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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. Jianjie Ma:

Serendipity leads researcher to magical discovery


By Wendy Cornett


The medical community is no stranger to happy accidents. The discoveries of penicillin, pacemakers, X-rays and anesthesia were all unintentional outcomes that revolutionized medicine as we know it. One Columbus professor is on the cutting edge of converting another experimental fluke into what is quite possibly nothing short of a medical miracle.


“Pure serendipity” is how Dr. Jianjie Ma described his breakthrough discovery of a protein he dubbed “pixie dust” for its almost otherworldly abilities in the area of cell repair.


The OSU professor and his team of laboratory researchers were actually studying the physiology of how the heart muscle works under normal conditions when the protein, which circulates in the human body naturally, made itself known. Dr. Ma, passionate about his purpose, seized the opportunity to further investigate the finding and the potentially life-saving applications of concentrated quantities of the newly discovered protein.


His focused immersion in tangential discoveries is driven by his desire to, as he put it, “get into the deep” and uncover what is behind what we see every day.


“When serendipity comes, you have to have the passion to move to the next level,” he said. “Our goals as researchers are to impact our students and affect the next generation; to advance the biology of physiology; and where there is opportunity, we need to translate our findings into therapeutic applications.”


In other words, Dr. Ma leaves no stone unturned. The NIH-funded researcher has been prominently and widely published on the topics of muscle physiology, aging, cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, apoptosis (cell death) and cancer biology. He has written hundreds of articles and holds 10 patents.


But perhaps the most impactful lesson he shares with the next generation at Ohio State regards something that is purely ethereal but curiously powerful – much like pixie dust.


“Whatever you want to be, whether you want to be an executive, an entrepreneur, a researcher or a physician, it takes passion. Do the extra work,” he insisted. “If you don’t have the passion, you will stop short.”


Dr. Ma is a professor and the Karl P. Klassen Chair of Thoracic Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Ma leads a multidisciplinary team of research in cardiovascular disease, muscle physiology, cancer biology and regenerative medicine. He discovered a gene that can repair membranes in the body, accelerating healing in patients with tissue damage. Dr. Ma serves as a study section member for the National Institutes of Health, holds multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and has over 200 publications in scientific journals, including Nature, Science and Science Translational Medicine. He holds 10 patents and is founder of a university spin-off biotechnology company.


What to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


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 Ashton Colby:

Transgender entrepreneur, activist promotes positive body narrative


By Wendy Cornett


In a society über-obsessed with outward physical appearances, it’s easy for anyone to feel “less than” from time to time. For those in the transgender community, the struggle is magnified by a negative narrative that plays in their subconscious on an infinite loop.

Ashton Colby had to face – and embody – the diagnosis of gender dysphoria (GD) to get the help he needed from the medical community to live his life authentically. Although the diagnosis can grant access to insurance coverage and medical procedures, it also carries with it the emotional burden of being labeled as someone who is impaired or ill or suffering.


“As a trans person, you know you need surgery and hormones to look how you really feel on the inside. You have to get a letter from a psychiatrist to gain access to that. You have to prove to them that you have GD,” Colby explained. “You have to say things like, ‘I hate my body,’ to get the diagnosis, when it’s so much more nuanced than that. I just simply am transgender. There’s nothing broken that needs to be fixed.”


Colby’s transition from female pageant queen to transgender man is well documented through his popular YouTube channel, Beyond the Body, where he shares that the physical aspects of being transgender reflect just half the story. Beneath the surface lies an internal struggle fueled by existing in a state of “dysphoria” to justify the diagnosis.


“I started to internalize a narrative of hate based on what I needed to prove to doctors. I started to really believe those things,” he reflected. “If I can’t feel permission to feel joy with my body, then how can I experience joy in any other aspect of my life?”


Physical milestones – like building muscles – didn’t have the panacea affect he anticipated. Instead, he sensed a growing disconnect between his outward appearance and his emotional and spiritual fulfillment.


“By 2015 I had been presenting as a man for three and a half years. I reached a place where there was post-op depression,” he said. “I had facial hair and my chest was flat, but I wasn’t pursuing other surgeries. I hit a ‘what now?’ moment.”


Colby recognized that, in order to feel truly present in his new body, he needed to build mental, spiritual and emotional bridges; and he knew he wasn’t alone in his journey.


He will soon launch an online platform aimed at sharing powerful messages and information to help those in the transgender community reframe the narrative and align all aspects of their lives through gender expression.


“We’re not trying to fix something that’s broken,” he added. “We all have permission to experience joy and cultivate joy and appreciate our bodies and have a sense of love for our bodies throughout the whole process.”


Ashton Colby, 26, is a social entrepreneur, certified yoga teacher, YouTuber and writer from Columbus, Ohio.  He began his gender transition in 2012 and has since become a spiritual bridge-builder, reimagining the traditional media narratives of what it means to be transgender. He regularly speaks at high schools and universities. His story and YouTube channel, Beyond the Body, have been featured on, and many other media outlets. As a social entrepreneur, Ashton founded Gender YOUphoria, a movement that flips the script on the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. is set to launch later this year.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


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 LC Johnson:

Columbus’ women of color find their home away from home


By: Cheryl Forcina


Any newcomer to a city the size of Columbus would tell you this: Acclimation can be a challenge. And a newcomer who can’t seem to find faces that look like hers or women who share the same experiences? Well, she’d tell you that acclimating is even more challenging. She’d also tell you to create an environment where you find the sense of community you seek.


Real. Imperfect. Messy. These women live within the pages of Zora Neale Hurston’s early 20th century novels, which depict racial struggles in the anthropologist and author’s American South.


“These were women who drank, cursed, had sex, spoke in dialect,” said local writer and activist LC Johnson. “[Hurston] wrote at a time when people thought blacks didn’t have culture. She wrote of our humanity—we write, we paint, we create.”


If Hurston’s influence isn’t apparent when talking to Johnson about the author, then one look at Johnson’s co-working and community space should do the trick—it’s called Zora’s House. Its Summit Street location is a home away from home created for women of color. And like its namesake, it’s a pioneer of sorts as the first of its kind in Columbus. A business inspired by what its founder saw—or didn’t see—when she moved to Columbus from Durham, N.C., in 2015.


“I looked around [Columbus], and there were a lot of community spaces where I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” Johnson recalled. “These spaces weren’t necessarily created with people like me in mind.”


So Johnson got curious. She began asking other people of color this simple, yet telling, question: Where do you feel most comfortable being completely yourself?


“They all answered, ‘at home,’” Johnson said. “So I thought, ‘How do we create safe spaces for women of color to fully express themselves?”


Described on its website as “part social club, part co-working studio, part workshop and event space,” Zora’s House is very much about community and the individual. Not a stretch by any means for Johnson, who’s also the director of leadership and social justice programs for the YWCA Columbus. Through Johnson’s work there, teenage girls learn that they can be agents of change. Young women develop the confidence needed as potential leaders. Programs like this exist for a reason, Johnson said.


“We think everyone has equal opportunity. But there are people on the edge, even if we don’t see them,” she said. “And because of their identity, we may be losing out on their talents.”


Which brings us back to Hurston, the author, whose work remained relatively obscure until the 1970s.


“[Hurston’s] work showed that we were worthy of consideration however you are,” Johnson said. “And that’s the spirit of Zora’s House—come as you are.”


Duke University alum LC Johnson is an award-winning writer, entrepreneur and activist with a passion for empowering women, particularly women of color. Her work on the topics of race and gender have appeared in Forbes Magazine, Huffington Post, Black Enterprise and more. Johnson lives in Columbus with her husband and son.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


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. Naomi Kertesz:

Impassioned pediatric cardiologist speaks from the heart


By Wendy Cornett


Young hearts rarely fail, but when they do, the consequences can be devastating. In a perfect world, society’s most capable would steadfastly protect the most vulnerable. One doctor is doing her part to move the Columbus community closer to that ideal.



Dr. Naomi Kertesz’s frustration is palpable as she grapples to quantify her exasperation ­– and disappointment beyond measure – with the pervasive lack of preparation within area schools for the very real possibility of a student experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.


“I’m tired of it,” she said emphatically. “I’m tired of hearing about another child collapsing at school.”


Her frustration stems from witnessing the aftermath of sudden cardiac arrest, which struck at least 10 well children in Columbus last year. Some of those children died. Those who survived dealt with lingering aftereffects that could have been mitigated with the right training and the right tools.


Maybe 10 doesn’t sound like a big number. Until it hits home.


As a pediatric electrophysiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Kertesz treats heart rhythm disturbances, and she’s on the front lines when a young heart fails. She has vital knowledge to share with school faculty that could help save a life, and she’ll share it for free. They just have to let her in the door.


