Red Dirt Diaries: OU Professor Involved In 'Breaking Bad'

Friday, August 15th 2014, 9:48 pm
By: Karl Torp

The hit TV show, “Breaking Bad,” ended last year, but we found out it's still riding a wave of popularity outside the country. So is the show's "science advisor," who is a professor at OU.

Before “Breaking Bad” turned so lethal, it needed legitimacy.

OU professor Donna Nelson will never forget the add put out early on by “Breaking Bad” producers in a trade magazine.

“We would welcome constructive comments from a chemically-inclined audience,” Nelson recalled.

The show, about a cancer-diagnosed, high school science teacher, played by Brian Cranston, making methamphetamine to pay for his treatment, was looking for a real expert, and Nelson jumped at the chance.

“They said, ‘Do you ever make it out to Burbank?' And they just got done telling me they didn't have much money, so I said, ‘All the time,'” said Nelson. “I'd never been to Burbank.”

With one white lie, Dr. Nelson became a consultant on a show about blue meth.

“I did get the chance to meet almost everyone on the show,” Nelson said.

“Breaking Bad” ended its five-year run last year, but the invites to speak about turning science sinister kept coming for the doctor.

“They said to me at the time, ‘Don't tell how it ends, because they hadn't seen it yet in Germany,'” Nelson said.

This summer, the OU professor was invited to lecture a half dozen times across Germany. All of it was about her experience on a show that compounds chemicals and chaos.

“If somebody had told me at the beginning of my career, ‘one day you are going to be very popular, and you are going to have all these people wanting your autograph and taking selfies with you,' I would have said, ‘No way, that just doesn't happen to a scientist,'” Nelson said.

For Nelson, the reaction seemed to break all laws of science.

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