Alum spotlight: Priyanka Vaddi

Lauren Smith

Dec 15, 2023

Priyanka Vaddi

Source: Priyanka Vaddi

Priyanka Vaddi ('04) applies her background in chemical engineering outside the box. "As a dentist, I have to think of things in a three-dimensional way," she says. "The engineering mindset, the problems we did, prepared me for this."

A pediatric dentistry practice, however, wasn't Vaddi's plan when she applied to Carnegie Mellon University. She wanted to study chemical engineering. "It's an amazing way to build products for the masses," she says. "With engineering, I could meld my love for science with my interest in making things that would help people."

Vaddi fell in love with CMU during an overnight visit, when she was hosted by a first-year engineering student. She applied early decision and remembers the thrill of receiving her acceptance letter.

Her first year, however, shook her conviction in CMU and chemical engineering. In challenging classes, she felt poorly prepared. Vaddi began to wonder if CMU was the right place for her. Fortunately, she made strong friendships and was encouraged by instructors Gary Powers and Matt Cline. "I felt very supported when I needed help or didn't understand something," she says.

Vaddi believes the close-knit community within the Department of Chemical Engineering is very unique. A friend majoring in business took chemical engineering courses as electives because of the environment in the department. Vaddi sees collaboration, creativity, and an emphasis on working together as the hallmarks of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Vaddi also notes that the curriculum's strong foundation in science and math can be applied to real-life situations. Many of her friends in the major went on to fields other than engineering, including medicine and law. "That says a lot about the background and how great the curriculum is," Vaddi says.

The engineering mindset, the problems we did, prepared me for this.

Priyanka Vaddi, Dentist, Cranberry Pediatric Dentistry

Vaddi began to consider career paths outside the field of chemical engineering starting the spring of her sophomore year. She had long been interested in medicine. "I really loved working with my hands, so that drew me to dentistry," she says.

Even after a good internship experience at Merck, Vaddi remained sure that the field of dentistry was a better career choice for her. She was far enough along in her undergraduate studies that she kept chemical engineering as her major. Vaddi also recognized the versatility of chemical engineering.

In combination with summer courses in biology, physiology, and organic chemistry, the chemical engineering curriculum prepared Vaddi well for the rigors of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. "I was always a hard worker, but ChemE showed me how to be very disciplined," she says.

After dental school, Vaddi did her residency in general dentistry. She learned many different specialties before focusing on pediatric dentistry. "I've always loved kids," Vaddi says. "Even when I was studying engineering, I was thinking about developing pediatric medical products."

In 2022, Incisal Edge dental magazine recognized Vaddi among the "40 Under 40" top young dentists in the United States.

It was at CMU that the principles of hard work, integrity, discipline, dedication, and doing something that you love became part of Vaddi's mindset. Now, they define how she cares for her patients.