The Big Bang Theory is making it possible for future physicists and engineers to follow in the footsteps of their favorite TV characters. The popular CBS sitcom’s cast members, producers, crew and network partners alike have teamed up to fund a new scholarship for undergrads at UCLA who are studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). So far, the scholarship endowment has brought in $4 million and was established in partnership with the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation. It will serve as financial aid for low-income students.
The idea was born out of discussions between executive producer Chuck Lorre and David Saltzberg, Ph.D., the show’s science consultant, who is not coincidentally a physics and astronomy professor at UCLA. Lorre described the creation of the scholarship as a “natural evolution.” With the show having completed eight seasons so far, they realized that many of this year’s freshman class would have been 10 years old when the show started. “Some of them grew up watching the show, and maybe the show had influence on some of them choosing to pursue science as a lifetime goal,” said Lorre. “Wouldn’t it be great if we can help.”
And help they will. The scholarship will kick off in the 2015-2016 academic year, offering funding to a group of 20 students (mostly freshman), and then adding five new undergrads each year. In addition to receiving financial support, the scholars will get to spend time on the Big Bang set, including when the recipients are announced. “We will meet the first 20 in the fall and will be able to give them personal attention,” said Lorre. Although the characters on the show work at CalTech, another university near where the show is filmed, UCLA was the final choice because they recognized a greater financial need. “UCLA had a need for rich scholarships for high performing STEM students who financially are falling short for getting great education,” explained Lorre.
It’s an amazing way for those involved with the show to give back. Best of all, the scholarship has no end in sight, so it will help many groups of deserving Big Bang-loving geniuses on the road to their own Ph.D.s or what have you.