You definitely know her as Evey Hammond from the widely popular V for Vendetta, and the iconic Padme from Star Wars, or even Jane Foster in the Thor movies, but do you know her as one of the researchers involved in “Frontal lobe activation during object permanence: data from near-infrared spectroscopy”? Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, Natalie Portman is more than just an actor; she is also a Harvard alumna! Here’s some information about the celebrity’s career, which balanced both acting and academics for some time.
Born as Natalie Hershlag (נטע-לי הרשלג) in Jerusalem, to Jewish parents, she was raised in the USA, where she developed many different skills at a young age. From learning Japanese, French, German, Arabic, and, of course, Hebrew and English, to studying ballet, modern dance, and acting, Portman was definitely a special kid. She always believed that she was “different from the other kids” and also “more ambitious.” In hindsight, her amazing repertoire of skills amassed at an early age is a testament to the truthfulness of her words.
In 1992, her career began with the musical Ruthless!, when she served as Laura Bell Bundy’s understudy alongside none other than Britney Spears. Subsequently, Portman would go on to land a multitude of roles in many different productions, creating an impressive portfolio of works over the coming years- this was when she first became a household name.
Relationship with school
By the time Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999) came out, Portman was busy with her high school exams, and she even reportedly skipped the premiere of her movie to study some more. “I don’t care if college ruins my career… I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” is what she has been quoted saying in the past.
Thankfully for the already accomplished actor, her studiousness would reward her well the coming months, when she would manage to land a spot at Harvard University. Until 2003, Portman spent her time studying psychology at the prestigious school, keeping up with the intense studying required to graduate from one of the best universities in the world.
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Back then, online universities were virtually non-existent, or if they did exist, the level of their online degrees was nowhere near the level that they are at today. If you wanted to have the best education possible, Harvard was the place to be, further emphasizing the star’s accomplishments. Nowadays, online college courses are abundant and their level has drastically improved to a point where they are well-respected alternatives, especially in the age of the pandemic.
Background in research
Acquiring the degree and letting it gather dust was not what Portman intended to do with it. The Oscar-winning actor has always had a knack for research, and she proved that back in high school. The impressive 17-year-old Natalie managed to write a paper titled “A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar” that was co-authored with the scientists Jonathan Woodward and Ian Hurley.
Her study managed to enter the Intel Science Talent Search. Known as “the Super Bowl of science”, dubbed as such by George H. W. Bush, it is a very prestigious high school competition, where only the best of the best can compete.
That’s not where the scientific accolades stop for the Jewish actress though, as she later on worked on a higher level study while studying for her psychology degree. During that time, she was acting as a research assistant to Professor Stephen Kosslyn, prominent neuroscientist and psychologist, and studied the correlation between the development of the frontal lobe of the brain and the visual knowledge of infants.
More specifically, she studied infants’ capacity to understand that objects that are out of their sight aren’t necessarily non-existent at different stages of their neural development. Scientists have cited Portman’s paper over 20 times in the past, proving that she has made a significant contribution to the science of cognitive function in our brains.
Not a lot of Hollywood actors can confidently say that their academic accomplishments are as impressive and numerous as the Star Wars actress, or that they have a degree from Harvard University. No matter what anyone tries to say, Natalie Portman is undisputedly one of the smartest actresses in the world.