Speaker Project Series: Mario Cardullo


I know very little about engineering, inventions, and how things work on a mechanical level. I observe as things move, hear them make noise, and that’s about it. In high school, I signed up for an AP Chemistry class, telling myself I’d be educated on why things work and how it happens. After getting a well deserved C+, I decided to stick to Social Studies and English courses. I also decided it must be near impossible to comprehend engineering and science while also fully rounding out your education in other areas and that was why STEM majors stick to STEM and humanities majors stick to humanities. Key phrase to remember: near impossible.
Walking up to Dr. Cardullo’s home made me uneasy. How could I possibly relate to a man who had so much knowledge about a topic I could never grasp? What if he used science jargon I didn’t understand? My fear of seeming incompetent or uneducated about inventions and innovation overtook me for a few moments. Waiting on his doorstep, the only experience that came to mind to talk about was my second grade science project about why the sky was blue, and obviously that would not be enough for an in-depth interview of a man with upwards of five patents and an extensive knowledge of science and engineering.

As soon as he opened the door, it was clear that my concerns were unwarranted. With a bright smile on his face, he offered us biscotti and cappuccinos as he asked us about our families, and  classes. My worries were instantly eased, and I no longer felt like I was speaking with a renowned inventor, rather a father, and genuinely kind person. As the interview began, he told us stories about growing up in Brooklyn. He loved to create things, to build trains and theorize what would happen to men on the moon. He spoke about everything from radio shows to his family members. 

Yet, when I asked him about how he simplifies scientific processes to people outside the world of engineering, he spoke about ionizing mercury and using “UV to excite phosphorus” with the same ease and contagious passion. He talked about his invention of the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and told us about ideas for its future, be it placed in cars or in European clothing. It became clear that engineering was not Dr. Cardullo’s job. It was simply another one of his passions. Yes, the majority of what he is known for surrounds his patents and inventions, but he finds equal joy in all of his accomplishments, from his cooking endeavours, to his continually growing family, to the future of his ideas and the ways they can change the world.
Over the course of our time with Mr. Cardullo, I realized that he was much more than an inventor. He showed us a collection of statues that were discovered on the Syrian border and spoke about them like a history professor. He showed us volumes of cook books he wrote on Renaissance cuisine and shared some of his favorite recipes. Dr. Mario Cardullo is not only an inventor and a prestigious engineer, he is a chef, a father, and a historian. He showed me that no one has to be assigned a single career or passion and that there is so much more value in “eating your mistakes,” looking forward, and feeling good about yourself. He perfectly balances STEM and humanities, showing that a well rounded education comes with rounded passions. Do what you love, and success and happiness will follow.

You can watch Dr. Cardullo's TEDxFoggyBottom talk here!

The TEDxFoggyBottom Team