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 Stars

In 2024, we will be selecting 5 COSI STEAM Stars – with each STEAM Star representing a point of a star. These STEAM heroes, nominated by the general public and partner communities, showcase that science, technology, engineering, art, and math are for everyone.

We need your help finding these champions and ask you to nominate members of the community who deserve recognition for their work. We encourage you to give special consideration to diversity
when making a nomination for a STEAM Star candidate in order to best represent our diverse Ohio
community through the COSI STEAM Star program.

The winners will be announced to the public and honored at the 2024 Big Science Celebration outside COSI on May 4, 2024.

Nominate a 2024 STEAM Star

Submit a nomination via the linked form.
Submissions due by 5pm on March 8, 2024.

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.