From Neuroscience Researcher to Professional Actor

An Alumna’s Hollywood Ending 


  • Michele Boyd’s education in neuroscience led her to a professional acting career
  • She went from studying primates to becoming a neuroscience consultant on the Discovery Channel show, Machines of Malice.
  • She learned the importance of a balanced lifestyle from UC Davis

Michele Boyd ’02 never imagined her degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior would lead her to an acting career in Hollywood. In fact, her first jobs after college were at the National Institutes of Health, then Harvard Medical School, both working with primates.

But today Boyd works as an actor, with roles on CBS’s reboot of S.W.A.T., NCIS, The Orville, Sons of Anarchy and several other TV shows.

“I don’t believe I would have an active commercial and acting career today if I didn’t have Davis in my background,” Boyd said. “Even though it wasn’t exactly the most traditional path to go from neuroscience to acting, I would not have given up my four years at UC Davis.”

While at Harvard, Boyd was also working as a model in New York. She considered going to graduate school for a Ph.D., but decided to take a risk and pursue acting instead.

“I had many friends at Emerson College in Boston who were in the film program,” Boyd said. “Working with them on short films led me to move out to Los Angeles and try out acting for about a year, just to see what would happen.” 

Michele Boyd on Machines of Malice
Michele Boyd co-hosted the show Machines of Malice as a neuroscience consultant for the Discovery Channel.

Her risk was rewarded. Boyd started co-hosting shows like Discovery Channel’s Machines of Malice as a neuroscience consultant to share how historic torture devices affected the human body and mind. 

“UC Davis’ comprehensive courses and the generalized knowledge of anatomy and physiology I learned allowed me to talk with authority on Machines of Malice,” Boyd said. “I had to tackle a lot of scientific research for each episode and if college teaches you anything, it’s how to research different topics.”

Work hard, play hard 

An important skill Boyd learned at UC Davis was how to enjoy a balanced lifestyle. Despite a demanding course workload, she was part of the snowboard and ski club, participated in hapkido at the UC Davis Experimental College and worked part-time at Woodstock's Pizza. 

“It’s always so important to have something outside of academia to focus on,” Boyd said. “I still look forward to snowboarding every year because it keeps me sane.”

That essential balance is another reason Boyd is a UC Davis donor today.

“A lot of the activities I was involved in would not have been possible without the support of alumni, which is why I contribute back so other students are able to have those same experiences, if not more,” she said.

When it comes to her job, Boyd loves being able to see the results of her hard work and persistence. When she first moved to Los Angeles, Boyd worked as a background actor on NCIS and spoke with Mark Harmon about her career. He predicted that she would be back on the show. Boyd was ecstatic to then come back and book a top-of-show guest star on NCIS just last year. 

“There’s no one path to success,” Boyd said. “You can’t pick ahead of time how your education or experiences will shape your career path. The path I took and my background led me into who I am now and I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Michele Boyd on SWAT
Look out for Boyd in S.W.A.T. on CBS, Wednesdays 10/9c.

You can follow Michele at 

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