Math, science, and medicine lead Siva Sreedhar forward
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She may not have realized it until a few years ago, but Siva Sreedhar was laying the foundation for her future education and career from a very young age.
She loved math, bolstered by memories of her dad teaching her the basics on their whiteboard at home when she was a small child. She excelled in physics and other science classes in high school. She fell in love with taking care of patients while volunteering at a local hospital and started thinking about a career as a doctor.
When Sreedhar came to UIC, the equation formed by her interests led to a chemical engineering major.
“UIC let me explore my passion for medicine with the University of Illinois College of Medicine through their guaranteed medical admissions program, while still giving me the chance to pursue engineering,” she explained.
No longer a kid bonding with her dad over the family whiteboard, Sreedhar is graduating with one bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and another in math and computer science. She will take both degrees and all of the knowledge she has gained to the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she starts in the fall.
Sreedhar, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, saw chemical engineering as the perfect first step in her plan to become a doctor.
“Every class I’ve taken in the department had a direct correlation to the human body in my mind,” she said. “I visualized the liver when I took my chemical reaction engineering class, the circulatory system in fluid transport, and saw the process of homeostasis in the body come to life in process control.”
“I can’t imagine a better path to medicine,” she added.
Sreedhar received the 2021 Harry McCormack Outstanding Senior Award from the Chicago section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The award committee noted that Siva is graduating at the top of her class and was heavily involved in medical research as an undergraduate, including work on kidney transplants, supportive care for head and neck cancer patients, and colon cancer treatment.
In addition, Sreedhar was co-president of Sparkathon, an annual UIC dance-marathon fundraiser for pediatric cancer survivors, taught STEM workshops in underserved neighborhoods in Chicago, and was a student leader for a public-health program that seeks to reduce social isolation among elderly people. She also was on the board of UIC’s Society of Women Engineers and Tau Beta Pi, and she helped to start a buddy system to support incoming UIC chemical engineering freshmen in making the transition to college.
Sreedhar has not decided which field of medicine she will study but knows the skills she learned as a problem-solver in engineering will be extremely helpful.
“Engineering has taught me how to use information to come up with the best possible solution, and I really can’t think of a better skill to enter medical school with,” she said.
“The rising presence of technology in every aspect of life is causing medicine and engineering to become more intertwined by the day. I hope to use my background in engineering to continue to deepen the intersection between the two fields.”