Twenty first-year UCLA students whose education is supported by the co-creator, cast and crew of the “The Big Bang Theory” got a taste of television’s big time when they visited the set of the CBS hit comedy series in Burbank.
The students serenaded their benefactors with a UCLA eight-clap, took selfies with actors, and accepted a toast and engraved iPads from 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 on the set last Thursday. “Or blow it up. All we can do is make people laugh. You have to do the rest.”
The Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment, announced in May, raised more than $4 million to support first-year students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Five additional scholars will be chosen each year in perpetuity. The TV show, in its ninth season, follows the lives of young physicists.
“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.
Before visiting the set, the young UCLA scholars toured the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. Among the highlights were 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 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.
“At UCLA, we pride ourselves on providing opportunities for students from all economic backgrounds,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said when the endowment was announced. “UCLA attracts the very best students from around the world, and admission is very competitive. We are grateful for the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment, whose contributors agree with us that economic standing should not hinder a deserving student’s shot at a degree from a university of UCLA’s caliber.”