Awareness regarding sudden cardiac arrest in children and adolescents has been slowly rising thanks to the passage of Lindsay’s Law in 2017, which requires additional training for coaches and the dissemination of an informational video and handout for parents and youth athletes. But much more preparation is needed before area schools – some of which have student populations that number in the thousands – can say with confidence that they’ll know what to do when a child collapses.


“I’m not trying to scare people,” Kertesz noted. “I’m trying to tell them there’s a problem, but I have a solution. We can save some lives here.”


Dr. Naomi Kertesz is a professor of clinical pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is also the associate medical director of Pediatric Cardiology and the director of Electrophysiology and Pacing at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Additionally, she is the medical director of Project Adam Ohio and has been selected as one of Ohio’s top doctors for the last few years.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.



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 Professor Trevon Logan:

Back to the future, in real life


It’s simply how progress works. In order to move forward, we have to look back. For one Ohio State University economics professor, it’s about more than tracing the roots of today’s policies or conditions. It’s about applying that historical data to benefit all communities—including those living on the edges.


By Cheryl Forcina


Trevon Logan loves Legos. There’s just something about the idea of building from the ground up to understand it better, he said.


Which doesn’t seem to quite click with his chosen profession: an economic history professor at Ohio State University. Or maybe it does—by illuminating his work as a contrast to his childhood passion.


“As scholars, we do the exact opposite [of Legos],” Logan explained. “We try to break things down to the basic level to understand why the system works the way it does.”


Which means that Logan examines and measures past economic trends, including living standards, to see their impact on today’s policies, processes and even a population’s well-being.


“People think big data is contemporary, but there’s historical big data,” Logan explained. And it can be applied to everything today from residential patterns and housing discrimination to business development and racial disparities in health—all seen through the lens of economics.


Take gas stations and their historical pattern of development, Logan said. Filling stations in low-income communities tended to be built closer to residential areas than their middle-class suburban counterparts. The problem: leakage of underground gasoline tanks into groundwater, which provides many of us with drinking water. Its contamination has been associated with, among other things, infant mortality. Years later, those rates were shown to be higher in low-income neighborhoods, Logan said.


As he talks about his work, it’s clear that the St. Paul, Minn., native’s fandom goes way beyond Legos. And he owes it to mentors and academic advisers who helped shape his interest along the way, taking Logan from his University of Wisconsin and UC Berkeley alma maters to stints at Princeton University and University of Michigan. Then, finally, here to Columbus.


“It’s an interesting mix of people here,” Logan said of his current city. “Columbus is well positioned to lead in the 21st century and to thrive.”


What concerns Logan, however, is who ultimately benefits from the city’s growth.


“[Progress] needs to be distributed evenly,” he urged. “People in power need to look at communities not as opportunities and investments. It’s definitely a different way of thinking.”


St. Paul, Minn., native Trevon Logan is Ohio State’s Hazel C. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics. His extensive work in the field once scored him a White House meeting, advising officials on measuring living standards among different households.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


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.


It’s a really small world after all

by: Wendy Cornett


Bringing respect and even compassion to the much-maligned world of insects is no easy feat. But one woman has found a way to stir emotional attachments to six- and eight-legged creepy crawlies one spectacularly detailed photograph at a time.


Not many folks share photographer Danae Wolfe’s perspective on insects and arachnids, primarily because she uses a reverse lens macro technique that enables her to count the tactile hairs on a jumping spider.


But the stories she tells through her breathtaking photos go far deeper than the deceptively durable exoskeletons of these invertebrates. Insects, she tells her audiences, display remarkable maternal instincts, extraordinary adaptability and a fight for survival that is critical to the very foundation upon which all existence is built.


“Invertebrates are in massive global decline, and they form a fundamental core of our human and natural systems,” Wolfe said. “Without invertebrates, our world as we know it would completely collapse.”


And yet, conservation efforts to safeguard the continuation of invertebrate species are about as common as honey bees in winter.


“We’ve always been innately connected to charismatic animals like lions and tigers,” she added. “We want to protect them and conserve them even if we’re thousands of miles from them. Bugs are everywhere around us, and most of us have grown to hate them.”


Wolfe’s interest in photography began developing around age 12. Her mother had purchased a new camera, and Wolfe used it to take photos of flowers that would eventually earn her best of show honors at the county fair. A lifelong passion was born. She was always drawn to close-up, macro botanical photography, and in college, she became keenly aware of the bugs that populated her plant subjects.


“From there, it snowballed,” she reflected. “I need to photograph bugs, and I need to tell their stories.”


It’s Wolfe’s dream that photography and digital storytelling can build a bridge between humans and invertebrates that spurs an emotional connection. Putting faces to these tiny creatures enables people to look them in the eyes for the first time.


“My biggest hope is that people will just be a little bit interested in looking at bugs differently,” she shared. “I want them to think about the role that the insect or spider plays in our broader world.”


Danae Wolfe works as an educational technology specialist for Ohio State University Extension, where she teaches faculty and staff how to engage audiences online. She previously served as an extension educator in Summit County, where she taught horticultural programs about backyard bugs and pollinators, and native gardening. She shares her photos and stories on her Facebook page (Danae Wolfe Macro Photography), her personal blog ( and through online content publishers PetaPixel and BoredPanda.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


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 Rev. Joel Miller:

Love thy neighbor: A show of support, sympathy, dissent

by: Cheryl Forcina

America’s current immigration policies have forced many undocumented immigrants out of the country and away from their families, or to seek sanctuary in one of many communities and churches. One Columbus pastor continues to challenge the status quo, using his faith’s most basic teachings.


The Columbus Mennonite Church in the city’s Clintonville neighborhood sits on a leafy street block, bordered by tidy alleys and away from the bustling High Street intersection. You could say it looks peaceful. Even neighborly. Which makes sense for a church and faith born out of pacifist ideals.


So it’s no surprise when the Rev. Joel Miller explains his church’s stance on the government’s current hard-line immigration policy. “They say we need to obey the laws in place. But I point to a higher law: one of loving your neighbor,” Miller said. “This supersedes any national law and boundaries.”


It’s a resistance of sorts. And Miller’s Columbus Mennonite Church made its dissent publicly known last October when it became a sanctuary for Edith Espinal, a local immigrant facing deportation after having lived in Columbus for 20 years. Espinal still lives at the church, with her case ever evolving.


“Being in sanctuary with our congregation, (Espinal) is as protected as much as she can be,” Miller said.


It’s all thanks to Miller and his church’s game plan from the very beginning – to build public awareness around Espinal’s story.


“We were the first sanctuary in Ohio that went public. That was part of the strategy,” he said. “We wanted to build sympathy.”


What followed was an outpouring of grassroots support, with his congregation, local citizens and businesses stepping in and offering help.


It’s the kind of accomplishment fitting for Miller, who grew up among a small Bellefontaine, Ohio, congregation with 50 members – just the right size for a kid like him to be as involved and hands-on as he wanted to be. After graduating from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana, he found his way to Cincinnati where he pastored for seven years before making Columbus home.


Along the way, Miller enjoyed looking inward and experiencing his faith on a more personal level. Only years later, he admitted, did he realize “it all connected – my faith, spirituality, social justice, everything,” he said.


And it all culminated last year when Espinal came into Miller’s life. “Someone like Edith is definitely living on the edge,” he said. “So I want to keep her story front and center, and elevate her voice. It’s one of many.”


The Rev. Joel Miller is pastor at Columbus Mennonite Church. He grew up on a farm in Bellefontaine, Ohio, but has lived as far away as Cairo, Egypt, before finding his way to Columbus, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. Learn more about Miller and his church at Get updates on Edith Espinal’s fight against deportation on Facebook’s Solidarity with Edith Espinal page.


Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.


Events, TEDxColumbus


The videos are live! The Videos are live! thanks to everyone for your patience as we worked to get them edited and posted. We hope that you will enjoy each talk and find a reason to share them over and over.

To view the 2017 playlist, CLICK HERE.

As we close out this year of TEDxColumbus TRUST 2017, we wanted to share a special note of thanks to everyone who helped make this year possible. It really is a massive team effort both from our sponsors to our year-round volunteers, day-of volunteers and a few key staff that make it all come together.

