Carlos Pérez-Torres

Carlos Pérez-Torres

The early detection of and the survival from brain tumors are the key research targets for Carlos Pérez-Torres, assistant professor in the Purdue University School of Health Sciences.

This work strives for more accuracy through neurological magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Pérez-Torres is also seeking ways to reduce the amount of radiation treatments — such as X-rays — when it comes to shrinking brain tumors.

“Radiation is not good for the brain. It will cause cognitive issues,” he said. “We’re trying to understand what is happening to the brain after radiation so we can develop therapeutics for it.”

What happens to the brain when receiving radiation therapy?

The fundamental problem with radiation therapy is that you cannot teleport radiation. You cannot just put the radiation only on the tumor. You always have some normal tissue around it that will also get some of this energy that is trying to kill cancer cells but could also kill your normal cells.

What inspired you for this research field?

I wanted to do my Ph.D. in genetics, a very standard biology-type thing. But I was told during my Ph.D. to try new things. There are oftentimes things that you don’t know about that would be interesting, but you’ve never been exposed to. That’s how I found MRI. I’d never done MRI before and didn’t have the physics background, but I learned a lot in the process because it was interesting.

Same thing with radiation: I didn’t have the background, but it was interesting. The path is not always a straight line. Sometimes opportunities come in front of you. I thought my skillset was something I could apply to this new avenue.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

It’s a good way to connect with people that have similar backgrounds and reconnect with my background. I’m originally from Puerto Rico and grew up speaking Spanish all the time.  Now, I’m not surrounded by that. I’m surrounded by the English world. To have the opportunity to speak Spanish again and have the food, that sort of cultural connection is important. It’s remembering where you came from and seeing the people that connect back to your culture.

What do you think is important for people to know about Hispanic Heritage Month?

It’s a good reminder to go back. There are all of these things around you. Oftentimes we get lost. I don’t live in a Hispanic environment. My day to day life is in the general environment. My department basically has no other Hispanics at the faculty level and just a few students. I think it’s a great way of highlighting for the general public that we’re in this community, these people are part of the community. And we’re growing.

It’s also gets me feeling on how to give back — give back to the community and people like me.

Written by Tim Brouk, tbrouk@purdue.edu