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Science Advisor for the X-Files Speaks at Medical Museum

By Katie Berland,
NMHM Public Affairs Specialist

SILVER SPRING, MD – Science of an unusual sort was the topic of the National Museum of Health and Medicine's October 25, 2016 Medical Museum Science Café: the science of one-celled bipedal monsters, aliens, "alien DNA," and more. Professor Anne Simon, a virologist at the University of Maryland and science advisor to the popular television series "The X-Files," intrigued everyone in attendance as she talked about her experiences.

"You're probably all wondering how a professor at the University of Massachusetts became a science advisor for the X-Files," said Simon. The story of how Simon became connected with Chris Carter, writer of "The X-Files," actually began when Simon was just a young girl, as Carter was already a life-long family friend of the future virologist.

"Years later in the early 90's, I was scrolling through the TV Guide and I found this new show called "The X-Files." Honestly, I didn't give it a lot of faith in the beginning. It was on Fox, which was still really new at the time, and I wasn't really a fan of how scientists were portrayed in the early 90's on television or in Hollywood. They were portrayed very badly, and as a scientist, I didn't think I would be a fan," said Simon.

As she reminisced about her first time watching the new series, she actually began to realize that the show was very good, and more importantly, that the scientists were actually being depicted in a positive light. "I was watching the show every week – I loved it – it wasn't until my mother called me and told me that Chris Carter had called her and asked if she knew any biologists that I realized that he was actually the producer/writer of the show," laughed Simon. That was the start of her relationship with "The X-Files," and the story continues to this day.

Simon recalled many of her conversations with Carter about the science behind "The X-Files" during the science café. From being asked about how to study strange organisms, editing "The X-Files" scripts to be accurate, and even how to kill off the entire human population, Simon helped develop a riveting drama series. Because of her role with "The X-Files," Simon helped to create one of the first realistic and scientific shows on television that didn't feature the typical "mad scientists."

"When I began this journey, I really had no idea how much of an impact on my life it was going to have. So many young women have decided to become scientists because of this television series, we call it the 'Scully Effect,'" said Simon. The character of FBI agent Dana Scully, portrayed by actress Gillian Anderson, is credited with being a role model for a generation of young girls and women to pursue academic study in the sciences.

NMHM's Medical Museum Science Cafes are a regular series of informal talks that connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. The final Science Café for 2016, "Scarred for Life" will take place on November 15 at the museum from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Ted Meyer, an artist and patient advocate, will share his experiences from chronicling the courage and trauma of people who have lived through accidents and health crises for the past 18 years. He will speak on his current project which features mono-prints of scars from wounded warriors. An exhibit of Meyer's work will also be on display at the museum through February 2017.

NMHM was founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 and moved to its current location in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2012. NMHM is an element of the Defense Health Agency. For more information on upcoming events, please call 301-319-3303.

 

Caption: Prof. Anne Simon (standing) of the University of Maryland and science adviser to the television program "The X-Files," speaks to an audience during the October Medical Museum Science Café at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Md., on Tuesday, October 25, 2016.

(Disclosure: This image has been cropped to emphasize the subject.) (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart / Released)
Caption: Prof. Anne Simon of the University of Maryland and science adviser to the television program "The X-Files," speaks to an audience during the October Medical Museum Science Café at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Md., on Tuesday, October 25, 2016.

(Disclosure: This image has been cropped to emphasize the subject.) (National Museum of Health and Medicine photo by Matthew Breitbart / Released)