Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik: "I Consider Myself a Scientist More Than I Do an Actress"
Most of you might recognize her as Sheldon Cooper's equally awkward girlfriend on The Big Bang Theory. Some of you might even pinpoint her for the quirky, '90s golden child who wore oversized sunflowers on her head from the TV sitcom Blossom. Or, if you really want to throw it back, a "Hey, isn't that the girl from Beaches?" might even come to mind.
Photo by: Nycole Sariol
But really, Mayim Bialik is just a girl with a Ph.D. trying to make science look cool.
Last night the two-time Emmy nominee graced the Wolfe University Center as guest speaker for "The Big Bang Theory - Making Science Cool and Fun" lecture series at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus. The series was focused on Bialik's journey as an actress and neuroscientist and how the two somehow intertwine -- divinely. "Everyone's got a story to tell," the acting savant humbly states. But hers was the story that would highlight the night.
The Lecture kicked off with a little background check. She delved deep into her Jewish roots. The arrival of her immigrant grandparents from Eastern Europe to Elis Island, being raised with the Jewish language of love - Yiddish - and her sincere affinity for attending a reformed synagogue instilled social justice as a fundamental life component.
"I learned to survive," she said when speaking about her less than picture-perfect upbringing.
Photo by: Nycole Sariol
It wasn't until Bialik and her family uprooted their Long-Island life for betterment in California that things started to look up.
"My parents opened something called the 'Yellow pages'," Mayim jokes (This is where Sheldon would lean over and ask "Was that sarcasm?") "Some of you might not know what that is, so I'm going to explain," looking into the sea of FIU undergrads, she briefly explained the primitive manuscript of phone numbers and its function.
"My parents looked up agents under 'A' and typed a letter on a typewriter. True story. You know, that box with keys and at the end that goes 'DING!'" the sarcasm further unraveled. "They typed a letter, put it in an envelop with a stamp, and the agents that were interested based on the letter, contacted and met with me."
Soon after, the then-Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand doppelgänger landed guest spots on classics like Webster and MacGyver which carried her to the most pivotal role of her career -- playing a young "C.C" Bloom (ironically played by Bette Midler in adult form) in the 1988 film, Beaches. The roaring success of of which inevitably gave Bialik her own show, Blossom. The move transformed Mayim into an official child star.
After Blossom ended, Bialik ditched acting to focus on a little something called school -- but a good student she was not. Posing as a role model for all of those who never make the Dean's List, Mayim admitted that she "was not a great student by any stretch of the imagination." In fact, she was unanimously known for her careless errors and was known as a bit of a hopeless case in the math and science arena.
So if math and science were never naturally her thing, why a career in neuroscience?
"I just felt like that's the level of understanding of the human experience that I'd like to have. Every sensation we have, every emotion, every psychological process has a root in voltage that needs to release a neurotransmitter. I think that's amazing and I wanted to study that," says the UCLA graduate with both a bachelors and Ph.D. in neuroscience.