Tiziano Bernard ’15, ’16 M.S.,’18 Ph.D., grew up traveling. But when his parents would ask him where he wanted to go on their next adventure, his response was always the same:
“I don’t care where we go, as long as we fly there.”
As Bernard grew, so did the breadth of his passion for flight, and his fascination with aeronautics matured into a vocation for aerospace.
In 2011, that vocation carried Bernard across the globe—yes, by plane—from Trieste, Italy, where he was born and raised, to Florida Tech.
Before he left, his father challenged him to leave a mark on the world, big or small, by age 26.
Since then, he has earned a trio of degrees from Florida Tech.
He has become an FAA licensed pilot.
He has trained with world-renowned experimental test pilot Professor Ralph Kimberlin.
He has designed an award-winning Mars rover.
He has submitted a provisional patent for the work he did earning his Ph.D. with cognitive engineering expert Professor Lucas Stephane.
He has gained employment as an aviation systems & human factors engineer at Garmin International, one of Forbes’ top five best large employers in the U.S.
He has been selected to write about scientific facts and Italo-American relations and curiosities as a collaborator for Italian newspaper il Giornale.
And, most recent, he has graced the pages of Forbes Italia as one of the publication’s“30 Under 30” young trailblazers in their industries.
He turns 27 this September.
But, goal accomplished, he’s far from done.
“I hate mediocrity,” Bernard says. “I hate the idea of stalling, of saying ‘this is good enough.’ That does not exist in my head.”
Bernard attended high school at the International School of Trieste, a private school run by Americans. So to him, it made sense to continue with this education style—which he understands to be more applied and less theoretical than Italy’s—for college.
Knowing that he wanted to study aerospace engineering, Florida Tech’s location in the heart of the Space Coast, roots with NASA, attached flight school and well-developed international admissions program were major selling points when he was deciding where to go for his bachelor’s degree.
Once he got here, he was sold.
“I must say, the university really does an amazing job keeping everybody involved and, at the same time, inspired,” Bernard says. “Whether I was in class, in the dorm with my roommate and friends or just wandering around in Melbourne, I really did feel at home.”
And home it was for the next seven years of his life.
As an undergraduate, he earned his pilot’s license and led his team to win the Northrop Grumman Student Design & Research Showcase with the development of a Mars rover that went on to compete in the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge.
He went on to become the first graduate of Florida Tech’s flight test engineering master’s degree program, simultaneously working as a flight test engineer for the Human-Centered Design Institute. His work flight testing a Boeing 737 simulator at this time caught the attention of the dean and prompted his offer for a Ph.D. in human-centered design, which Bernard gladly accepted.
As a doctoral student, he worked on embedded wearable sensors for the Enhanced Space Navigation and Orientation Suit that later Florida Tech students built upon to earn NASA grant funding for development.
“In my master’s, I was looking at purely systems-related causal factors for loss of control in aviation, which is what I think of as my expertise,” he says. “Later, with my Ph.D., I looked at the human aspect of that same problem.”
From airplane to Mars Rover to space suit to cockpit, what’s the common thread?
“Flight tests. That’s the link that pulls everything together,” Bernard says. “In a flight test, I am able to see so many different things coming together for the aircraft. Even nowadays in my work, I cannot think solely about one component—I think about the big picture all the time.”
This high-level perspective is vital when evaluating the new systems, simulators and aircraft Bernard assesses in his daily work at Garmin.
“We make sure the design, the look, the feel of the components are very similar, so there is minimal transition or educational need from one system to another,” he says. “We make sure it’s all flawless and matching.”
With the mix of advanced technology, constant new developments and high-pressure stakes pilots face each time they enter the cockpit, it is important they never reach the point of overcomplexity.
That’s when accidents happen.
“Because, physiologically, human beings are not designed to fly; they aren’t designed to go to space,” Bernard says. “We’re doing something we’re not supposed to do, and that absolutely fascinates me.”
Bernard isn’t the only one fascinated by his work, as he was pleased to find out via email from the Forbes reporter wanting to interview him for the annual “30 Under 30” feature.
“The fact that Forbes recognized me from the other side of the world is very reassuring and shows me that what I’m doing has value,” he says.
Following was a whirlwind of emails, interviews and photo shoots—often at strange hours of the day to accommodate the seven-hour time difference.
“I’m not working in Italy, but I am Italian, and I will always be Italian,” he says. “Science does not belong to a country—it is without borders, and I think that’s a very strong message.”