Here's What You Get When You Blend Ph.D and Dancing Then Make it a Contest

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In 2011 Ph.D student Elisa House had a strange conversation with her supervisor. He suggested she might like to share her research in a rather unusual way - through dance. He suggested she enter the Dance Your Ph.D contest, then in its fourth year.


“I thought this was the perfect combination of two of my life long passions: science and dance,” House said. “I have always been interested in scientific outreach and trying to get the masses interested in science, and I think “Dance my Ph.D is an excellent way of doing this."

According to GonzoLabs, the creators of the contest, Ph.D students have come to dread the question, “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about" because people’s eyes begin to glaze over. To make the students work more accessible, the contest let the enterprising Ph.D holders express their fun side and demo their concepts via interpretative dance. Yes, for realz.

There are four categories, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Social Sciences. Each dance is scored on scientific merit, artistic merit and “a creative combination of the science and art."

The rules are pretty straightforward:

  1. You must have a Ph.D., or be working on one as a Ph.D. student.
  2. Your Ph.D. must be in a science-related field
  3. You must be part of the dance.

The competition is judged by a panel of science and dance experts, and you can (read the fascinating story of this here). The winners get a small cash prize and international fame plus the knowledge that they’ve taken part in something they can boast about and also never live down forever. The winning videos will be announced on November 21st. For now, check out a few of our favorite entries for this year:

Sperm competition between brothers and female choice from Cedric Kai Wei Tan on Vimeo.

Sperm competition between brothers and female choice
Inspired by various sports, the dance movements in this video reflect the competitive nature in the sperm world. The two original music pieces in it are ‘Animal Love,’ which is about the variety of sexual behavior in different species. There's also 'Scenester,' a piece about a girl who keeps changing her ways and the males who are trying to keep up with her.


Burn and Earn from Lizzy Pope on Vimeo.

Burn and Earn
The “freshman 15” is a myth. However, 90 percent of college first-year students gain at least two pounds during their first year.To find out why, this group conducted a serious study by randomizing 117 first-year students to three conditions; Control, Discontinued-Incentive, and Continued-Incentive. They then subjected all three groups to a “money fairy,” who taunted the control group, and made life “interesting,” for the incentive groups. See how that plays out in the video.


Two years on and House is still proud that she took part. “When I entered in 2011 I think it was still very "underground". The dancing was obviously amateur, but that was the point of it. It sparked in me the passion I have for dancing and I now do contemporary dance for two hours a day, five days a week!”

House hopes Dance Your PhD will continue to prosper.

“The idea of Dance Your PhD is to attract the masses and get them interested in scientific theories and concepts which are beautiful. Everything is connected, and to express physic with the body, and through music, is stunning."