A biomedical engineer from Western Australia University won the grand prize in the 2011 Dance Your Ph.D. competition. The prize includes $1000 and a trip to the upcoming TEDxBrussels conference.
The winning video, submitted by WAU student Joel Miller, used 2200 photographs to create a stylized stop-animation movie. Titled “Microstructure-Property Relationships in Ti2448 Components Produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story,” the movie features Miller and colleagues communicating his Ph.D. thesis though dance. His thesis research focused on the creation of Titanium alloys with optimal strength and flexibility for hip replacements implants.
The competition was created by Science contributor John Bohannon, aka the Gonzo Scientist, to encourage young scientists to explore different ways to communicate their research. Specifically, the competition asks scientists to dance out their science-related thesis. Each contestant’s thesis must have been recently completed or in progress, and, most importantly, each contestant must dance.
Now in its fourth year, the contest has attracted more submissions each year. This year, 55 entries were submitted, setting a new record.
“The bar really rose quite high this year. All of the finalists are really amazing,” said Erin McConnell, a chemistry Ph.D. student from the Carlton University in Ottawa, Canada who was a finalist in the contest’s chemistry category.
In her submission, McConnell and her colleagues from the DeRosa Aptamer Research Lab demonstrated her experiment that involved mice, dopamine, and DNA aptamers. Last year, two students from the DeRosa Lab took home the grand prize, but this year they fell short.
Similarly, other finalists took the team approach. For example, to convey her thesis on the epigenetic influences of a high-fat Western diet, Tufts University graduate student Lara Park recruited a large cast that included student and faculty from the university as well as members of the university’s Sarabande Repertory Dance Ensemble.
“It was a really fun experience. I was so impressed with the enthusiasm from everyone involved from my thesis advisor, heads of labs, graduate students, and fellow dancers from the company that I perform with here in Boston called Urbanity Dance,” said Park.
But others took a simpler approach. For instance, with his solo break dance routine, FoSheng Hsu narrated the complicated story of the biochemistry behind his X-ray crystallography research. As a result, Hsu won the chemistry category.
“The intention of the dance is really to be entertaining but at the same time, conveys important scientific concept I really want keep the audience focused on the dance. I tried to make the whole routine simple and easy to understand, but at the same time, fun to watch,” said Hsu.
While 20% of his winnings will be donated to charity, Hsu thinks he may use the rest to thank his supporters by buying dinners for them. In the end, Hsu said he was very thankful to everyone involved with the contest.
“Gonzo, Science, the dancers who made this competition fun and exciting, the judges for their time and effort. Deep thanks to my best friends and classmates, Pi-Chang Hsu and Ching-Lin Hsieh for helping with the filming. Last but not least, I thank Steve Jobs for the Macbook Pro. Without it, we would not be able to film this video,” said Hsu.
The winning videos can be viewed here:
- Grand Prize & Physics: "Microstructure-Property Relationships in Ti2448 Components Produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story" by Joel Miller, Western Australia University
- Chemistry: "The Holy Grail to X-ray Crystal Structure of Human Protein Phosphatase" by FoSheng Hsu, Cornell University
- Biology: "Smell-mediated Response to Relatedness of Potential Mates" by Cedric Kai Wei Tan, University of Oxford
- Social Sciences: "A Study of Social Interactivity using Pigeon Courtship" by Emma Ware, Queen’s University