'I'm not a huge fan of technology'

Mayim Bialik, the neuroscientist and sitcom actor, speaks about her research on OCD and much more
Last Updated 03 November 2015, 10:59 IST

You were in the hugely successful TV show Blossom in the 1990s. What inspired you to leave acting and take a degree in neuroscience?

When I was on the set of Blossom I had a biology tutor who was at that time a dental student at UCLA. She was the first person I ever met who was a one-on-one female role model for me and I fell in love with science and wanted to pursue it. I am a second-generation American so I come from a family where college is really emphasised and I really just wanted to go — when Blossom ended, that’s exactly what I did.

You also did a PhD — why?

I really loved teaching and research. I didn’t have the grades to go to medical school and in retrospect I think I would have been unhappy in the structure of medical school. I had my first son in grad school and my second son right after I got my PhD.

What was your research on?

Obsessive compulsive disorder in a population of individuals with a genetic syndrome called Prader-Willi syndrome.

Did you enjoy it?

Yeh, both of my parents were teachers so I was raised with a definite appreciation for teaching. Being a research professor seemed like what I wanted to do. But once I had my first child I realised how much time I wanted to be with him.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the ‘leaky pipeline’ of women in science — how can we solve it?

That’s a larger question for people other than me; I’m not an anthropologist or a sociologist. But that’s part of why I do the work I do with Texas Instruments — to try and encourage young people at an early age to sort of prepare for what a career might look like, which we would hope would involve the ability for them to have more confidence and more resources.

I think women do need a lot more resources especially as we get to the age when we want to start families and things; those are things that even though men have to make those decisions it is very different for women because we are the ones whose bodies literally have to stop and make it happen.

Are you still keeping an eye on developments in neuroscience?

No, that’s a full time job! [Laughs]

Your character in The Big Bang Theory, Amy Farrah Fowler, has a PhD in neurobiology — how similar are you to her?

She was written as a female version of Jim Parsons’s character [Sheldon Cooper, Amy’s love interest]. There are things she and I are similar in, the way we approach thinking and our appreciation for science, but she is pretty much a character.

How are scientists viewed in Hollywood?

A lot of people believe in [the] stereotype, but we hope that The Big Bang Theory is changing the way people think of nerds and geeks by showing them having active social lives and relationships.

Who, or what, is a Grok?!

It’s a term from a 1961 science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, and to Grok something means to understand something very, very, very deeply, like from all angles.

Are you a fan of tech? I hear you’ve got an old school TV and big-buttoned phone in your Big Bang dressing room.

I’m not a huge fan of technology. I use it where it is necessary for work, but other than that I can’t even work an iPad.

(Published 03 November 2015, 10:59 IST)

Follow us on