The COSI STEAM Star initiative honors ordinary people doing extraordinary STEAM work, highlighting the scientists that live among us and provide us with a deep connection to the community-wide spirit of the festival. STEAM champions showcase exemplary work by leveraging the power of science to improve the quality of life for us all, in central Ohio and beyond.

2024 STEAM Star award winners

2024 COSI Science Festival Grand Marshal, Deputy Operations for US Space Command

Rear Admiral Tracy Hines is a native of Columbus, Ohio and a graduate of Mifflin High School. She was the first black woman admiral in the information professional community and currently leads deputy operations for US Space Command. She received her commission through the Limited Duty Officer Program in 1996 and is a 2004 graduate of American InterContinental University with a degree in Business Management. She laterally transferred into the Information Warfare community in 2007. She received a master’s degree in Information Technology Cyber Forensics from Trident University in 2009. Hines’ personal awards include the Legion of Merit (three awards), Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (Yve awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards).

C.E.O., See Brilliance

Nathan Lee Roy Harris, Ph.D., is an educator and visionary leader passionate about empowering youth and families through education. With over four years of academic leadership and teaching experience in the education sector, he is an experienced STEAM instructor. As the President of See Brilliance, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide educational opportunities rooted in Black and Latinx cultures, Nathan is committed to equipping young people with the tools they need to discover their innate brilliance. In his journey, Nathan frequently reminds himself and others that he is the embodiment of his ancestors’ wildest dreams. He believes that by honoring the past and investing in the future, he can change the trajectory of countless young lives.

Founder, the bee collective

Luke Howard founded a grassroots effort organization, the bee collective, based in the science of food production, environmental stewardship, wildlife, and human health. Luke’s personal mission and the mission of the bee collective is to create pollinator habitats in urban spaces and provide education for the city. His goal is to share a childlike sense of wonder with his community to appreciate our collective backyard. the bee collective’s largest project to date is a collaborative art project where they connect artists with honeybees to make unique sculptures to raise awareness for the pollinator habitat creation projects. His work to make sure bees have opportunities to pollinate, survive and thrive, that then ensures humans have food to eat to survive and thrive is inspiring.

Owner and Operator, RedTree Tattoo Gallery, Organizer, Hell City Tattoo Festival

Durb Morrison is a renowned, award-winning tattoo artist with over 38 years of experience, known for his involvement in organizing the Hell City Tattoo Fest. Durb owns RedTree Tattoo Gallery, Ohio’s largest tattoo studio, and True Tattoo Supply, Ohio’s largest tattoo supply company. His work has been featured on TLC, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel. He specializes in traditional tattoo styles with vibrant colors, attracting tattoo and art collectors worldwide including many popular rock bands over the years as well! At RedTree Tattoo Gallery, he spends his days tattooing clients, managing the Hell City Tattoo Fest, or overseeing True Tattoo Supply. Durb travels extensively, consulting and attending international tattoo conventions and teaching his seminars, while his artwork is showcased in galleries and published in magazines and books. Durb brings science and art together through his deep passion for the art of tattoos. His relationship with those in the tattoo and body modification community has brought a new level of appreciation for both science and art through his work.

Distinguished University Professor, Dean of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, The Ohio State University

Dr. Susan Olesik received her A.S. from Vincennes University, B.S. from DePauw University and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University and at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has been a faculty member at The Ohio State University since 1986 and is currently a University Distinguished Professor and the Dean of Natural and Mathematical Sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences. She is an analytical chemist with expertise in separation science and mass spectrometry.
In 1999, she initiated the Wonders of Our World (W.0.W.) Science Outreach Program assisting teachers in hands-on science experiments and exposing students to scientists. This program serves 1500-2000 students and 75-100 teachers per year. Schools that participate for its 3-year term have shown significant improvements in their science and math standardized test scores. Since 2010, she has served as the co-director of scholarship programs that focus on supporting STEM students with significant financial need. These scholarship programs serve approximately 150 undergraduates a year. Both scholarship programs have greater than 90% graduation rates.

2023 STEAM Star award winners

Science Teacher; Alpha School

Jeff Baker is a science teacher that goes the extra mile to impact kids that need a second chance. Nominated by Judge Luann Cooperider in Perry County, Jeff works directly with children in the juvenile detention system to engage youth in STEAM while inspiring and mentoring them as they face challenges around life. He also worked alongside [his school] to receive the Wild School Site honor from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to give his students better access to science and nature.

