U of A journey takes student across the border

Pranidhi Baddam (PhD MS ’21) will be working as a post-doc at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston.

09 September 2021

While working with children with special needs, Pranidhi Baddam (PhD MS ’21) often wondered what exactly caused facial abnormalities in children. During her undergraduate degree program, Baddam took her questions to craniofacial researcher and professor Daniel Graf’s lab.

This is where her academic journey into studying how craniofacial abnormalities form and how nasal airway obstruction affects breathing began. For the next three years, she will be working as a post-doc at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston under the supervision of Dr. April Craft. Her research project will investigate the molecular regulation underlying lineage commitment of knee articular cartilage.

Why did you decide to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship?

I wanted to gain some international experience in conducting research as most of my research experience comes from Canada. I also wanted to further develop my expertise in cartilage biology by working on other cartilages such as the knee. Furthermore, I wanted to receive additional technical training in cartilage bioengineering and bioinformatics to complement the technical training I have already received during my PhD.

What did you enjoy the most about being a student at the School of Dentistry?

I have had an amazing graduate school experience at the school. I was able to collaborate with other researchers, voice concerns about graduate student issues freely, and overall, connect with students from diverse backgrounds. If there is one thing I enjoyed the most at the school, it would have to be the congeniality of the faculty, staff and students.

As a graduate student, you were involved in many committees and groups in a variety of roles. What makes student involvement important to you?

I am a strong advocate for student involvement at the department, faculty and university level for many reasons. Being involved provides an opportunity to connect and network with a diverse group of individuals, and it allows you to see how decisions are made. It gives you the opportunity to be involved in something different than just your research or graduate program. Being involved tremendously helps you build confidence and interpersonal abilities such as communication and leadership skills. But most of all, it is one of the most efficient ways to voice your concerns or the concerns of the constituents that you represent to the decision-makers on graduate affairs.

Tell us about a research discovery that you are particularly proud of.

An aspect of my PhD research that I am proud of would have to be the in-depth characterization of the Bmp7 mutant mouse model as it is the first of its kind to demonstrate the multifactorial etiology of airway obstruction using methodology such as micro-CT, plethysmography and metabolomics that is interdisciplinary in nature. Another research finding that I am proud of would be the rescue of the nasal septum deviation in the Bmp7 mutant mouse. Although, I feel it is important to mention that these findings are a result of collaborative efforts and tremendous help and support from my supervisor Dr. Daniel Graf, members of the Graf lab and the various collaborators. 

Where does your future path take you?

My career goals include being an academic, conducting meaningful research and mentoring/training students. There are two avenues I would like to focus on in my role as an academic researcher in future: to inculcate further equity, diversity and inclusion strategies in my lab by providing research opportunities to students who may not otherwise get them; and develop better science communication initiatives involving schools and lay audience such that research findings are being shared with them regularly. 

“I am very happy to see how Pranidhi has developed over the last years both as an individual and as scientists. She is one of those graduate students that take full advantage of the many opportunities offered by the department, faculty, and university,” says Graf. “Her numerous collaborations, have resulted in additional publications. But even on her PhD project, Pranidhi did not let any opportunity go amiss to reach out to other faculty of students, which really has greatly boosted the impact of her work. I am sure Pranidhi will have a great future in science. Trainees have to move on, and so, I wish her the very best for the next step on her journey.”