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"Dance Your PhD" Contest


Date: 04/23/2010

Time: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Location: 2-101 Hasselmo Hall

Cost: Free and open to the public


The journal Science is about to launch the 2010 "Dance Your PhD" contest, and scientists at U. Minnesota will get the first crack at it. The man behind the contest, Science correspondent John Bohannon, will be there to capture science in dance form in all its glory.

In a nutshell: You have to turn your PhD thesis into a short dance. An international panel of judges will score the dance on both its scientific and artistic merits. Besides the glory of appearing in Science, there are thousands of dollars in cash prizes. Plus, your dance will be screened at the award ceremony (like the Oscars, but with more science) in October 2010 in New York City at the Imagine Science Film Festival.


1. You have to either already have a PhD in a scientific field (loosely defined), or working on one as a PhD student.
2. You have to be part of the dance. It can be a solo or a team effort.
3. You have to have fun.

Info about the contest: www.gonzolabs.org/dance

It all started back in 2008.  No one quite knew what to expect as the lights came up on a pair of astrophysicists dressed as binary galaxies. To the tune of an old tango, Ruth Gruetzbauch stalked and twirled around Jesús Varela before surrendering to his supermassive gravity. The rowdy audience of scientists exploded with applause. The world's first Dance Your Ph.D. Contest, with Christoph Campregher at the controls of the sound system, was off to a good start.

Campregher was the inspiration for the event. By day, as a molecular biology Ph.D. student at the Medical University of Vienna, he studies the connection between inflammation and colorectal cancer. But by night, he becomes an experimental DJ with the stage name trockenmoos, spinning in clubs and salons across the city. The Ph.D. dance contest was the warm-up act for the debut performance of Campregher's latest collaborative project, called Molecular Code, a work that uses only sounds sampled in a molecular biology lab. Between 100 and 200 scientists showed up for the occasion—an open bar may have helped—fittingly held not in a nightclub but in the new steel-and-glass building that houses the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) and the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA). Organized by IMP Ph.D. student Nilay Yapici, the event snowballed into a blowout science party, with two other scientist-DJs agreeing to take part: Ph.D. students Martha Körner of IMP and Philip Starkl of the Medical University of Vienna.

It's not surprising that scientists make good DJs. As vinyl gives way to ever-more-sophisticated software on laptops, having an ease with complex systems—and a nerdy fetish for technology—is a natural advantage. But what about the audience? After all, a DJ show requires warm bodies reacting on the dance floor. By reputation, scientists are skilled in making music, but I wondered, "Can scientists dance?" (If you've ever witnessed the weddinglike awkwardness of dances at scientific conferences, you know what I mean.)

To address the question, Gonzo Scientist and contributing writer for Science, John Bohannon, added one more component to the event. The rules were simple: Using no words or images, interpret your Ph.D. thesis in dance form. Entrants were divided into three categories—graduate student, postdoc, and professor—and the prize for each was a year's subscription to Science.


  • Name: Institute for Advanced Study
  • E-mail: ias@umn.edu
  • Phone: 612-626-5054
  • Sponsored by: Institute for Advanced Study


Reservation Information:  

More information: http://www.gonzolabs.org/dance

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