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Science in Motion: Turning Your Ph.D. Research into the Next Hot Dance
Forget "Dancing with the Stars." Let's get down with the scientists. The winning entrants in the 2009 AAAS Science Dance Contest show style, ingenuity and humor as they portray their Ph.D. research in the form of dance.
The contest is the brain-child of Gonzo Scientist John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent for Science, who wanted to give scientists a chance to show their creativity in communicating their work while also shattering a few stereotypes about stuffy, lab-bound researchers.
The winners in the four categories were announced 20 November on the ScienceNow news site.
The contest was open to anyone who has or is pursuing a Ph.D. in any scientific field. Applicants were asked to make a video of their own Ph.D. dance and post it on YouTube. A panel of nine judges, consisting of the three winners of the previous "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, three scientists at Harvard University, and the three artistic directors of the dance company Pilobolus, selected the four winners. The winning scientists will now work with professional choreographers to develop their published research into a full-scale dance that will debut at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago in February 2009.
The winners in each category:
Graduate Students: Sue Lynn Lau of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. With colleagues, she used ballet and frenetic party dancing to interpret her Ph.D. thesis, "The role of vitamin D in beta-cell function." In one phase of the dance, she appears as the Sugarplum Fairy to deliver marshmallow glucose to three beta cell dancers.
Post docs: Neuroscientist Miriam Sach of the University of California, San Diego, did a solo contemporary dance that embodied her 2004 doctoral thesis at the University of Duesseldorf, Germany on "cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs."
Professors: Vince LiCata, a biochemist at Louisiana State University, joined with three of his graduate students to dance a double pas de deux illustrating the interaction of pairs of hemoglobin molecules. His 1990 doctoral thesis at Johns Hopkins University was titled, "Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids."
Popular Choice: The entrant whose YouTube video had the most views between the time it went online and the contest deadline. Markita Landry, a physics Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, had 14,138 views. She used a tango to convey her thesis, "Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA complexes." In trying to portray how a protein called TelK bends DNA into hairpin loops, Landry bends like pliable DNA in her partner's arms.
Since filing his first Gonzo Scientist story a little more than a year ago on a three-day science and technology workshop he described as "a summer camp for grown-up geeks," Bohannon has attended a 300th birthday party for taxonomy founder Carl Linnaeus, rocketed to Mars (sort of) in his apartment by simulating conditions in a Mars space capsule, and traveled to Mongolia to cover a solar eclipse.
21 November 2008