COSI president and CEO Frederic Bertley (photo courtesy of COSI)
Ohio Life

Frederic Bertley on Science and Style

The COSI president and CEO talked with us about the King Tut exhibition, getting people excited about science and Columbus as a fashion capital. 

Frederic Bertley reverberates cool. Even though he’s an immunologist and the president and CEO of Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, he’s more comfortable in Chuck Taylor sneakers and jeans than he is a suit and tie or a lab coat (though he effortlessly rocks those, too). Plus, his outgoing personality could light up a Tesla coil.

A native of Montreal, Canada, he fell in love with science after tinkering with a handheld ColecoVision video game that was chewing through batteries faster than he liked. His experiment of rewiring it with a lamp plug worked only for a few glorious seconds.

“That literally sparked my curiosity about this natural world that is pretty darn cool,” says Bertley, who joined COSI in early 2017. “Since then, I’ve been hooked on being curious and asking questions.”

Ahead of the March 18 opening of COSI’s newest exhibition, “Tutankhamun — His Tomb and His Treasures,” we talked with Bertley about King Tut, science literacy and fashion. 

Why are you excited about the King Tut exhibition?
People, especially as kids, love Egyptology. There’s just something about those masks and the pyramids that draws us. That civilization really understood science and engineering, and like my video game, things like this spark curiosity in your mind and will allow people to wonder and think creatively, which is a tenant of science and science exploration. It’s just a beautiful exhibit. They lay out how the tomb looked when Howard Carter, who discovered it in 1922, first saw it. 

Why did you go from being an immunologist to a science museum CEO? 
We are dependent on science. We wake up in the morning and see who texted us, we have GPS to get around, the food we eat is genetically modified. Yet, there’s growing science illiteracy. And one of the biggest problems is us scientists. We make it uncomfortable for the average person to get into it. I want more people to enjoy science. By leaving the research lab and going to a museum, I can have a much bigger impact on getting people excited. 

What’s an interesting thing that you discovered when you moved to Columbus?
I love style and fashion. It is one of those spaces where you actually have 100% control over how you present yourself to the world. So, I’m ashamed I had no idea L Brands and Abercrombie & Fitch was based in this region. But then you’ve got this whole stylist community and these smaller firms and institutions here that are all about fashion education and development right here in Columbus. For me to stumble on that, it was just really cool.

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