1 Tahrcountry Musings: Showing off your research through dance

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Showing off your research through dance

Dancing your PhD may sound a wee bit zany and bonkers. This happened recently in a contest sponsored by the magazine science. Science challenge to researchers was to interpret their Ph.D. research in dance form, film the dance, and share it with the world on YouTube. 36 entries came up for the competition. The panel of judges consisted of the three winners of the first "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, three scientists from Harvard University, and three artistic directors of the dance company Pilobolus. On 20 November Science announced the winners of the 2009 AAAS Science Dance Contest in four categories: Graduate Students, Postdocs, Professors, and Popular choice.

The winners were

Graduate students: Sue Lynn Lau, Garvan Institute of Medical Research / University of Sydney, Australia.
Sue Lynn Lau chose classical ballet and highly kinetic party dancing as the way to interpret her Ph.D. thesis, "The role of vitamin D in beta-cell function."

Post doc: Miriam Sach, University of Duesseldorf, Germany
The research of Miriam Sach was to find out whether different types of verbs are processed by different regions of the brain. Sach, embodied this difference by dancing in the various styles of processing: awkward and hunched for the irregular verbs and graceful and limber for the regular verbs.

Professors: Vince LiCata, Johns Hopkins University
Vince LiCata and three associates danced a slow and graceful double pas de deux, representing the interaction of pairs of hemoglobin molecules from his 1990 Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. thesis, "Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids."

Popular Choice: Markita Landry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
The winner of the Popular Choice category was determined by the number of views accumulated by each YouTube video between the time it went online and the contest deadline. Landry was the winner with 14,138 views. Landry used a tango to convey her thesis, "Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes."

Each winner will be paired with a professional choreographer, and together they will attempt to translate a scientific paper the researcher has authored into a proper dance. Then the four choreographers will create a single four-part performance based on the papers. In February 2009, the winning scientists will be guests of honor at the AAAS Annual meeting in Chicago. They will have front-row seats to the world debut of THIS IS SCIENCE, a professional dance interpretation of their published research.

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