In retirement, Radu Giurca looks forward
December 13, 2012
Radu Giurca, Marine Polymer Technologies’s Director of Research and Development, is retiring after more than a decade of service. Giurca joined MPT in 1999 and has helped guide the company through years of groundbreaking scientific research.
“My initial interaction with MPT started in 1990,” Giurca said. “At the time, I was working for the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst, and we had a grant from from MPT. Our collaboration started 22 years ago.”
Nine years later, Giurca joined MPT and began spearheading cryopreservation research. Since then, Giurca worked in fermentation and cell culture techniques. Through long, careful work, he was able to improve productivity in making MPT’s revolutionary products.
Giurca was no stranger to hard work and change. “My father-in-law was born in Indianapolis, and his father had emigrated from Romania,” he said. He then added jokingly, “From Transylvania, which is Dracula country! It’s okay, I don’t bite!
“But,” he said, “the family moved back to Romania.” Giurca’s father-in-law, an electrical engineer, was at first very successful. But after the Second World War, the Russians came to power in Romania, and the business suffered under communism.
As a young man in the 1950s, Giurca was an Olympic swimmer. He competed in the hundred meter freestyle at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, on the Romanian team. “I did not win, I came in eighth,” he said. “It was fun and nice, but the times were longer than they are today. I had won competitions in the Balkans and Romanian national matches.”
Giurca worked taught biotechnology at the first Institute of Biotechnology at Bucharest. He described how it had become very difficult to live there, despite his prestigious position. His father-in-law went to the US Embassy in Germany to apply for the entire family to come to the United States.
“The process was very easy,” he said, “but it was very difficult to leave Romania. Fortunately, the revolution came and we found ourselves in America.”
For a while after arriving in America in 1990, things were difficult for Giurca and his family. But, eventually his wife, Ileana, found a job at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Giurca came to work at UMass Amherst.
“And then I had the chance to meet Sergio and Ray and start this whole process,” he said. “Assimilation for immigrants was difficult because of the culture and the language. I was lucky to know what I know and have some success.”
Twenty-two years later, Giurca is happy to be resettling with his wife in Florida, closer to his daughter and grandchild.
“Before we saw each other three times a year,” he said, referring to his daughter, who had moved to Orlando after being hired by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. “We miss each other, but now we bought a house in Winter Springs, Florida.”
His new home has a pool, which Giurca says makes him very happy. “It is not Olympic sized, but it is enough,” he said. “It is just a pleasure to swim, and it is part of my exercise now.”
Adjusting to a new climate will take some time, Giurca said, since he’s used to the four seasons of Boston. But being closer to his family will make it all worthwhile, especially his two young grandsons, Landen-Giani, who is almost 5 years old, and Oliver Matthew, 3 months.
“We call him ‘Oh My God’ because those are his initials, and when you see him it will change your life,” he said brightly. “My daughter lives only minutes from us, so we’re very close now.”
But even retirement won’t keep Giurca from helping to guide MPT into the next decade of scientific achievement and innovation. Giurca will remain a consultant for MPT, and has been working to train his replacement.
“We have someone to replace me and he’s very good,” Giurca said. “I am 75, very young, and Sergio and I will continue to work together to develop new technology.”
Giurca is also an avid stamp collector, and boasts to have one of the best and most complete collection of Romanian postage stamps in the world. “I have a huge collection, inherited from four generations of my family. I have a very, very nice and complete Romanian one,” he said. “For me, that’s a lot because the stamps are history, they are art, geography, it’s many things.”
Giurca said he’s also hoping to write a book about his life, his family history, and his work in biotechnology. He also may write a book with two of his MPT colleagues, Ray Pariser and John Vournakis, tentatively titled The History of Biotechnology. “The time is right,” he said. “MPT is making history.”
In the meantime, he’s settling into his new home in Florida, and has only positive things to say about his years working for Marine Polymer Technologies.
“I put my brain and all my power into the company,” he said. “I grew up again with the company, and I’m very happy about that.”