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'The Big Bang Theory': How the cast and crew are helping STEM students

The Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment will aid students attending UCLA who are majoring in STEM subjects. Series co-creator Chuck Lorre and stars including Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting contributed.

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    'The Big Bang Theory' stars Jim Parsons.
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Some undergraduates majoring in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field at the University of California, Los Angeles will be getting some help from the cast and crew of the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” 

According to the Los Angeles Times, $4 million has been donated to the Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment. Through the endowment, 20 students will get grants of different amounts beginning this fall and five more UCLA attendees will come on board the program every year. According to Deadline, there is no end date for the program. 

Those who donated to the endowment include “Theory” co-creator Chuck Lorre and “Theory” stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik, Simon Helberg, and Melissa Rauch. CBS, Warner Bros., and others also gave money.

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Lorre said in a statement, “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.” 

When asked by Deadline why the endowment didn’t go to the California Institute of Technology, where some of the characters on the show work, Lorre said, “Unlike Caltech, which is a much smaller, private operation, UCLA had a need for rich scholarships for high-performing STEM students who financially are falling short for getting great education. We had to decide how to best spend the money, and Caltech didn’t have the same need.” However, Lorre said he and others are looking to have the scholarship at other schools as well. 

Star Mayim Bialik attended UCLA and the show’s science consultant, David Saltzberg, is a professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA. 

Those behind “Theory” aren’t the only celebrities getting involved to support STEM subjects. According to the New York Times, “Family Guy” creator and “Ted” director Seth MacFarlane served as executive producer and “prime mover” for the 2014 TV series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” a continuation of the classic 1980 series. MacFarlane recalled how he had been inspired by the original show. "When I was a kid I watched 'Cosmos' and it was presented in such a way that placed it in a very different category from other science documentaries that tended to be a little on the dry side," he said, according to the Guardian. According to Variety, the show became the National Geographic Channel's most-watched program ever.

Meanwhile, Danica McKellar, best known for starring on the TV show “The Wonder Years,” has published multiple books about math and did a YouTube series titled “Math Bites” which she hosted, directed, and wrote, according to Entertainment Weekly.

In March at the White House Science Fair, President Obama announced new private-sector commitments, totaling more than $240 million, to get students excited about and doing well in STEM subjects.

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