Interview with Professor Ruxandra Vidu
Ruxandra Vidu, PhD is a nanotechnology and photovoltaic expert with over 25 years of experience in chemical engineering and materials science.
An Associate Adjunct Professor at University of California Davis and Associate Director of the California Solar Energy Collaborative, Dr. Vidu has extensive experience managing complex technology projects in advanced materials and innovative technologies. Since 1996, she has worked with leading universities in Japan, United States, and Romania, and consulted for Mitsubishi and BP Solar in solar energy and energy storage - related projects.
Most recently, Dr. Vidu was awarded the Constantin Brâncoveanu International Award for Science in November 2018, in recognition of her contributions to scientific research and discovery. Among many other awards, she was a Fulbright US Scholar at the Bucharest Polytechnic University in Bucharest, Romania, in 2012-2013.
Dr. Vidu is the President of the American Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences (ARA, https://www.AmericanRomanianAcademy.org). Having published over 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals and over 20 patents licensed, pending, or in process, Dr. Vidu has always been interested to translate her research into commercial products. She founded a company to commercialize nanocables technology developed at UC Davis, and was a co-founder of Bloo Solar as well as the co-inventor of the BlooSolar Brush™, a photovoltaic device for highly efficient solar conversion technology.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I was born in Romania, and received my B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Polytechnica University in Bucharest. The Ministry of Education in Japan awarded me a research fellowship and a doctoral scholarship in 1996 and 1997, respectively; in 2000, I earned my Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and Processing from Osaka University, Japan. Professor Pieter Stroeve recruited me as a postdoctoral researcher in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science department at University of California, Davis, and as they say, the rest is history. I had and continue to have a busy academic life, conducting research (with many collaborators at institutions in the US and abroad), writing grants, teaching and advising students, publishing scientific papers and books, and giving numerous presentations at conferences all over the world.
Q: You are very passionate about your work and received numerous awards and recognitions. Please tell us more about your work.
A: My research areas are nanotechnology and photovoltaics, with specialties that include surface science, surface modifications, surface alloying, heat treatment, powder metallurgy, electrochemical deposition, Atomic Force Microscopy, nanostructured architecture for PV, photovoltaic technology, thermoelectrics, water purification and sensors. I invented and developed advanced ultra-thin film photovoltaic technology that combined MEMS manufacturing with photovoltaic thin films to create economical nano-architecture high-performance PV cells for commercial applications. Recent projects include development of advanced magnetic nanomaterials for water treatment, and new technologies to produce porous, multi-valance, oxides for various energy-related applications.
Q: What is the significance of your recent Constantin Brâncoveanu International Award for Science?
A: The Constantin Brâncoveanu International Awards represent a major step for the Alexandrion Foundation to recognize international values and true leaders in multiple professional fields. I was delighted to receive the Science award, and to share the stage with renowned writers, architects, physicians, journalists, diplomats, and artists, as fellow awardees from Romania, Greece, Syria, and US. These awards fulfil the need of our society to have inspirational examples at the cultural, scientific, and political level and to highlight those who truly contribute to the development of future generations.
Q: Your activities extend beyond academic research and publishing. What advice do you have for the next generation of scientists (including Romanian scientists) who are just starting their education and/or careers?
A: Indeed, I have always been passionate not only about the scientific research process, but also about how science benefits from multi-disciplinary collaborations, including across continents. As president of the American Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences (ARA), I am interested to promote the successes of Romanians active in diverse fields to audiences in the US and Romania. ARA organizes an annual congress that provides an open forum for intellectuals to present their ideas and achievements in fields such as literature, philosophy, medicine, social sciences, arts, engineering, mathematics, physics, and chemistry, as well as discuss future trends and scientific directions. The next ARA Congress will be held at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, June 10-13, 2019.
I want to encourage the next generation of scientists to follow their passions, wherever they will take them, but also pursue their hobbies. Some will apply their skills in academic research and teaching, others will invent and translate their discoveries to commercial products or services, and still others will work with peer scientists to coordinate or manage large-scale projects such as the Extreme Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP), pan-European research infrastructure in Magurele, Romania, laser that has reached 7 PetaWatts in February 2019, and is expected to reach 10 PW by June 2019.
For me, starting Reflection Publishing was a hobby and a labor of love. This publishing house and online virtual bookstore focuses on promoting Romanian heritage and culture, and is one of the many ways I stay connected with my country of origin. There are beautiful places all over the world, but Romania’s spectacular mountains and warm people will always make my heart sing.