Acting scientificMarch 31, 2007
The woman on my TV screen looked very familiar. Who was that pregnant schoolteacher leading her students through the walk-through model of the human heart in this 2006 episode (#217, “All In”) of House? Could it be my old Williams College dorm-mate Purva Bedi?
One of my most vivid memories from my junior year in college is of Purva studying synaptic transmission in the hallway of Garfield House. She was taking introductory neuroscience at the time, as I was, but her theatre background was never kept hidden for long. In reviewing the process of how neurons communicate with each other, she first adopted the “persona” of the calcium ions entering the axon terminus through voltage-gated channels, then became the neurotransmitter molecules released from the synaptic vesicles, diffusing across the synaptic cleft, and binding to receptors in the postsynaptic membrane. She performed this micro-scale dance routine with considerable energy and utter conviction.
From my condescending biology-major perspective, I thought Purva’s antics were hilarious. I didn’t exclaim, “Hey, look at the thespian trying to learn science!” but that’s what I was thinking. And yet, when the semester ended, Purva had earned an A+ in the course and I had barely gotten an A.
I’m happy to report that Purva is now a successful actress, with a lot on her resume besides that House appearance, including an upcoming role as the star of When Kiran Met Karen. If her acting luck ever runs out, though, I bet she’d make a great neuroscientist.