The keynote address on the second day of DESIGN West 2013 was delivered not by an inventor, high-tech luminary or even an engineer, but the Emmy-nominated star of one of television's most popular sitcoms.
There's a catch, of course. In addition to holding down a starring role on The Big Band Theory—a sitcom that has a big following among engineers—Mayim Bialik also earned a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. Bialik treated DESIGN West attendees Wednesday (April 24) to a captivating hour-long discussion on topics ranging from her life in show businesses to her passion for neuroscience to a cause she believes in deeply, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.
For more than a year, Bialik has served as a spokeswoman for Texas Instruments Inc.'s TI-Nspire CX math and science learning technology. Her stated role in this capacity is to inspire teens to pursue STEM education and careers.
Bialik, like many people, believes it is important to encourage more young people to develop an interest in and passion for science. She believes its particularly important to encourage girls to look at STEM, because she says cultural forces in the U.S. push girls away from science at a very early age.
Bialik poses with a TI calculator.
With so much focus now on the importance of STEM education, Bialik said she is encouraged that discussions about STEM are trickling up to the highest levels of government. "The fact that its being spoken about like that at the White House level is important," she said.
Bialik largely deflected questions on the nuts and bolts of getting more young people excited about STEM education, saying questions on curriculum and the structure of education were best left to more qualified people. But she did say she believes in a practical, very hands-on approach to the topic.
"Simply telling people that STEM is important and that you can get a career in STEM doesn't work," Bialik said.