Since The Big Bang Theory debuted in 2007, it’s entirely possible that early fans of the show grew up watching its mis-matched group of characters and decided to pursue their dreams of becoming scientists. Those 10-year-olds who were just growing up when the show started are now entering university, and if they study science at UCLA, there’s now a chance they may get funding from the Big Bang Theory stars themselves.
As announced in May, 2015, show producer Chuck Lorre created the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment that will provide financial support to students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — based on academic merit and financial need. In addition to Lorre, funding came from gifts from more than 50 people, including the show’s main stars and its corporate partners, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Now the first set of scholarships have been awarded, and the recipients have spent some time on the Big Bang Theory set meeting its stars. As Variety reported, Lorre toasted the students with champagne glasses filled with apple cider.
Mayim Bialik, herself a UCLA grad, posted an Instagram selfie with co-stars Jim Parsons and Melissa Rauch and a couple of recipients.
The other members of the cast were quick to compliment the burgeoning scholars and the good the Big Bang Theory scholarship should do for their work. Jim Parsons said meeting students in this context is rare for the cast.
“It feels good to be able to do something that has such a real and positive effect. Today we get to meet the students who are going to benefit from this, and you don’t get to do that a lot.”
Simon Helberg went a bit further, saying as much as the scholarship recipients might have been happy to meet the television stars, the cast were just as glad to meet future science leaders.
“It’s humbling. I don’t want this to seem like it’s in our honor. We’re in a very fortunate position to help anybody, and education is at the top of a lot of our lists.”
Bialik told Glamour blogger Jessica Radloff that the scholarship money can go a long way to helping students focus on their academic careers. There were 20 scholarships issued this year and more will be added every year from the $4 million endowment fund.
“To know that they might not have had the money…I mean, once you know your schooling is paid for, you can focus on studying, and that’s everything.”
In its news release announcing the new funding, UCLA noted that 52 percent of UCLA students receive need-based financial aid, including Pell Grants and other federal funding. Almost a third of UCLA graduates are the children of people who did not get a degree from a four-year educational institution.
Lorre left no doubt that he and the other endowment contributors have high expectations for the students. He downplayed the work done by the Big Bang Theory crew compared to what STEM students could potentially accomplish.
“No pressure, but we expect you to change the world. Or blow it up. All we can do is make people laugh. You have to do the rest.”
Season 9 of The Big Bang Theory is currently airing Monday nights on CBS.
[Main image: Mark Davis / Getty Images Entertainment]