Delightful doctoral dancing

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well, it’s official! Science has announced the winner of the fourth annual “Dance your Ph.D.” contest. The grand prize goes to Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia in Perth, who performed “Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story” (see the video below).

Miller gets not only $1,000 and a free trip to Belgium to be crowned champion, but also the admiration and respect of all fellow artistically inclined science nerds. (There are more than you might think!) I’ve always enjoyed the contest and think it’s a great way to enjoy the awesome achievement that is a Ph.D., as well as help spread the word on nifty scientific concepts. As you can imagine, I’m always in favor of making complicated science understandable to the average person, especially in such a fun way.

I’ll confess that I was rooting for fellow MIT alum Stephen Steiner to win for his energetic “Carbon Nanotube Growth on Challenging Substrates: Applications for Carbon-Fiber Composites,” but Miller definitely deserves the 2011 award. Unlike the other 54 entries this year, he didn’t actually film his dance, because he says no one involved had a video camera. Instead, they shot about 2,200 still pictures to produce a stop motion animation dance that helps explain Miller’s research into creating an ideal form of titanium for human hip replacement.

Miller’s was the top choice in the physics category, and the other category winners (in chemistry, biology, and social sciences) will receive $500 each for dances on X-ray crystallography, fruit fly sex, and pigeon courtship. Check out all 16 finalists if you find yourself thirsty for more science or dance.

Some of the tunes are catchy enough that you might just have Ph.D. research stuck in your head all day! Which is your favorite? Have you actually entered the contest, or thought about it? What do you think of the idea of explaining science through dance?

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