“It’s a bunch of nerds making
fun of nerds.” — MAYIM BIALIK
Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik (left) slices a brain over
dinner with costar Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory.
Scientific method acting
Mayim Bialik is a neuroscientist, and she plays one on TV. Bialik is neurobiologist
Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom centered on the lives
of four scientists at Caltech.
Bialik was an actor long before she became a scientist. As a teenager, she starred
in the television show Blossom and the movie Beaches. On the set of Blossom,
After her first son was born, Bialik and her husband realized that the life of a
research professor wouldn’t provide the flexibility she wanted to spend time with
her children, and she returned to acting. But she doesn’t regret the time she spent
earning her degree. “There’s never a waste of study,” she says.
The Big Bang Theory is a fictional look at scientists, but Bialik says the portray-
als are true to her real-life experience. Part of the show’s charm stems from the
writers being as “brilliant, nerdy and geeky” as the characters they create, she
says. “It’s not a bunch of cool, attractive people making fun of nerds. It’s a bunch
of nerds making fun of nerds.”
Originally, her character had no particular occupation, but when the producers
saw “neuroscientist” on Bialik’s resume, Amy Farrah Fowler became a neurobiolo-
gist. The decision means Bialik gets to offer pointers on how real biology labs work.
Her character always wears a lab coat and gloves in the lab, just like a good sci-
entist should. Now and again, Bialik corrects scientific inaccuracies in the script,
but sometimes science takes a backseat to gags. “I get a little twitch if something
is wrong,” she says, but preserving scientific accuracy is “often more complicated
than it should be for a laugh.”
Ongoing debates bet ween Amy and her boyfriend Sheldon Cooper (played by
Jim Parsons) about whose scientific discipline is better are right on the money. “I
have for sure had that discussion, both sober and intoxicated, in graduate school,”
Bialik says. And like her character, she’s got an argument-ending statement for any
physicists who disdain brain research: “The very fact that you can think about which
science is better means neuroscience rules.” — Tina Hesman Saey
Scientists with an acting theory
mayim bialik is not the only actor with a
background in science or medicine.
s Hedy Lamarr (shown), a celebrated
actress of the 1940s and ’50s, patent-
ed an idea for wireless communication.
s Danica McKellar (Winnie cooper on
The Wonder Years) contributed to the
s oscar winner Natalie Portman was a
semifinalist in the 1999 Intel science
talent search and coauthored a brain-
imaging study as a Harvard undergrad.
s Action star Dolph Lundgren won a
fulbright scholarship to study chemical
engineering, but gave it up to become
a bodyguard for actress Grace Jones.
s Ken Jeong (señor chang on Community)
has a medical degree.
s Masi Oka (Hiro on Heroes) has a bach-
elor’s degree in computer science and
mathematics. He works as a digital
effects artist when he is not acting.