'Family Ties' actress goes to college to learn coding

Justine Bateman, best known as Mallory Keaton on "Family Ties," shares her inspiring odyssey with putting acting on hold to go back to school to study coding, computer science, and quantum mechanics.

Justine Bateman on her first day of college at UCLA.
Justine Bateman

Lots of college freshman have started their university careers with the goal of learning coding and one day entering into the exciting world of technology. However, most of them aren't 47-year-old actresses who starred on "Family Ties."

Justine Bateman is a freshman at UCLA. She's entered into a world of calculus, coding marathons, and late-night sessions all in the name of trying to advance Hollywood's acceptance of new technologies.

Crave got in touch with Bateman, who is too busy with finals to answer questions about her college career at the moment. She's logging some serious study time right now, but did mention referencing CNET in a team research paper on cyberwars for her engineering ethics class.

Documenting the college life
Fortunately, Bateman has already given us a wealth of information on her College Life Tumblr. One of her most recent entries will sound familiar to anyone who has been through the college grind: "I'm fried. My brain has reached a burn-out stage. I better get a second wind so I can kick it on the finals. Crap."

Battelship code
Justine Bateman's Battleship game code. (Click to enlarge.) Justine Bateman

Bateman was initially accepted into UCLA as an undeclared humanities major, but petitioned to change to computer sciences.

Her change-of-major essay says, "I do feel that someday I will be an instrumental part of an enormous change in Entertainment as it relates to Technology and so, for the next four years, the only thing I want to do is learn is everything I can about coding, machine-level language, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and anything else in the 'Matrix' of our digital life in 2013 and beyond."

Her application to change majors was rejected, partly due to her 3.33 GPA in required classes, when the bar is set at 3.5. That hasn't put a damper on her efforts. She's still taking the required math and coding classes to build up her average and try again to officially enter the computer science major.

Study 'til you drop
Since diving into classes, Bateman has shared her college coding life in great detail. Just a few days ago, she survived a 6-hour coding marathon. "When I finally got into my car to drive home, I couldn't even remember if I had eaten all day," she says. A week ago, she finished coding a Battleship computer game on four hours of sleep.

Bateman's Tumblr is an ode to determination and the intensity of college life. She took her books with her to study while filming an episode of "Modern Family." Every moment is consumed with studying, coding, and navigating school. "Tried to catch up this weekend, but that's never guaranteed. I even did the grody computer programmer thing and was so engrossed that I didn't take a shower for two days," she admits.

Trials and triumphs
This blog should be required reading for computer science students, and for returning students who have taken a break (sometimes a decades-long break) from school. For every time Bateman expresses frustration, gets text anxiety, or slims through a coding deadline, there are also the triumphs of when a calculus concept becomes clear, a coding project comes to life, or she gets an A+ in Quantum Mechanics.

Bateman's new life in computer science seems to be off to an inspiring start. She's scheduled to intern at Symantec this summer. She has gone from no coding experience to knocking out functioning computer programs. Not everyone is cut out to be a programmer, but Bateman's strength of will is holding her in good stead. Let's check back in a few years and see if she's ready to conquer Hollywood through the power of computer science knowledge.