One of the most popular characters on "Big Bang Theory" is Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), the brain scientist who also is the patient and adoring girlfriend of theoretical physics genius Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons). Few people realize, however, that Bialik is a neuroscientist in real life as well.
“Being a scientist is a wonderful and creative way to live your life,” Bialik said in an exclusive Take Part interview published Thursday. “... It’s a cool way to look at the world. It’s a beautiful thing to know how waves keep crashing and what it means to see a shooting star.”
Bialik, who first gained acclaim for her roles as young Bette Midler in Beaches and the title role in "Blossom" on television, holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.
"I fell in love with science during 'Blossom,'" Bialik said in an earlier interview with the Jewish Alliance for Women in Science (JAWS). One of her tutors showed her creative ways to learn about science, and gave her the confidence to pursue an education in science.
"She made me see that I could be a scientist, even if it didn't come as naturally to me as many of the boys in my school," Bialik told JAWS. "I was raised to believe I could 'do anything' but I found a great divide by sex in my academic environment, so I lacked support and confidence. [My tutor] gave me that and I am forever grateful to her."
Bialik is a strong advocate for more emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in school, especially for girls. "Big Bang Theory" goes a long way to promote the idea that science is not a male-only pursuit, with two main female characters as working scientists: Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler and Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (Melissa Rauch).
Bialik said she really likes the way "Big Bang Theory" portrays scientists not just as stereotypical nerds but as funny, entertaining people who actually have lives outside of their work.
“This is a group of characters," Bialik told Take Part. "None of them are medicated, but they deal with their quirks and neuroses. They are functioning as normal human beings who are successful.”
Bialik is not the only successful actress with a love of science and math. Among her compatriots are Oscar-winner Natalie Portman ("Black Swan), who studied neuroscience at Harvard, and Danica McKellar, who graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from UCLA and helped to devise a mathematical theorem that bears her name, according to the New York Times.