop therapeutics for different diseases, including anthrax and AIDS. How did you become interested in this topic?
I acquired an interest in biological and medical problems in graduate school – in part from talking with close friends whose Ph.D. thesis had a biomedical focus. The ability to use my knowledge of engineering and nanotechnology to try to address such important problems was very exciting.
5. What’s the last good movie you watched?
While I haven’t been able to watch too many movies in the past year, I enjoyed watching “The Dark Knight”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (which I watch every December), and “Taare Zameen Par” – a Hindi movie that my wife and I enjoyed even more than “Slumdog Millionaire.”
6. How do you balance time between the lab, your students, and having a personal life?
It’s a challenge, although I think that it can be a greater challenge when one is first starting one’s academic career. Maintaining a balance is very important though.