3° with Diana Borca-Tasciuc

by Michael Mullaney on June 27, 2011

Diana-Andra Borca-Tasciuc is a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. We ask Diana about her work:

Q. Much of your research involves heat transfer, particularly in nanoparticles. Why is heat transfer important?

A: Knowing how to produce and control heat is important to a countless number of applications, from manufacturing and electronics industry to medicine and space applications. Part of my research looks at how nanoparticles generate heat in alternating magnetic fields, which has applications in cancer hyperthermia treatment. Cancer cells die more easily from heat than healthy cells. Magnetic nanoparticles, such as iron oxide, can be dispersed through the tumors and remotely heated with alternating magnetic fields at intensities that are not harmful to the body.

Some of your work has biomedical applications. Is that an exciting space to work in?

This is certainly an area where one can make a real impact. Cancer can be a devastating disease even for survivors. Despite all progress made in understanding it, the treatments are often as brutal as the disease itself and alternative therapeutic methods are much needed. Apart from this, nanoparticles are small enough to interact with molecular structures within cells. This opens us new venues for accessing and controlling most fundamental biological processes.

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit your home country of Romania. Tell me a little bit about it.

Romania is a beautiful country with friendly people and a mix of old and new. Our roots are traced back to Romans and Romanian language is derived from Latin. We are a small country; the size of our population is not much larger than that of New York State. But we gave the world many talented artists and distinguished scholars – Brancusi, Enescu, Eliade, Coanda, Titeica, Palade – to name a few.

What are some traditional and popular dishes in Romanian cuisine?

“Mititei” or “little ones” – sausage-shaped burgers made of a mix of beef, veal, and pork with lots of garlic are very popular, especially during summer. If you are vegetarian, you may want to try our eggplant salad: mashed grilled eggplants with just a bit of onion and oil.

Your husband, Theo, is also a faculty member in the same department at Rensselaer. At home, do you spend a lot of time talking about your research?

Yes, we do and this is very rewarding as we often come out with new ideas and new solutions to our problems from our daily research tete-a-tete. We have been very fortunate to be able to work together. The only challenge is when we both respond simultaneously to the same funding opportunity: we have to watch out not to share relevant information that could empower the “competition.”

You lived in Los Angeles for several years as a student. Did you ever bump into any movie stars?

Well, we spent most of our time in labs, but we did drive daily on Sunset Boulevard through Beverly Hills. During one of these daily commutes, I think I spotted Michael Douglas driving in a convertible, classic Jaguar. Other than that, not much luck!

Outside of the lab and the classroom, what do you like to do for fun?

I am an avid outdoor enthusiast, and any chance I get I take my kids on nature trips. We are lucky because we are close to one of the most picturesque regions in upstate New York, Washington County, and not too far away from the Adirondack Park. I couldn’t have wished for a better place!

Read more about Diana here. And be sure to check out our other 3° Interviews on The Approach.