Events, TEDxColumbus

Meet the Speakers: Dr. Frederic Bertley

On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Dr. Frederic Bertley:

Bringing science to where people ‘live, learn, lounge’


Outside of the classroom, visiting a science center like Columbus’ own COSI has long remained one of the only ways for non-scientists to get hands-on science experience. But what if science came to the people? One local leader aims to bring that experience to Ohio, promoting the idea that scientific exploration can happen anywhere for anybody.


by: Cheryl Forcina


In the early 17th century, English poet John Donne wrote “No Man Is An Island,” and one of the most quotable phrases in the English language was born. Four hundred years later, a version of the phrase exists as a catalyst for expanding the reach of a beloved Columbus institution: COSI.


“Believe in and build community,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, offering his translation of Donne’s verse. It’s exactly what the COSI president and CEO hopes to do in the name of science.


It’s about “taking science and engineering out of its hallowed halls … and bringing it to the people,” Bertley said. “Where they live, learn and lounge.”


He had years of practice doing just that. Before leading COSI, Bertley was senior vice president and helped apply these democratic virtues to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute—where a sample of programs reads like a sort of science-palooza lineup: the weeklong-plus Philadelphia Science Festival; The Color of Science, which highlights the scientific contributions of underrepresented groups; and the City Skies program, which promotes accessibility to the heavens anytime, anywhere, for anyone, and all without special equipment, among many other initiatives. Luckily, Bertley has plans to bring the same kinds of opportunities to COSI, Columbus—and beyond.


“This means a COSI that’s geographically independent and transcends age, gender or cultural identity,” he said.


Science was blind to age and cultural identity when it found Bertley at 9 years old through a football video game.


“It was Coleco Head to Head Football. Suffice it to say, it was a hard but rewarding lesson on the wonders of electricity. I’ve been curious ever since, and curiosity drives you to scientific exploration.”


Exploring beyond COSI and the region is what Bertley believes will transform “the COSI experience” and, in many ways, Columbus.


“How we continue to adapt, anticipate and create a vibrant 21st century city is key to (Columbus’) ever-expanding footprint,” he said.


Thanks to his successful initiatives at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Dr. Frederic Bertley landed the role of COSI president and CEO and began his leadership in January 2017. His vision for Columbus is to make COSI the epicenter for all things scientific. The Montreal native also is a lecturer and distinguished speaker, having been invited to speak at the United Nations, the White House and more. Bertley has a strong record in academia, studying physiology, mathematics and the history of science at Montreal’s McGill University, where he also obtained a Ph.D. in immunology. He followed it with a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.