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The NCIS Actress You Didn't Know Was Actually A Criminologist

Few could have predicted the success of NCIS when it spun off from JAG in 2003. But with 19 seasons under its belt and numerous spin-off shows to its credit, the procedural drama has cemented itself as one of CBS' most consistent hits, still beloved by hardcore fans even after all this time. One of the reasons NCIS propelled itself to the top of the ratings charts and has managed to last so long is due to its memorable characters. And there's no character more fondly remembered than fan-favorite Abby Sciuto.

Abby, played by Pauley Perrette, was the show's brilliant and charming goth forensic scientist who stayed on NCIS up to the show's 15th season when Perrette decided to leave. Via Deseret News, Perrette described herself as the biggest fan of her character, stating "I mean, I didn't invent her. I just have the honor of playing her. She fascinates me."

Maybe one of the reasons Perrette loved her character so much was because of Abby's onscreen job in criminal science. After all, it turns out that Perrette was the most qualified person to portray Abby, thanks to her own real-life background in criminal science.

Pauley Perrette has a master's degree in criminal science

As she told Deseret News, as a kid, Pauley Perrette wanted to either work with animals, be in a rock n' roll band, or be an FBI agent. And thanks to her educational background, Perrette could have potentially pulled off the latter. Before her career in Hollywood, Perrette studied to get her master's degree in Criminal Science from Valdosta State University. She also later studied at the John Jay College of Criminal Science.

Perrette noted to Deseret News that it was people's capacity to harm others that motivated her studies in criminal science, as she saw it as an opportunity to balance the world with some personal good.

"I feel like life on planet Earth is incredibly hard," she said. "There are things we just can't stop: floods and fires and earthquakes and tsunamis — crushing events for people to deal with. But I don't understand someone making the world more difficult on purpose, to harm people with no empathy whatsoever, saying, 'I'm going to make things even worse. Watch me!' That's the motivation for me wanting to be a crime fighter."

She still contributes to criminal science after her role on NCIS

Pauley Perrette didn't take her role as Abby Sciuto on NCIS for granted. As she told People Magazine upon her exit from the show, she noticed the inspiration her character gave to girls interested in pursuing math and science.

"Over the course of 15 years, it started very early, [girls] have modeled themselves after this TV character. It made math and science not only a viable plan for them, but it made it accessible and it made it fun, and it inspired these girls," she said.

In 2018, to further help those she inspired, Perrette set up a scholarship for female students who want to pursue a degree in criminal science. Via Scholarship Owl, it's called the "Pauley Perrette Forensic Science Scholarship," and there are two scholarship opportunities for students. One scholarship is for undergrads at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the other is for students at her alma matter Valdosta State University.

Ultimately, not only is Perrette the most technically qualified on NCIS, but she's also passionate about providing the world with future real-life criminologists.