Five UCLA freshmen visited with the cast and crew of “The Big Bang Theory” on Oct. 5 and joined in an eight-clap with actress, neuroscientist and alumna Mayim Bialik, on a trip to thank their Hollywood benefactors for their scholarships to UCLA.
The students are the latest recipients of the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment, which provides need-based support to UCLA students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They are Darren Ait Kaci Azzou, a biophysics major; Janice Cheng, a bioengineering major; Steve Lopez, a mechanical engineering major; Andy Muratalla, a chemical engineering major; and Khang Vinh, a computer science and engineering major.
“I really like the TV show’s concept because growing up I didn’t see much of science and math on TV,” said Cheng. “And it’s nice to see it being represented on television.”
The scholarships are awarded based on financial need to students who have earned admission to UCLA, but who need additional support.
“I chose UCLA because of the scholarship,” said Ait Kaci Azzou. “I was already considering, but this scholarship reinforced it.”
Now in its 11th season – on air since the current freshmen were in elementary school – the popular CBS sitcom follows the lives of young academic researchers who work in various scientific fields. The endowment began with an initial donation from the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation and gifts from nearly 50 people associated with the show. The show is produced at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California.
Donations came from all the lead actors, including Bialik, who earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA; Johnny Galecki; Jim Parsons; Kaley Cuoco; Simon Helberg; Kunal Nayyar; and Melissa Rauch. Gifts also came from executive producers Bill Prady and Steven Molaro, crew members, Warner Bros. Television, CBS, other corporate partners and UCLA physics professor David Saltzberg, the show’s science consultant since its inception.
Article and photos by Alison Hewitt and Michelle Reardon