Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
Mayim Hoya Bialik is probably best known for wearing big floppy hats in her starring role the 1990s NBC television comedy Blossom or for playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler in the current CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, for which she has been nominated for Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards. But many fans may not know how well suited she is to play a neurobiologist.
Bialik, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University’s 141st Commencement on Sunday, May 18, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2000, with a major in neuroscience and a minor in Jewish studies and Hebrew. She went on to get a PhD in neuroscience, also from UCLA.
On Saturday, May 17, Bialik will join Beverly Brown, development director of BU’s Center for Global Health and Development and wife of University President Robert A. Brown, for a roundtable discussion with students about the challenges facing women in science.
Bialik, who grew up in southern California, played the young Bette Midler character in the 1988 film Beaches at age 12. She has been a guest star on the television shows MacGyver, Webster, Facts of Life, Murphy Brown, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and she appeared in Woody Allen’s 1994 film Don’t Drink the Water.
Bialik’s breakout role came when she was chosen to play Blossom Russo, a teenage girl growing up in an all-male house. She starred on the show for five years before enrolling at UCLA, where her 2007 PhD dissertation, Hypothalamic Regulation in Relation to Maladaptive, Obsessive-compulsive, Affiliative, and Satiety Behaviors in Prader-Willi Syndrome, studied hypothalamic activity in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome, the most common known genetic cause of life-threatening obesity in children.
Bialik was also a leader at UCLA Hillel. She describes herself as an avid student of all things Jewish, and she speaks often on Jewish matters to academic institutions and organizations. She frequently summers in Israel, volunteering as a kibbutz worker on a dairy farm.
Bialik is the mother of two children, a responsibility that influences another interest of hers, writing. Her book about attachment parenting, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, was published in 2012. She is a certified lactation educator counselor.
In February, Bialik published the vegan cookbook Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours. She writes regularly for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com about homeschooling, motherhood, and being Jewish in Hollywood.
In a 2012 National Public Radio interview with Talk of the Nation’s Ira Flatow, Bialik said that she traded the world of neuroscience to focus on acting because it allowed her to spend more time with her children. “A sitcom schedule happens to be very friendly,” she told Flatow. “But at least in those early months and years of nursing and sleeping and all that stuff, I was absolutely able to be home with them, and I couldn’t have done that the same way had I stayed in academia.”
Honorary degrees also will be awarded to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, entertainer and education advocate Bill Cosby, BU trustee, businessman, and philanthropist Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74), MIT molecular biologist Nancy Hopkins, and Michael Brown, founder of the Boston-based nonprofit City Year.
More information about Commencement can be found on the Commencement website.