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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

Scientist Spotlight

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Scientist Spotlight: Donna Nelson

There is an important message behind the story of how Donna Nelson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, became the science adviser for Breaking Bad: do not ever think your volunteering will not make a difference. After a plea for assistance from the producer of Breaking Bad appeared in Chemical & Engineering News, Nelson decided to volunteer in the hope of showing more accurate science on television. She became the lone volunteer out of the magazine’s 165,000 subscribers.

Scientist Spotlight: Randii Wessen

Normally, asking a person, “Why would aliens want to attack Earth?” would result in a bumbling, confused answer. But pose the same question to Randii Wessen, Deputy Manager of the Project Formulation Office at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and you will receive a precise answer: aliens would not bother to attack our puny planet. True, as a consultant for The Exchange, Wessen has had some practice answering that question, but the point is he has taken the time to form a rational answer.

Scientist Spotlight: Stuart Sumida

Stuart Sumida’s career is one wild ride – literally. The paleontologist and animal anatomy consultant for animated films helped design a scary Yeti for the Expedition Everest attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. How did Sumida go from professor of paleontology to adviser for The Lion King, How to Train Your Dragon, and other animated flicks?

Scientist Spotlight: Gerry Griffin

Gerry Griffin is not only a pioneer in human space flight, he is also an actor. The former director of the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston starred in both Contact and Deep Impact as a mission control team member. Off-screen, Griffin starred as the technical advisor for both films, not to mention his work on Apollo 13 and the recently released science-fiction thriller Apollo 18.

Scientist Spotlight: David Epstein

His day job may not be nearly as dramatic as it is portrayed on television and film, but as David Epstein, MD, explains, the non-fiction version of the medical field is still intriguing. Which is why Epstein brings his knowledge to the small and silver screen as a consultant for The Exchange. We caught up with him recently to ask him a few questions about his background in pediatrics, what his average workday looks like, and what, if any, similarities exist between fictional medicine and real medicine.

Scientist Spotlight: Seth Shostak

The Exchange’s science consultants never cease to amaze – and not just in their vast knowledge of science. Take Seth Shostak, for example. The Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute has been in love with astronomy since the age of 8, but he also harbors a strong interest in television and film – which explains his guest appearances on The Dating Game!

Scientist Spotlight: Sidney Perkowitz

Physicist Sidney Perkowitz has a long, and impressive, résumé. The Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University is not only the published author of more than 100 scientific papers, he is also the author of four popular science books, (with the fifth to be available in August 2011) a playwright, an Advisory Board member for the Exchange, and, hilariously enough, a YouTube star. Where does he find the time?

Scientist Spotlight: Steven Schlozman

BRRRAAAAINS!!! Steven Schlozman, M.D. isn’t a zombie but he is hungry for brains – zombie brains! An Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Schlozman never dreamed his career would lead to exploring zombie physiology. As luck would have it, a local movie theatre asked Schlozman to give a lecture after a film, leaving the decision of what film up to him. He chose Night of the Living Dead and the rest is history!

Scientist Spotlight: James Kakalios

Sure, we all wish we had superpowers at one time or another, but do we have any clue how to make those superpowers work in the real world? Well have no fear, physicist James Kakalios is here! The University of Minnesota professor, author of The Physics of Superheroes, and Exchange consultant has consulted on not one but three superhero films, including Watchmen, Green Lantern, and a project he can’t tell you about just yet. But what he can tell you is in the interview below.

Scientist Spotlight: May Berenbaum

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … giant flying beetle? This summer’s blockbusters might be all about superheroes but let’s not forget one of the original hallmarks of science-fiction films: insects. Entomologist and Exchange consultant May Berenbaum knows all about insects’ cinematic achievements. Each year, she organizes the Insect Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which highlights the best of Hollywood’s creepy crawlers.

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