Mayim Bialik, who stars on hit sitcom, also happens to hold a PhD in neuroscience and is passionate about the importance of STEM education.
In her early years attending
public schools in Los Angeles, Bialik said she was not initially drawn
to science and that science and math did not come easy for her. "From a
very early age, I got the message that I wasn't cut out to be a science
person at all," Bialik said.
Bialik said she initially enjoyed
geometry—she found something about it very beautiful—but that that
didn't come easily to her, either, and was never something she thought
she would study in greater detail.
"I got the message from the
culture in my schools that if something doesn't come easily to you that
means you are not good at it. I don't believe that's true," Bialik said.
Inspired by role model
some success in show business—she appeared in several television series
before being cast as the young Bett Midler in the movie Beaches and
eventually getting her own TV show, Blossom—Bialik said she ended up
doing a lot of her school by working one on one with a tutor. The tutor,
a woman in her early 20s who was attending dental school at the time,
changed Bialik's life. The tutor was the first young woman in Bialik's
life who was passionate about science.
"This was the woman that
gave me the skill set and the confidence and passion to believe that I
could be a scientist," Bialik said.
Bialik ended up at UCLA,
where she studied all the way through receiving her PhD. She considered
several disciplines before ultimately settled on neurology after she
"feel in love" with the neuron.
"To anyone who has ever fallen
in love with the neuron, it's a powerful experience," Bialik quipped.
She engaged in light-hearted banter with questioners in the audience of
mostly engineers that "neuroscience is the best science."
completing her PhD, Bialik considered a career in academia or research.
Ultimately, though, she chose to go back into acting to allow her to
spend more time with her sons, a decision she called intensely personal.
Asked if she was optimistic that the many efforts underway to
encourage more young people to pursue STEM education and careers would
lead to measurable change in a cultural that most often glamorizes other
things, Bialik responded that she was "optimistic, but also realistic."
in her role as a TI spokeswoman and in other opportunities she has to
promote STEM—such as the DESIGN West keynote—she is able to inspire a
handful of young students or teachers that can in turn inspire others
the way her tutor inspired her, Bialik believes she will have made a