'Big Bang' Scholars Meet Their Benefactors
Published Oct 22, 2015 8:00 AM
Twenty students are attending UCLA on scholarships funded by the show's co-creator, cast and crew.
Imagine a scholarship that comes with a visit to the set of a top TV show. Twenty lucky first-year UCLA students took a field trip recently to the studio where the hit comedy series, The Big Bang Theory, is filmed.
The students are the first recipients of “Big Bang” scholarships, which the show’s co-creator and members of the cast and crew established last May with an endowment of more than $4 million. Awards are made to low-income students who are pursuing degrees in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Each year in perpetuity, five additional scholars will be selected. In order to be eligible, the students must have earned admission to UCLA based on academic merit but need additional support to bridge the gap between typical levels of financial aid and the cost of attendance.
Before visiting the show’s set, the students toured the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. What they saw included a collection of vehicles that have been used in Batman movies, a vast warehouse of props from countless TV shows and motion pictures, and building exteriors seen in well-known productions such as Friends, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future.
The students serenaded their benefactors with a UCLA eight-clap, shot selfies with actors and accepted a toast and engraved iPads from the show's executive producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre.
“No pressure, but we expect you to change the world,” Lorre joked, raising a champagne flute filled with sparkling cider. “Or blow it up. All we can do is make people laugh. You have to do the rest.”
The inaugural Big Bang Theory Scholars — seven females and 13 males — are pursuing degrees in a wide variety of majors, including physics, astrophysics, chemistry, applied mathematics, biology, marine biology, molecular, cell and developmental biology, integrative biology and physiology, bioengineering, neuroscience, computer science, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, and electrical and mechanical engineering.
The show’s connection to UCLA extends beyond the scholarship and its recipients. Cast member Mayim Bialik, the Emmy-nominated actress who portrays Amy Farrah Fowler, earned a doctorate in neuroscience as well as a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, and UCLA professor of physics and astronomy David Saltzberg is the show's science consultant.
“It feels good to be able to do something that has such a real and positive effect,” said actor Jim Parsons, who portrays Sheldon Cooper on the show.