Paging Dr Beat – Dance your PhD is back

The good news is that Paul Greatrix has news of a return to the doctorate dancefloor.

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

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We’ve lost many of the more entertaining aspects of university life during the pandemic.

Among them sadly is the kind of creativity which comes with ‘bake your thesis’ competitions and the like. It is reassuring though that the annual ‘Dance Your PhD’ competition has managed to continue online this year in remote mode. And it has inspired a number of really creative efforts:

You may never look at clouds the same way again. A video created by three atmospheric science graduate students at the University of Helsinki features an original rap song and choreography explaining how groups of atoms stick together to form the billowy shapes in our sky. And it has just won Science’s annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest.

It took 2 months of prep and rehearsal for the “scientific cluster,” as the students call themselves, to finish the video. They used drones and green screen effects to show cloud molecules spinning, colliding, and sticking together, all while the scientists sing. “Our main goal was to show nonscientific muggles that science can be fun, silly, and exciting,” says contest winner Jakub Kubečka, who was inspired to participate in the competition after a friend was a finalist a few years ago. He then recruited two colleagues to help with the song, lyrics, and filming.

You can see the video here:

It really is a hugely impressive piece of work and it is great to see that the Dance Your PhD contest, which has been challenging scientists to explain their research through dance for 14 years, manages to sustain such a high standard of performance.

There are other excellent category winners including this one which covers all the bases in the new Covid-19 category. Heather Masson-Forsythe of Oregon State University won this award for her dance about her search for new drugs:

that could block SARS-CoV-2 and stop viral replication. In her dance, she becomes the virus’ different proteins, spinning and moving erratically. She also uses a flaming red scarf to symbolize the virus’ genetic material.

Great stuff.

It remains an entertaining annual event and one which reminds us all that there is a lighter side to university research which we have all been missing over the past 12 months. Long may it continue.

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