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Mayim Bialik talks growing up, scientific research amid Hollywood fame

Mayim Bialik speaks at the Ohio Union on March 20. Credit: Alex Hulvalchick | Lantern reporter


Mayim Bialik admitted she was late to the party in researching for her audition on “The Big Bang Theory.” She said she initially knew none of the characters’ established quirks, and in her first scene filming on the show’s living room set, she made the mistake of sitting in the character Sheldon’s spot.

“I felt awkward, and I didn’t know where I fit in the set,” Bialik said. “So I asked the director, ‘Should I sit here?’ and the director said, ‘No, Mayim, you can’t sit there. That’s Sheldon’s spot.’”

While she wasn’t immediately at home in “The Big Bang Theory,” before she was on the show, she found a place in the STEM field, studying neuroscience.

Monday night, Bialik shared her thoughts on science education and her experiences in show business during a keynote presented by OUAB entitled “Meeting of the Minds.” The Journal of Undergraduate Research, Buckeyes for Israel and the Minority Association of Pre-Medicine Students collaborated to bring the OUAB event to Ohio State.

Bialik is an actress and neuroscientist known for her roles as the title character on NBC’s early 1990s sitcom “Blossom,” and as Amy Farrah Fowler in CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which is currently in its 10th season.

She began her address by telling the audience about her start in show business. She recalled her love of acting and performing in programs at the synagogue where her mother worked as a child, but was never serious about the profession until her parents hired a talent agent for her.

“I was a late bloomer for a child star,” she said. “I was never particularly showy.”

After her breakout role as a younger version of Bette Midler’s character in the 1988 film “Beaches,” 15-year-old Bialik was signed with NBC to the pilot episode of “Blossom,” which went on to air for five seasons.

Bialik said her parents hired a biology tutor for her while she was filming for the show. She said she did not value the publicity and scrutiny that came with Hollywood fame, she was inspired to pursue a science education after finishing high school.

Although she ended up in STEM field, Bialik said she struggled with math growing up.

“At the time, the assumption was if you didn’t excel in something, then it wasn’t for you,” she said.

Bialik earned an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from UCLA, with minors in Hebrew and Jewish studies. She earned a doctorate degree in neuroscience from the same university in 2007. Her dissertation analyzed the activity of the hypothalamus in patients with a rare genetic disease.

She said her involvement in the STEM field led her to advocate for the education of young girls in the sciences. She also announced the release of her upcoming book “Girling Up,” which will be released in May. Bialik said she hopes to use her character, Amy Farrah Fowler from “The Big Bang Theory,” to show young females that there is a science to growing up and getting ahead in today’s society.

Robert Burkhart, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Undergraduate Research, said the organization worked with OUAB to bring Bialik to campus as she is a published researcher.

“It is inspiring that she uses her platform as an actress to advocate for STEM education and careers for everyone,” Burkhart said. “(We want) to showcase what incredible research is being done on campus and let our audience know they can do it, too.”

Though she explained her lifestyle does not fit the parameters of practicing an organized religion, Bialik said she embraces her Jewish heritage. She told the audience there is a distinct difference between practicing Judaism and being of Jewish ethnicity.

“Religion isn’t for everyone, I definitely feel that,” she said. “But I like being a part of a birthright that has been around for thousands of years.”

Noah Portman, a fourth-year in environmental engineering and president of Buckeyes for Israel, said Bialik’s message aligns with the organization’s.
“Our group tries to bring to light the many positive things Israel brings to the world while still presenting the country as any other — with room for growth,” Portman said. “I think Mayim showed us tonight that understanding connections and being more educated truly unites us,  rather than divides us.”

One comment

  1. She’s always been so likable. I’d love to know how she ended up on What Not to Wear.

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