Photo by Joshua Coleman
It’s the dreaded question most scientists are asked: “what actually is it that you specialise in?”. Life would be so much simpler if a series of very complex ideas and experiments could be explained through a medium that everyone could understand. Interpretive dance perhaps?
The #DanceYourPhD, run by the journal Science, ran for the thirteenth year in 2021, covering categories spanning physics, chemistry, social sciences, biology, and the newly-introduced COVID-19 category for the first (and hopefully the last) time. It challenges PhD scientists to explain their area of research through interpretive dance, a medium which everyone can understand regardless of scientific information.
This year’s winners- Vitus Besel, Ivo Neefjes, and Jakub Kubečka- study atmospheric sciences at the University of Helsinki, and they created a winning routine and rap song to explain Jakub’s PhD in “Formation, structure, and stability of atmospheric molecular clusters”. Filmed mostly outdoors or in empty laboratories after not leaving the house for nearly 9 months due to the pandemic, it includes incredible lines such as “I’m the first author, you’re just et al”, “I’ll never have to leave my chair even for a second”, and “Look at us, genius atmospheric scientists!”. Chosen by a panel of world-leading scientists and artists, it combined art and science effectively enough to beat out 39 other entrants, and even provided citations for the facts in the video.
The scientists join other iconic winners such as ‘Belly dance your PhD’ to explain the role of genetics in plant susceptibility to disease, a catchy rap summarising a thesis focusing on “Utilizing multispectral lidar in the detection of declined trees”, and a ballet routine covering the pharmacokinetics of nanomedicines.
The rest of this year’s winners can be found on YouTube, explaining biomimetic carboxylate-bridged diiron complexes, fragmentation of plastics, and the COVID-19 nucleocapsid protein in a way that can be enjoyed by everyone.