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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Announcing the winner of this year's 'Dance Your Ph.D.' contest | Science Magazine

Photo: John Bohannon
John Bohannon, Science contributing correspondent and writes for Wired and other magazines notes, Interpretative dance competition celebrates its 10th year.

Photo: Scientific Community

WINNER of 2017 Dance Your PhD, Representations of the Braid Groups 

It’s not enough to do good research. You have to communicate it—not just to the other people in your academic department, but to anyone. That can be difficult if, for example, you work in an abstract branch of mathematics. A long talk full of equations won’t cut it. Sometimes you need to pull out science’s most powerful and top-secret communication tool: interpretive dance.

That’s exactly what Nancy Scherich did. Her Ph.D. research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is in topology, the study of geometry in which shape and size don’t matter. Her focus is on braid theory; she spends her days “with paper and pencil” to find the rules that determine the unique representations of twists and knots in high-dimensional spaces. So naturally, she created a dance to explain it with aerial silk acrobatics and glowing hula hoops. Look for the mathematical plot twist. (Spoiler alert: It involves linear algebra and murder!)

Scherich is the overall winner of this year’s “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. This is the 10th year of a challenge laid down by Science and AAAS for researchers to explain their work with dance moves. Scherich is joined by three other researchers who won in their scientific categories with dances explaining their work on sea star ecology, the psychology of creativity, and the biochemistry of criminal forensics. That last one, by Natália Oliveira at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, is also the winner of our online audience favorite award. In all, 53 scientists from around the world submitted dances...

This year's judges:
Katrien KolenbergAstrophysicist at the University of Leuven in Belgium and inaugural Ph.D. dancer
Carl Flink, Choreographer and director of the Black Label Movement and professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis
Alexa MeadeArtist and visual engineer
Kieran Gourley, Mathematician and professional ballet dancer in Sydney, Australia
Matt KentEmily KentRenée Jaworski, Pilobolus
Read more... 

Additional resources 
Scientific Community - doi:10.1126/science.aar3697

Source: Science Magazine and Nancy Scherich (YouTube)