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.
This woman is not an engineer and not qualified to speak at Design West. I also have no interest in another wistful idealist asking for special funding, handouts, or subsidies to promote their gender agendas. Its wonderful she did X,Y, or Z to support her situation, however I'm not fiscally responsible for her life decisions. She was a completely inappropriate keynote speaker, and having attended design west I made an concerted effort to avoid her speech.
If you had attended, you would know she decided to act for the SAG health insurance and it wound up turning in to a recurring role.
She also works for TI and is basically paid to be a strong female role model for young girls in school and she excels at that.
STEM for girls is a great thing, just like it's great for boys.
Due to the essentially feudal - piratical - mercantile - show biz evolution and resulting social & cultural conditioning in English speaking countries, Scientists & Engineers are not considered cool here ( in contrast to, say in Germanic countries ). In the US we also have the additional problem of Scientists & Engineers doing their job so well ( at least since the Apollo program ) that their contribution is easily trivialized & ignored, very often their enormous contribution appropriated by the "English Major MBAs & Lawyers " better at PR. Also there is a surplus of good Scientists & Engineers as the best from the rest of the World are still attracted to these shores. Compared to scientists & Engineers, Medical Doctors do a better job of maintaining their social standing. Perhaps instead of passively keeping their nose to the Corporate grindstone, Scientists & Engineers here ought to think of self - promotion along those lines. That would produce the most convincing arguments for kids to get into and stay in STEM programs.
Don't for get that the role she is playing on television is of a neuroscientist.
Contrast this with Lisa Kudrow, who played the dimwitted Phoebe on Friends. She also studied neurobiology with her father and brother (who are well known in their field), though she gave it up to pursue acting.
With Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or the millions of other actors or celebrities who wouldn't know a neuron from their nosehair, I find it depressing that you choose to criticize an actor who went on to get a PhD in neurology, then chose to bring up her children while playing a scientist in a very STEM-friendly comedy show.
She did earn a PhD in a field that is far from trivial. So she gets my respect for that, no doubt. That she decided to pursue something more frivolous - although lucrative! - does detract some. You know, a little bit like the Hollywood sweatheart, Reese Witherspoon, and her inebreated outburst at the poor traffic cop.
Well, this is the real world. Let's not be so hasty to put people on pedestals. That's my advice.
"then decided to go back to acting because she could"
Don't forget the boatloads of money. Such hypocracy!!
Code.org is the same thing, ex-presidents and rappers telling kids to program so that there are more (to paraphrase Sheldon) Oompa Loompas to design geegaws and whatchamacallits.
Yes, I see your point. And maybe for an audience of engineers even more so. But her typcial audience is more hetergeneous, and many young people in particular can relate to her and realize that if she thinks STEM is "ccol" maybe they should not completely dismiss a career in a STEM field.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.