We all have our Science heroes that we look up and draw inspiration from. Men & women who give us concepts and tools to make sense of our complex world. Tell us who your science hero is, and we will share Your Story with the world. #ScienceHero
Story by Talar Terzian
When one initially reflects upon who might be a science hero, a corporate executive does not usually come to mind, especially one that you have never met in real life, face to face. Well, dreams do come true sometimes in the digital world. In fact, I had the chance to connect with the great “Mr. Rogers of Engineering” by sheer luck as part of the PepsiCo Food Waste and Loss Prevention Challenge I competed in with my team as a member of the Junior Academy of the New York Academy of Sciences. My virtual science hero is like no other person I know. He is Dr. Ronald Fritz, a PepsiCo statistician, industrial engineer and global problem solver. No, he does not teach at a university, run a funded research lab, or have a well-known invention attached to his name, but he does possess the qualities that make up a science hero. Patient, inspiring, inquisitive, responsive, articulate, worldly, resourceful and communicative are just a few of the adjectives I would use to describe my interactions with this great mind of a man.
After 1000s of emails back and forth, Dr. Fritz has done one of the hardest tasks there is to do in today’s digital world: become human. His constant questioning of my ideas, and pushing me to reflect upon the myriad of possibilities that any given project has to offer transcended the computer screen and moved me to reach deep inside myself to find connections to seemingly disconnected parts. He became human in the digital world the minute he forgot the clock and responded to my queries at all hours of the day or night. Sharing both his knowledge of engineering, product design and data analysis he encouraged me to view the results and data I was seeing in as many ways and from as many different lens and angles as humanly possible. He opened my eyes to the benefits of statistical data and the lens through which it is viewed, much like Annie Sullivan did for Helen Keller while she served as her teacher, unlocking a world of knowledge and communication through physical experiences and in this case model building and data collection.
Dr. Fritz has demonstrated how to consider the impact of multiple variables and how their relationship may be incidental or causal. He pushed me to always keep thinking of Blue Sky ideas, to ask questions, to redesign, and to respond to the real world situations my target population faces on a daily basis. It has been the greatest honor to work with Dr. Ronald Fritz and although, at first glance you may not think of him as a classic science hero, I urge you to always look deeper because even in the digital world someone who inspires you may only be an email away. Who knows, you may even have the chance to connect the “Neverland” of the digital world with reality, as I did at the Global STEM Alliance Summit in New York City where I had the opportunity to present my research and connect in person with My Science Hero, watching as the digital world leapt off the screen and into the World Trade Center, as text once again took on a human form.
Talar Terzian is a member of the Junior Academy of the New York Academy of Sciences. For the PepsiCo Food Waste and Loss Prevention Challenge she worked together with a team on a solution to wastage in vegetables and produce in Sub-Saharan Africa. Together they invented an off the grid cooling system which prolongs shelf life of produce by 4 times the normal time. No electricity is needed. They were selected as finalists and won the second place.