In its latest episode of The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, NOVA introduces us to Jessica Cail, an Experimental Neuropsychologist who studies addiction and teaches at Pepperdine University. She also happens to be a circus performer and stuntperson with an expertise in bullwhip.

After practicing for more than 12 years, Jessica likes to say she has her “doctorate in bullwhip.” She learned the skill from her husband, who is a stunt/special effects guru, and practices regularly. Her time investment and training has paid off, Jessica has appeared in a number of films and shows, her favorite being on the Nickelodeon series Supah Ninjas as a double-bullwhip wielding villain.

Jessica’s scientific specialty is the investigation of the mind-body connection. This interest has taken her from working with the Department of Defense on ways to detect lies to altering a rat’s addiction to morphine. “I am fascinated by the possibility of using psychology, a field which has been long accused of being ‘all in one’s head’ to alter the physical body.”

Jessica says she pursued training as a stuntperson and circus performer as a way to get out of her scientific head, but it’s clearly also a handy skill to have, “If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, everyone’s gonna want me on their team.”

Here’s more from Jessica: