The results of the Science Dance Contest came out today! The results are really exciting, and more so because of how unexpected they were. I had picked out in my head who I thought was the best in each category (graduate student, post doc, and professor) but none of them won. I was struck most by the fact that the results may partly be explained by being driven by societyâ€™s expectations of how scientists should be.
The stereotypical scientist is wacky, odd, and eccentric, stuck in their own closed world at all hours doing who-knows-what with complicated machines.Â The winners of this contest really seem to reinforce these stereotypes â€“ a little goofy, a little bit of fun, a little quirky. I find it fascinating that the results seemed to reflect the viewers as well as the videos. It seemed to be a lot about how people want to see their scientists.
I was most impressed with each videoâ€™s level of commitment in their own way, and as a viewer, felt a little like a spectator staring into a fishbowl at this odd little world (even for me, as a grad student). These videos went admirably beyond the level of duty to show it.
I’m glad that this competition didn’t set the precedent that you needed the backing of a dance company in order to win. All you need is passion and some brains, right? I suppose that’s true for a lot of things.
It’s funny how there’s a public curiosity about the insular world of scientists and science, where communication to the nonscience world is difficult and the science is often misunderstood. I also believe that this is driving the interest in this competition â€“ a way to view this oddity of a world and to understand science without long scientific terms. It’s no wonder that many think that this is a good teaching tool. Â Or is it the joy of seeing people, anyone, outside of their comfort zone?
So without further ado, I present to you the winners:
Graduate Student: Sue Lynn Lau’s “The role of vitamin D in beta cell function”
That sun is awesome.
Post doc: Miriam Sach’s “Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography. A comparison between single subject and group analysis”
Professor: Vince LiCata’s “Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids”
But more importantly, my picks
Graduate student Lara Park’s “The role of folate in epigenetic regulation of colon carcinogenesis”
Professor Rachelle Gaudet’s “Structural analysis of phosducin and its phosphorylation-regulated interaction with transducin beta-gamma”
I love the explanation of this as well – the two dancing partners represent two proteins in the eye that are important for light adaptation. When the eye is flooded with light, the two proteins bind together and interact; when in the dark (the darkened front of the stage), the protein is unbound and dancing solo. Finally, the interacting protein degrades (my favorite part) when the guy keels over and dies.Â
Oh, and of course, the funniest:
For the rest of the videos, click here. I was really impressed with the breadth of entries, from aerial circus to “hip hop”. Here’s my entry with the background on my video. Thanks for the all the encouragement, kind links and blog endorsements!!
UPDATE: I just got more information about the judges. The judges included the three artistic directors of Pilobilus Jonathan Wolken, Matt Kent, and Emily Milam Kent (I’m cringing right now that these amazing dancers saw my video but too late I suppose), the three winners from last year’s competition, and three scientists from Harvard University. Interesting, there’s actually a science connection with Pilobilus – Pilobilus is named after a fungs that co-founder Wolken researched in his father’s biophysics lab.
What do you guys think about the winners? Other entries?