The Big Bang Theory launches $4m scholarship for future scientists

The hit CBS comedy about scientists and engineers want to help to create them for real with a newly formed endowment for STEM students in need of financial aid.

The Big Bang Theory is taking its geek cred seriously, creating what may be the first university STEM scholarship created by and named for a TV series—and certainly a first for UCLA.

The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation, along with Big Bang stars, producers, and crew, Warner Bros. and CBS, and other industry leaders have pooled more than $4 million towards the The Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment at UCLA to help support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) undergraduates in need of financial aid.

Although the sitcom is partly set at California’s Caltech, the fund will sponsor studies in science, technology, engineering and maths at rival UCLA.

“We have all been given a gift with ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ a show that’s not only based in the scientific community, but also enthusiastically supported by that same community. This is our opportunity to give back,” noted series creator Chuck Lorre.

“In that spirit, our ‘Big Bang’ family has made a meaningful contribution, and together we’ll share in the support of these future scholars, scientists and leaders.”

UCLA notes that for the 2015–16 academic year, 20 “Big Bang Theory” scholars will be selected to receive financial assistance. Each year in perpetuity, five additional scholars will be chosen.

The show, which heads into its ninth season this fall, has long-standing ties to UCLA.

Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik

Series star Mayim Bialik earned a PhD in neuroscience from the university in 2007. While UCLA physics and astronomy professor David Saltzberg is the show’s science consultant.

The programme documents the achievements and obsessions of four science nerds and the (mostly) successful women who tolerate them.

Prof Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize laureate George Smoot, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and theoretical physicist Brian Greene have all made cameos on the show, along with the cast of Star Trek and other sci-fi franchises.

It was nearly derailed by a pay dispute last summer, which saw principal cast members Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting negotiate a reported fee of $1m (£650,000) per episode.

UCLA said the scholarship endowment was the university’s first to be created by the cast and crew of a television series.

A total of $4m has been raised to date for the fund, according to scholarship partner Warner Bros TV.

That includes an initial donation from the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation combined with gifts from people associated with the show, including its stars, executive producers and crew, and TV companies CBS and WBTV.

After the initial intake of 20 students for the 2015-16 academic year, the scholarship will support five further students every year in perpetuity.

The inaugural group of scholarship recipients will be announced this fall on the set of the show.

The first 20 scholars will be announced on the Big Bang Theory set this autumn.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International