Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dance your PhD

All day, the news has been dominated by the death of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. I find this story, the reactions of people around the world, disturbing and sad for so many reasons... but I didn’t really want to blog about all that.

So I was looking around for something else, something a little more uplifting. Sure, there’s the feel-good story about thousands of penguin sweaters pouring into New Zealand, but I kind of covered that yesterday... then I found: Dance Your PhD.

A Canadian scientist, Queen’s University biologist Emma Ware, just won an international award for expressing, in modern dance, her doctoral thesis on “how responses from female pigeons affect mating displays from the males”.

The video is actually really cool –and convincingly explains what Ware is studying, how her study is conducted and her hypotheses. The dancing is very skilled and artistic.

Another Canadian student made the cut for the competition. Erin McConnell is a Carleton University biochemist whose thesis examines DNA Aptamers as a tool for studying mental health disease. While her dance video lacks the skill and artistic presentation of Ware’s (the latter actually being a dancer), it looks like a lot of fun. She claims that her friends have told her that since watching the dance video, they finally understand what she does. Frankly, it’s not as convincing as the Ware video – but I love the idea of turning a thesis into a dance.

The international competition has four categories: physics, chemistry, biology and social science. Winners were selected by a jury of scientists and professional dancers and received a prize of $500 US, with one taking home an additional $500 for overall best PhD dance performance and a trip to Brussels for the Tedx conference.
So I’m thinking about my friends who have PhDs – and tossing out the challenge. How would you dance your dissertation?

Sadly, my master’s thesis on urban violence would have likely produced a pretty ugly dance. It probably wouldn’t have been too hard to imagine it as a movement piece, given that it is about human relationships and conflict. But I am in no way claiming that I could dance it – knit it perhaps... (-:

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