Kevin Bacon of Composites: How a UT Professor Impacts Startups


“He encouraged me to do a startup; If he hadn’t encouraged me, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” says Pritesh Yeole, as he reflects on his career journey. The “he” Pritesh is referring to–Uday Vaidya, aka the Kevin Bacon of Composites–has a knack for connecting talent and inspiring entrepreneurs.

“They’re like free birds honestly,” Uday describes his latest graduate students starting their own businesses. “No matter how good a big company is, they would be constrained by protocol. Now they are free to explore and drive innovation. From a pure innovation perspective, the more you can cut down the bureaucracy and red tape, the faster innovation can move. Otherwise, you’re killing it.”

He should know because he’s worn many different hats during his career, keeping his finger on the pulse of industry and the cutting edge of innovation. He’s currently Chief Technology Officer for IACMI—The Composites Institute® and the University of TennesseeOak Ridge National Laboratory (UT-ORNL) Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.