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Mayim Bialik Talks Mental Health, New Projects In Virtual Lecture

Actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik spoke to students, alumni, and the public alike Tuesday night as part of Penn State Harrisburg’s STEAM Symposium.

Bialik touched on her role as a child star on the television show “Blossom.” She noted that she was very lucky to be protected from the fate of most child stars by both her parents and the people that surrounded her on set.

Since she was commonly busy filming, Bialik completed her schoolwork through independent study and was guided by tutors. Bialik cited one specific tutor, an undergraduate student from UCLA, as the person who turned her into a science student.

“Having a female role model made a difference for me,” Bialik said. “She gave me not only the skill set but the confidence to pursue a degree in science.”

Like many of us, though, Bialik faced her own set of challenges when obtaining her Ph.D. in neuroscience. She originally wanted to attend medical school but found that her organic chemistry grades just weren’t high enough.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that I don’t have this story where I wasn’t into science, and then they taught me, and I became the top of my class,” she said. “That wasn’t my story. I struggled the whole time.”

Besides acting, Bialik has also taken up STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) advocacy, partially because she wishes that it had been available to her. She said that STEM is clearly a male-dominated field and that it can be daunting for women or people of color to enter it.

Asked about the intersection between STEM and the arts, Bialik said that the arts can complement any kind of learning, noting that the only way she remembers the order of the planets is through song. She recalled her own experience of getting a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies.

“If you need your soul to be elevated by pursuing the arts, then that’s what you should do,” Bialik said.

Of course, Bialik spoke briefly about her time on “The Big Bang Theory,” noting that she was the only scientist who also played one. She told the audience that her favorite moments included characters Amy and Sheldon’s relationship and that one of the most memorable things that happened on the show was having Stephen Hawking on set as a guest star.

Discussing current projects, Bialik mentioned her upcoming stint as guest host on “Jeopardy!” that will begin airing on May 31st. Though she said it was “surreal,” she also found it very difficult to know how to keep things moving.

Bialik recently started a podcast called “Mayim Bialik’s Breakdowns.” The podcast was started during quarantine, as Bialik noticed that her friends’ mental health, as well as her own, were declining. She and her partner decided to use her expertise in neuroscience to create a show that would hopefully help others out.

“We break things down so you don’t have to, and we break down concepts, definitions, and medications,” Bialik said.

Bialik was very open about her own struggles with mental health. She briefly touched on her diagnosis of social anxiety in conjunction with being in the public eye. Furthermore, Bialik mentioned that she has continuously struggled with body image and is in recovery from an eating disorder.

Bialik said that the trick to being able to balance our lives is to simply do less. In a world of constant hustle and bustle, she feels that most of us are overdoing it. Bialik believes that it is often our own decisions, the things that we have the power to change, that cause things to go awry.

“We are human beings. We’re not human doings,” she said.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee Yocum is a sophomore in the Schreyer Honors College studying Immunology and Infectious Disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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