Our generous Sponsors

The Columbus Foundation
The Kridler Family Fund at the Columbus Foundation
The Ohio State University
Cardinal Health
The Kramer-Celeste Fund at the Columbus Foundation
Kaufman Development
Crane Group

In Kind Sponsors

Crimson Cup

Kind Bars
Rhythm Foods

From the curatorial team:

Kyei Amato
Rich Bowers
Meagan Buren
Acacia Duncan
Sandra Lopez
Judi Stillwell
David Staley

Our photographers:

Kimberly Cole
Ken Falk

Our registration team:

Allyson Kuentz
Kim Goldsmith
Rosie Wayton

Speaker Coaches

Meagan Buren
Acacia Duncan

Make up artist

MelRo Potter

Hair Stylists

And our loyal independent production partners and those from from Markeys, WOSU and CAPA:

Jen Kerns
Tanya Irelan
John Prosek
Donna Raque
Jane Lewis
Chris Skinner
Derek Werner
Kirby Roberts

We continue to respond to the interest from our community – from our speakers to our participants. This event and these ideas are thanks to a city who craves ideas, creates ideas, and wants to share them with the world. This event is all of ours.

With gratitude,

Ruth and Nancy



Events, TEDxColumbus


Dear TEDxColumbus Community:  

For those of you participating on Friday, below is your attendee guide! (If you aren’t coming, we will miss you and hope you watch the talks when they are posted online in December!)

Please make sure to share this with your guests.

1. Registration: When you arrive  – with ticket in hand, or collected at will-call – either give a volunteer your name and email or give them a business card. This is because we are required by TED to send you a very (very) quick survey after the event. If we don’t have your info, we can’t send the survey. No survey, no feedback. No feedback, we can’t improve!

2. Parking: We recommend the Columbus Commons lot.  Or take COTA, which drops off (#2) right in front of the Riffe Center.

3. Program:  We will begin at 1pm sharp. Please plan to arrive at the theatre by 12:30pm at the latest.
If you arrive late, you will be seated once the current speaker / performer has finished. 

4. Food: You will have lots of options for heavy snacks (healthy and not-so) that could make up a lunch or dinner. For those who enjoy coffee, Crimson Cup will be back with their terrific coffee station; for those who want a post-event cocktail, the bar will be open from 530-630pm for Happy Hour with more food. Reusable water bottles with copious amounts of cold water dispensers will be on hand all day.

5. Dress: As always, be comfortable and casual!

6. Social : Please use #tedxcbus in any posts on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter- before or after the event. We love the digital conversation but just not during the actual talks.

7. Tshirts: The official TEDx tshirt will be printed on demand in the lobby.

8. Did we miss anything?! Email us at

Can’t wait to see you all on Friday November 3rd! We know the speakers and presenters are even more excited. Come curious and ready to be provoked!

TEDxColumbus Organizing Team 




Events, TEDxColumbus


Dear TEDxColumbus Community:


We have two important announcements (announcements, announcements…!) on how high school students can attend and speak at TEDxColumbus: TRUST on November 3, 2017 at the Davidson Theatre at the Riffe Center.


First – Think “Field Trip.” 


At TEDxColumbus, we will repeat our main speaker program twice again this year, once in a morning session (8am-12pm) and again in the afternoon (1pm– 530pm). Attendees in the morning session may only be high schoolers attending with a classroom teacher from their school (limit 25 per school). Tickets will be free and students need to be transported together by their respective schools.


To apply for one of these “Field Trip” slots to bring students, teachers can fill out this form. We will accept groups on a first come first serve basis with an eye to including the broadest range of schools from across the area. We will also provide a discussion guide that draws on the program /speaker content for teachers to use before and after the event.


The afternoon session is as always, open to the public. Ticket sales will begin in mid-September through CAPA. Look for details to follow. Proceeds from the afternoon session will help underwrite the morning high school session.


Second – High Schoolers at Speakers!


Last year we had a whole session of high school speakers. This year, we will choose three to speak with our adult speakers during the morning session. They will each get coaching from our partners at TEDxOhioStateUniversity and an official TEDxColumbus video on YouTube. To apply to be a speaker for one of the High School speaker slots, please carefully follow the instructions inside this form. 


Lastly, we will announce our main speaker and performers in 2 weeks! As always, it will prove to be a provocative and memorable day, showcasing some of our area’s best talent and ideas.


Thanks to the continued support from our loyal partners at Resource/Ammirati, The Columbus Foundation, Cardinal Health, L Brands Foundation, The Ohio State University, Crane Group and The Kridler Family Foundation. Their underwriting assures us the ability to produce the highest quality event toward sharing our ideas as far as possible!


We look forward to sharing ideas with you on November 3rd!

TEDxColumbus Organizing Team


Click here to find a playlist of TEDxColumbus:RISK 2016 talks and performances.