From Lab to Primetime: Actress and Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik visits SLU

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From Lab to Primetime: Actress and Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik visits SLU

The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today.

Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today. Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today. Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today. Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

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The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today. Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

The best of both worlds: Known as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik elaborated on the parallel worlds of science and acting that define who she is today.
Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

On Thursday, Nov. 30, SLU Great Issues Committee hosted neuroscientist and actress Mayim Bialik, who spoke about the intersection of her scientific and acting careers.  SLU students poured into the Wool Ballrooms to listen to Bialik’s speech, which revealed glimpses of both her quick-witted humor and undeniable intellect, as she tackled subjects such as science, childcare and body image.

Many people know Mayim Bialik from her role as the neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s hit show “The Big Bang Theory.”  What fewer people may be aware of, however, is that Bialik is a scientist who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience, from UCLA.

Bialik began her speech by explaining how her heritage encouraged her to start acting.  The granddaughter of three immigrants to America, Bialik was raised Jewish.  “The Jewish heritage is very performance oriented,” she explained, “so I grew up with a habit of expressing myself that way.”

Bialik also shared the driving forces that encouraged her to begin her science education.  Having already experienced success as an actress on the TV show “Blossom,” Bialik chose to study neuroscience at UCLA, after completing high school.  She attributes her courage to tackle such a challenging major to the biology tutor who worked with her during her time on “Blossom.”

“This one woman, this amazing woman, was my biology tutor, and that’s how I fell in love with science. Math and science never came easy to me, but she gave me the skill set and the confidence to be a scientist.”

Bialik expressed that one of the benefits of the intersection of her science and acting careers lies in her ability to get young women involved in science, the same way her biology tutor inspired her.  “I put a female face on STEM.  For young people, that’s sometimes all that’s needed in terms of introducing the notion of female scientists into their brains.”

Additionally, she noted that the fame she has gained from “The Big Bang Theory” gives her the ability to get more people excited about science in general.  The recognition she has gained as an actress makes audiences interested in what she has to say.  “I speak at national conventions and at teacher conventions; I’m grateful for that platform that allows me to support science,” she explained.

Despite her many successes, Bialik’s life has not been free of challenges.  Although she originally planned to become a research professor after obtaining her Ph.D., Bialik began reconsidering this choice after having her first son.  “I wanted to be able to do it all, but I needed to give more of my time to my children than the academic world would allow.”  Bialik eventually chose to go back to acting in order to have more time to spend with her two sons.  Although she explained that there would have been no such thing as a perfect choice in this situation, she is confident she made the decision that was best for her and for her children.  “I am very grateful I spent my children’s most formative years with them.  I was there 24/7.”

Bialik also discussed how she has responded to some of the pressures of the acting industry.  She spoke of her belief in dressing modestly and the challenges it has brought along with it.  “What I wear is a big issue.  I don’t do strapless and I don’t do above the knee.”  She went on to explain that because of her modest fashion choices, some stylists refuse to work with her.  Bialik, however, remains true to herself and continues to dress as she feels is appropriate, despite the fact that her modest fashion may not be the norm in Hollywood.

“For me, modesty is the utmost part of my feminism,” Bialik stated.  “I think that the body is a very special and sacred thing.  It is completely empowering for me to control.  Not for you to control or some designer to control.”

For Bialik, it is all about making the choices that she knows are right for herself.  Through her discussion of the challenges she has faced both as an actress and scientist, she made it clear to SLU students that the hard choices in life are all about staying true to oneself. “If you’re weird, you don’t get less like that,” she explained.  “You just start caring less what other people think about it.”

From Blossom to Bazinga: As a child star on Blossom in the 80s and an adult actor on the CBS hit The Big Bang Theory, Bialik’s life has been deeply shaped by acting; she took a hiatus to pursue a doctorate, but she was unexpectedly drawn back to the craft. Deirdre Kerins/ The University News

From Blossom to Bazinga: As a child star on Blossom in the 80s and an adult actor on the CBS hit The Big Bang Theory, Bialik’s life has been deeply shaped by acting; she took a hiatus to pursue a doctorate, but she was unexpectedly drawn back to the craft.
Deirdre Kerins/ The University News