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.
Given that she specifically asked that folks in the audience NOT record her talk (so she could be more honest in her talk), I really hope that UBM does NOT have an MP3 of her complete talk. In any case, I found this one of the best, fun, light-hearted, wimsical, warm, heart-felt, and funny general talks I've listened to in a very long time. Yes, I like her character. Yes, we share a cultural heritage. And yes, I love the show. But the talk really was worth attending. Wish I was one of the lucky 25 or so that got to actually meet her after her talk. UBM, thanks for inviting her!
I think it would be useful for those who disparage her choice to be an actress instead of a research scientist if UBM cold post an MP3 recording of her complete talk, so those folks who write from ignorance might be enlightened. I, for one, think her talk was quite appropriate as a keynote address, and I was there.
You know, while I keep hearing how science and engineering are not perceived as "cool," I've never given that a second thought. Assuming it's even true, I thought science was "cool" ever since grade school.
What's not cool is stupid people. So fundamentally, who cares what stupid people think? How has that ever mattered? That's what I don't get. Why do we obsess over the preferences of dimwits?
While I'm sure she was paid to speak, I never once heard her ask for funding or subsidies.
She was talking about how she got in to the sciences.
I for one want to see more women in science and engineering. There is nothing about the male mind that makes it inherently superior in engineering and science.
Our cultural biasing starts very young when we give our girls tea sets, easy bake ovens and Barbie while we give our boys Lego, remote control cars and GI Joe.
I like smart women and there aren't nearly enough who make their way through life on their brains.
What ever you think of her current career choice, she didn't get her job because of her ass.
She is a spokesman because she is visible on a very popular TV show and a positive role model (at least in contrast to the neurotic males and ditzy blonde).
By the way, I've never heard anyone complain when a guy gets an engineering degree on full scolarship and then decides to go into pro football.
Professions are not inherently honorable, people are individually honorable. We see that whether its law physics, or engineering.
Most engineers have no desire to make a living on a sit-com. I'm not sure where you cam up with this putative objective statement.
Just because you endorse and respect Stem makes it neither objectively effective nor desirable. Please stop putting for your own personal predilections and affections as consensus inspired wisdom.
Its also completely inappropriate to have a non-engieer, comedy TV actor actress be a keynote speaker for an engineering convention. Apparently some of you think very little of your vocation to endorses such misplaced good intentions, just because it fits you political agenda or subjective world view. I wonder if the next AMA convention will have a fake doctor from Greys anatomy on giving non-sequitor speeches and be praised for their insight and intelligence.