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BU to Award Doctor of Humane Letters to Big Bang Theory Star

Mayim Bialik, actress, neuroscientist, author

Boston University BU, commencement 2014, actress neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, Blossom, Big Bang Theory, honorary doctor of humane letters, Big Bang Theory, Blossom

Mayim Hoya Bialik will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University’s 141st Commencement on Sunday, May 18. Photo courtesy of Bialik

Mayim Hoya Bialik is probably best known for wearing big floppy hats in her starring role in 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 Nations 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.

Amy Laskowski, Senior Writer at Boston University Marketing & Communications editorial department
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

6 Comments on BU to Award Doctor of Humane Letters to Big Bang Theory Star

  • Kate on 05.14.2014 at 11:01 am

    It’s great that she has overcome the seeming difficulties of normal life after working as a child actor, but I am very disappointed that BU and GWISE have chosen to give Ms. Bialik their approval and another platform to speak. She has been an outspoken proponent of homeopathy and anti-vaccination, both of which actively put children and families at real risk. I am disappointed that BU and GWISE have decided that this is a woman we should admire and respect.

  • Erica on 05.14.2014 at 1:08 pm

    I applaud Ms. Bialik and her ever evolving outlook on life, children, the sciences and particularly women in science. BU and GWISE made a wise choice when choosing her and she will be in good company receiving her honorary degree.
    Kate- She is very much a proponent of homeopathy and anti-vaccination, for HER family. She has always been very clear in her decisions on why these things work for HER family and that others should explore, research and examine their own family needs for what will work for them.

  • Not a good idea on 05.14.2014 at 2:09 pm

    As a scientist, I am disappointed by BU’s shortsighted decision to honor a person who uses the facade of science to promote her personal worldview, which conflicts with reality and endangers her children and the public.

    In particular, Mayim Bialik has chosen to promote disease by failing to vaccinate her children, as she acknowledges in the same NPR interview cited in this press release.

    Furthermore, Ms. Bialik is a proponent of home birth, which is responsible for death and dismemberment of babies. And she has also promoted detox cleansing and homeopathy, which serve no purpose except to enrich the snake oil salesmen who peddle them.

    These are not merely personal beliefs but ones that she actively advocates for as a spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network, which promotes anti-vaccination and a cornucopia of quackery.

    I think the BU administration would also be surprised to learn that Ms. Bialik is a paid spokesperson for DeVry University, an abysmal for-profit school.

    Yes, Ms. Bialik is a nice person and has done some good things, but all of that is massively outweighed by the harm she causes by being a spokesperson for a movement that has helped create disease outbreaks across the United States.

  • gcollins on 05.14.2014 at 7:05 pm

    Why her??? I dont get it. No BU conncection. Did she do something great?
    I know a lot more deserving people.

  • Anonymous on 05.14.2014 at 8:50 pm

    Anyone who is against vaccines for there own child and an unfit parent who deserves to have their children taken away. I’m disappointed that BU is giving her views validity.

  • TV Scientist vs Actual Scientist on 05.16.2014 at 6:21 pm

    She promotes pseudoscience. She has a PhD, but apparently she’s a better scientist on TV than she is in real life.

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