Professional Glass Artist & Instructor And Assistant Director of Glass Axis

Alexandra Fresch is a glass artist who shares her knowledge and talent with those around her. From students wanting to try glassmaking for themselves, to kids on a school field trip learning about the glass process – everyday, Alexandra has the distinct pleasure to share her knowledge of glass art and science. She loves that glassmaking is never boring and is always challenging her to learn something new.

Environmental Educator & Nature Coach

Nicole Jackson is an environmental educator, nature coach, and naturalist. Her focus is developing opportunities for black women to connect with nature for their mental health. Nicole has always had a fascination with the connections between science and nature, and learning about nature’s amazing adaptations and how human inventions are inspired by nature is something she wants to share with anyone and everyone. Nicole has also worked to co-organize “Black Birders Week” – a week dedicated to helping everyone experience the joy of birding.

Breast Surgical Oncologist, Mount Carmel

Medicine is more than a career for Dr. Shilpa Padia. After losing her father to cancer in high school, Dr. Padia knew that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Driven by her passion for increasing the quality of care cancer patients receive, and helping them to maintain a positive outlook, Dr. Padia is an accomplished surgeon and oncologist in the Mt. Carmel Health System. In addition to her work with patients, Dr. Padia runs a robust mentorship program where she spends hours working to mentor and inspire the next generation of physicians, typically dedicating over 90 hours of her time to each mentee.

Executive Director & Co-Founder of BirdieLight

Dr. Beth Weinstock and Olivia Weinstock were driven to create BirdieLight, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness around the dangers of Fentanyl in drugs and distribution tools to prevent overdose, through personal tragedy. In 2021, Dr. Weinstock and Olivia lost their son and brother, respectively, Eli. Eli had unknowingly consumed the deadly drug known as fentanyl, and unexpectedly passed away as a result. Dr. Weinstock and Olivia have made it their mission to bring goodness out of their tragedy, and work through BirdieLight to ensure that people are aware of the dangers of fentanyl, including the ability to detect the drug through test strips. Dr. Weinstock and Olivia have given away thousands of fentanyl testing strips since founding BirdieLight.

2022 STEAM Star award winners

Senior Prototype Specialist for Priority Designs, Maker of The Musket V Twin Motorcycle

Aniket Vardhan first visited COSI for the architecture, not the science– but things have certainly changed since then! As a self-taught motorcycle expert, Vardhan followed his passion for mechanical design & motorcycles to create his own optimized engine design! After years of work, challenges, and dedicated learning Vardhan successfully created the Musket v twin engine. The importance of passion’s role in innovation can’t be understated– and there’s no better example than Aniket Vardhan!

Co-Founder & SVP of Product Development at Forge Biologics

Dr.De Silva is both Co-Founder & SVP of Product Development at Forge Biologics, a company focused on enabling access to life-changing gene therapies and helping bring them from an idea into reality. Her work is on the front lines of progress in the medical field, and with her specialties in everything from molecular biology to infectious disease, it’s not hard to see why! She, like all of our STEAM Stars, works to leverage the power of science to improve the quality of life for us all, in Central Ohio and beyond.

Associate Professor of Medicine, Stem Cell Therapy Lab, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Sumithira Vasu has dedicated her career to taking care of patients at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Vasu uses her expertise in STEAM to support patients with life-threatening diseases and help build a path for them to resume living full, healthy lives. Her work developing new therapies and bringing it to patients through clinical trials has been instrumental in bringing hope & healing to many of our friends, neighbors and community members.

Iditarod’s 2022 Teacher on the Trail, Teacher at Hilliard City Schools

Jim Deprez spends his days not just advocating for STEM education–but jumping right in as an educator himself! Along with supporting the growth of our community’s young minds, Jim Deprez also served as the Iditarod’s Teacher on the Trail for 2022. He flew from checkpoint to checkpoint, following the race, interviewing mushers, and creating lesson activities & prompts for classrooms all over the country. Today’s students are tomorrow’s STEM Stars– and they’ve found an excellent teacher to help get them there.

Doctor, State Representative for Ohio House, District 21

Representative Dr. Beth Liston has served as a doctor in Columbus for over a decade! As a doctor, mother, professor, and State Representative for Ohio House, District 21– Dr. Beth Liston has a varied & lengthy resume! Through it all, her passion for using science to improve the quality of life for us all, in central Ohio and beyond, has remained central to her work. Both her work as a medical professional and her fierce advocacy for science education, comes from someone who deeply understands the importance of STEAM literacy. Now, her work as our Representative supports and champions the diverse needs of our community.