Watch the winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest
|sciencemag.org 14 Feb 2020 at 11:44|
Move over Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. AntoinaGronebergs innovative depiction of zebrafish brain development has just reeled in
s annual Dance Your Ph.D. prize. A dancer since she was young, Groneberg taught students jazz and modern dance as a side job while pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience at Champalimaud Research in Lisbon, Portugal. When she heard about
s unusual contest, it seemed a natural fit. Science and dance have always been my passions, says Groneberg, who is now a postdoc at Charit University Hospital in Berlin.
Thats the pairing that Dance Your Ph.D., hosted by
and AAAS, is seeking. The contest challenges scientists around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance. Antonia Gronebergs choreography, inspired by zebrafish larvae, merged dance and science for an aesthetically stunning and intellectually profound masterwork of art, says Alexa Meade, one of the contest judges and an artist who uses mathematics and illusion in her work.
Gronebergs doctoral thesis explored how the motions of groups of zebrafish larvae affected each individual animals brain development and behavior, teasing out the impact by raising some larvae in isolation and documenting any differences. We used to joke that my Ph.D. was easily danceable as its about movement, Groneberg says. Some colleagues accused me of picking my thesis topic because of that.
Largely shot over one hot weekend at Champalimaud Research, the video incorporates colleagues, some of her dance students, children of the adult participants, and others on the Lisbon campus. (Groneberg says she went around asking, Do you have toddlers I can borrow?)
Last year, a preliminary version of the video went viral among zebrafish researchers, Groneberg saysYou dont see too many dance videos about fish larvae.
The judgesa panel of world-renowned artists and scientistschose Gronebergs dance from 30 submissions based on both artistic and scientific merits. She takes home $1000 and a distinction shared by 11 past overall winners. This year s Dance Your Ph.D. featured some of the best combinations of science and interpretive dance I have seen! The competition made complicated subject-matters accessible while maintaining the integrity of the material, Meade says.
This years contest covered four broad categories: biology, chemistry, physics, and social science. Groneberg won both the social science category and the overall prize. The judges said the physics category winner, a Finnish video about multispectral scanning of forests by Samuli Junttila, also deserved special recognition for its original rap and professional production. They called it hilarious and yet scientifically informative, citing its chorus, Scan the trees! Scan the trees!
Dance Your Ph.D. was devised by John Bohannon, a former contributing correspondent for
who still runs the contest on its behalf. He is now director of science at Primer, an artificial intelligence company.