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MB: Yeah. If I had not gone to college, I might have kept acting and been happy like that. But I loved going to UCLA and doing something that was very challenging academically. I loved doing research with adolescents with special needs—that was seven years of my life. It was exciting to get my Ph.D. in 2007. But in terms of time to raise my two sons, the flexible life of an actor was better than the long hours of a re- search professor. NT: Fast-forward to 2010 and The Big Bang Theory. Who would have guessed how popular this show would become? MB: Not me! I had never seen it before I auditioned. NT: On the show you play Dr. Amy Far- rah Fowler, who’s a neuroscientist. MB: She’s actually a neurobiologist ... but I get to say neuroscience things. NT: How much of your professional self do you bring to your character? MB: Since the job of an actor is to pre- sent a character even if you’ve never been in that profession, I guess I have the easiest job—I don’t have to stretch that far. NT: I try to imagine someone pitching the show idea to network executives: “Let’s have six scientists, and they’ll talk but you won’t know what they’re talking about, and they’ll crack jokes and they’ll laugh, but they won’t explain it to you.” I think it was low-hanging comedic fruit because no one had tackled it before. MB: For sure. All the shows that I grew up with were about attractive people, and who had sex with who on which week. Meanwhile, our show is about the people who watch those shows. NT: Might there ever be room in your show for a female character who’s more sexualized—but also a full-on scientist? MB: We did an episode where the Berna- dette character, a microbiologist, poses for a “sexy scientist” photo shoot and Amy has a very big problem with it. NT: I remember that episode. Your char- acter, Amy, sabotages the photo shoot. MB: That’s right. When I do advocacy for STEM careers for young women, I’m The cast of geeky-scientist characters in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory includes neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and her boyfriend, physicist Shel- don Cooper (Jim Parsons). Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the television series StarTalk on National Geographic; see clips and full episodes at natgeotv.com/StarTalk. Find his book StarTalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond wherever books are sold and at shopng.com/startalk. PHOTO: MONTY BRINTON, CBS VIA GETTY IMAGES often asked, What do you think about [the sexy-scientist stereotype of] the white shirt open with the black bra un- derneath? And you know, I don’t knock women or scientists who want to do that. For me, that’s not the way that I choose to portray women in science. I don’t think that’s the only way to gen- erate interest. It might be the only way to get a certain population of men inter- ested in women in science ... But it’s not a personal goal of mine to further that notion of women scientists. Part of my advocacy is to try to put a fresh face, a positive face, and a female face on these subjects. I think that a lot of women don’t know the kinds of ca- reers that are available to them. They may think what I did when I was in elementary school and junior high: I don’t want to be alone in a lab for the rest of my life, in a nerdy lab coat and ugly glasses. But then I got older and understood. Marine biology, working with animals, working in the environment—all those things are science. You like engineering? You want to do coding? Knock yourself out. There are many STEM careers that involve a lot of variety and a lot of cre- ativity. And that’s what I think we need to try and communicate to girls as young as possible. NT: That was awesome! That’s like the whole show right there. MB: Thank you. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off to do it. THIS INTERVIEW, DRAWN FROM A MARCH 2016 STARTALK TAPING, WAS EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY.