Dr. John Burgess Sturgis is a guest professor of physics at East Texas Tech in 1989, known for his work on radiocarbon dating. Dr. Sturgis is initially a pen pal of Sheldon Cooper, before the child prodigy audits his quantum chromodynamics course. Dr. Sturgis is instantly smitten with Sheldon's Meemaw and they begin dating, much to Sheldon's approval.
John enthusiastically seeks romantic aid via the ever-prying Sheldon, who steps over bounds interfering with their courtship. Sturgis shows what he believes to be 'machismo' when vying for the love of Meemaw against another suitor, which he wins, leading to the creation of young Sheldon's first relationship contract.
He is eccentric, wears a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and rides a Schwinn Speedster since he doesn't drive. He knows how to cook Szechuan cuisine using his travel wok, due to his biking through China. Meemaw describes him as "a brilliant, bicycle-riding teddy bear" and, further, has elucidated he is "smart as hell, gentle, and funny (not always on purpose)." Meanwhile, George Cooper says he sounds like Sheldon. A role model to Sheldon, Dr. Sturgis shares many characteristics with his little counterpart: comfort with rules; attention to safety; penchant for dispensing knowledge; and confusion regarding social interactions. Also similar to Sheldon, he has a poster of Richard Feynman in his room and attempts to emulate the famed physicist's lifestyle, such as only having one flavor of ice cream for dessert over the past thirty-five years (in order to have one less decision in his life). He even shows interest in trains, too. He doesn't inherit Sheldon's rude and antagonistic behavior.
John's eccentricity may be masking a more serious mental health issue. In the second-season finale, "A Swedish Science Thing and the Equation for Toast," the impending Nobel Prize ceremony appeared to have triggered an episode of psychosis. He tried to commandeer the university's mainframe computer (and ran when discovered), and Meemaw found him outside her house late at night, plucking crabgrass out of the lawn one blade at a time. After missing a dinner date and finding out that he missed several of his classes, she found him on the roof of his apartment building in the middle of a psychotic episode, attempting to "become one" with quarks and neutrinos. She was able to talk him down and took him inside, as he lamented the fact that he hadn't, and likely never would, win the Nobel Prize, but expressed confidence that Sheldon would do so one day. Later, when Mary Cooper went to console Sheldon at his Nobel listening party (which no one came to), she told him that John wouldn't be there because "he's not feeling well."
It's revealed at the beginning of Season 3 that he was placed in a mental institution following his breakdown and as a result Sheldon is no longer his student.
In the episode "A Pineapple and the Bosom of Male Friendship", John is discharged from the mental institution and visits the family shortly after. After dinner, at Meemaw's house, John reveals that he feels like they shouldn't continue their romantic relationship and would be happy if they remained friends. This leaves Meemaw upset and threatens to call Ira to call him for a date, in which John naively encourages. After Meemaw hangs up, she is still upset the next day. After Sheldon wants John to visit him, against Mary's will, John comes over later to see Sheldon. After they eat dinner, George Sr. decides to take him out to a divebar, while Meemaw is on a date with Ira. John and George Sr. discusses his breakup with Meemaw and tells George that Meemaw was his first girlfriend and probably his last, because he hadn't have an episode in an long time and didn't think it would happen again and so he broke up with Meemaw to prevent her from going through that again. After this, John tells George that he can ask him anything about marriage, like intimacy issues, communication issues and problems in the bedroom before he gets John to play Pool with him. After Meemaw's dinner, Ira decides that he doesn't want to date her again because he doesn't want to have his heart broken because it is obvious she's still attached to John. John and George are playing pool before George says that everyone at the divebar knows him (to make him look cool) and then John decides to toast to the entire bar that he thanks George for taking him here and listening to his woes. In season 4, John took another job in college, so he won't be looking after Sheldon while he attends college full time.
|The Big Bang Theory Episodes|
|Young Sheldon Episodes|
|Appeared||M = Mentioned||Did not appear||Not aired/Not available|
|V = Voiced||C = Cameo||F = Flashback||I = Indirectly mentioned||P = Pictured|
- Dr. Sturgis teaches Sheldon his first college course in theoretical physics, possibly implying this is his field of specialization. More significantly, he mentions that he has a sticky note on his refrigerator to remind him to unify gravity with the other three fundamental forces (cf. Grand Unified Theory), after which Sheldon inquires when he chose to focus his research on quantum chromodynamics (presumably, as Sheldon's question is interrupted) — a gauge theory of the strong interaction in the Standard Model|Standard Model of Particle Physics that is of particular interest to young Sheldon since the episode "Dolomite, Apple Slices, and a Mystery Woman". Yet, Dr. John Sturgis' research in radiocarbon dating indicates his field is experimental physics, developing nuclear instruments and methods, though he may apply numerical methods to radiocarbon isotope studies as well. (Note that it is conceivable for him to be equally skilled in both theoretical and experimental physics akin to Italian nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi.)
- His second quantum chromodynamics lecture covers perturbative QCD corrections.
- When he was younger, he had an extreme fear of public speaking until he was struck by lightning while playing miniature golf with some colleges. Afterwards, he was able to speak to anyone he wanted and became very sociable.
- Like Sheldon, Sturgis' favorite color is blue. His favorite food is grilled cheese and his favorite ice cream is vanilla. Originally from Maine, he didn't have much Mexican food or guacamole, for which Meemaw has a particular predilection. He enjoys spaghetti with hot dogs cut up in it, once Sheldon introduces him to it.
- He buys Meemaw a purple bicycle.
- Wearing a bicycle helmet and his travel wok on his back, he makes a reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- A professor of Sturgis once called him "ostrobogulous", or "weirdo."
- He considers buying a chair with a cup holder from his romantic rival, Ira Rosenbloom (Richard Kind), a Jewish furniture store proprietor. He sees becoming his friend over time.
- He appears in three episodes of Young Sheldon's Season One, "Gluons, Guacamole, and the Color Purple" (E19), "Summer Sausage, a Pocket Poncho, and Tony Danza" (E21), and "Vanilla Ice Cream, Gentlemen Callers, and a Dinette Set" (E22).
- John Sturgis' actor, Wallace Shawn, previously co-starred with Annie Potts (Meemaw) in the first, second and fourth Toy Story films. He also starred with Laurie Metcalf in all four movies.
- Wallace Shawn portrayed Vizzini in The Princess Bride, known for exclaiming "inconceivable". This is Rajesh Koothrappali's favorite film.
- He has no children as he revealed in Sheldon’s college video in “A Secret Letter and a Lowly Disc of Processed Meat”.
- John Sturgis has Sheldon's personality, but he doesn't have Sheldon rude and arrogant behavior.
- Dr Sturgis took another job in college so he won’t look after Sheldon when he starts college. Possibly, he might’ve wanted to get away from him and not spend four years for have him being a nut case.
- In the fall of 2007 when the Big Bang Theory pilot started, John would have been 86 years old and in 2021 if he is still alive he would have been 99 or 100 years old.