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Dancing dissertation: translate your PhD thesis into dance and win a contest

How about translating your PhD thesis into a dance? The Dance Your Phd contest can help you explain your research through an artistic medium—interpretive dance. Vanita Srivastava reports.

delhi Updated: Aug 05, 2013 02:56 IST
Vanita Srivastava
Dance Your Phd

How about translating your PhD thesis into a dance? The Dance Your Phd contest can help you explain your research through an artistic medium—interpretive dance.

For the past five years international journal, Science, has been conducting ‘Dance Your Phd’ contest for researchers across the world to see which scientists can best explain their research work through interpretive dance.

The rules for the competition are simple—create a dance that is inspired by your PhD research. The applicant can be a PhD student in science or he may have even completed his/her Phd 50 years ago.

The dance can be solo, duet or can involve the whole lab group but the author of the PhD thesis has to be a part of it. The dance has to be made into a video and posted at Vimeo.com. The last date for this year’s contest is October 1.

The cash prizes are $500 for each Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Social Sciences category. The best Phd dance will get an additional $500.


Sneha Vivek's dance was awarded the runners up in Chemistry category in 2010. HT Photo


Before the show, each dancer is given time to describe the research to the judges. So this could be more than just a dance contest. Folded in can be an ability to summarize the PhD work succinctly.

Australians have dominated in recent years, with a physicist winning in 2011 for his stop motion dance about titanium hips and a chemist in 2012 for his old timey burlesque about aluminum crystals.

“ What surprised me about the PhD dance contest was its diversity. There has been broad sampling from various fields including biology, astronomy, quantum physics, anthropology and archeology,” says John Bohannon, a biologist and correspondent for the journal Science who started the competition.

To win the contest, the dance needs to pull off two tricks—it needs to be engaging art, and should let the viewers understand the essence of the science behind the Ph.D. research, Bohannon who is a visiting researcher at Harvard University said.

Says Sneha Vivek, director of Natya Ninada in California who was one of the runners up in the contest: “ One of my students asked me to translate her thesis to dance. After reading her thesis, I took help from my son to create original music. Then I called my students and asked them if they were interested in participating.”