Check out the winners of this year's Dance Your PhD Competition!

For the last four years, scientists from around the world have been participating in Science's Dance Your PhD contest. The rules of the competition are simple: convey your graduate work in the form of interpretive dance. Creativity will win you points, as will scientific merit; but only by combining the two do you stand to win a spot in the annals of Dance Your PhD history.


This year a record 55 videos were submitted to the competition by scientists from all around the globe. Last week, 16 semifinalist-dances — covering topics that ranged from carbon nanotubes to cardiac myosin — were announced over at Science. And now, the results of Science's 4th annual Dance Your PhD contest are officially in.

Listed below are the videos of this year's winning dances in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, and social science. Each of the winners will claim a $500 prize, and grand-prize-winner Joel Miller — a biomedical engineer from the University of Western Australia — will claim an additional 500 bucks and a free trip to Belgium, where he will be crowned winner of the 2011 DYPhD competition at TEDxBrussels.


Winner of the Physics Category (and Grand-Prize Winner)
Joel Miller, University of Western Australia, AUS
"Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting"
(Video featured up top)

Hip replacements have a limited life before they too need replacing. This is known in the medical field as revision surgery and it is a source of much pain and inconvenience for the patient. Revision surgery is most often because the underlying bone has deteriorated. Bone needs stress to grow and to maintain strength, yet current hip replacement implants are too stiff - they constrain the affixed bone and prevent it from stretching. In much the same way that muscles unused lose strength and wither, so does bone. The bone around the implant starts to deteriorate and the bond between bone and implant fails.

My research at the University of Western Australia uses [new materials] and advanced manufacturing techniques to try to overcome the main reason why orthopaedic implants fail. If successful, it will help lead to more durable implants, reducing the need for revision surgery and allowing orthopaedic implants to be used on younger adult patients. [Read more about Miller's research here]

Winner of the Chemistry Category
FoSheng Hsu, Cornell University, US
"X-ray Crystal Structure of Human Protein Phosphatase"

Using x-ray crystallography to solve protein structure is the focus in our lab. The dance interprets the difficult and time consuming process of obtaining a 3-dimensional protein structure, which is crucial for not just understanding the cellular function but also provides a fundamental step to drug design.

As a structural biologist, I hope to take the viewers on a journey into the world of x-ray crystallography through several key stages. Different outfits and music divide each stage. Rather than employing multiple dancers, I intentionally limited the performance down to one actor to show more clearly the continuity from one stage to the next. [Read more about Hsu's research here]


Winner of the Biology Category
Cedric Kai Wei Tan, University of Oxford, UK
"Smell mediated response to relatedness of potential mates"

Individuals often migrate from their place of origin in a relatively slow pace. As such, related individuals frequently interact. Relatedness between two individuals is defined as the percentage of genes in those two individuals that are identical by common ancestry. My PhD project at University of Oxford focuses on the mechanisms through which relatedness affects sexual interactions of the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster and the red jungle fowl, Gallus gallus.

Our dance depicts the social and sexual behavior of the common fruit fly. Fruit flies are attracted by the smell of rotting fruit where they collect, feed and interact. Males compete against one another for female mates. In addition, males perform a sequence of courtship behaviors. First, they tap and chase the females. Thereafter, they encircle the females while playing a song by vibrating their wings. Then, the males orient themselves at the rear of the females' abdomen to lick their body. Finally, males attempt copulation. Females can reject the males' advances with several responses such as flicking of wings and kicking. [Read more about Tan's research here]


Winner of the Social Science Category
Emma Ware, Queen's University, Canada
"A study of social interactivity using pigeon courtship"

This PhD study challenges the traditional ‘stimulus-release' model of social interaction. Animal social interactions are commonly described as a ‘chain of reciprocal signals' where each signal is successively ‘released' by stimuli present in the signal preceding it (Tinbergen). But, how is a signal's outcome influenced by its dynamic relations to other behaviours in the chain? To study social interactivity, a closed-loop video interface was used to set up live social interaction between male and female pigeons (Columba livia). With this setup we were able to manipulate the dynamics of the interaction and study the role that social dynamics play in behaviour.


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Corpore Metal

So I think this would be a lot funnier if the rules of the contest required the Ph.D candidates themselves were forced to do the interpretive dances instead of getting their talented friends or professional dancers to do it.

(Although not having watched all the vids, perhaps there might be one or two above where the scientists or grad students themselves did the dancing, clumsily or not.)