Public Release:  For materials science burlesque, Australian researcher wins Science's 'Dance Your Ph.D.' contest

American Association for the Advancement of Science

This is the 5th year of the "Dance Your Ph.D." contest sponsored by Science and AAAS. The contest challenges scientists around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance. The 36 Ph.D. dances submitted this year include everything from ballet and breakdancing to flaming hula hoops.

The overall winner was Peter Liddicoat at the University of Sydney, Australia's second win in a row. Liddicoat admits to being a shy postdoc "more comfortable hiding behind the computer monitor," but he finally caved to pressure from his labmates. "A turning point was my boss's enthusiastic laughter when encouraging me to do it," says Liddicoat, "and the realization that this would tackle head-on the ominous question, 'So what is your Ph.D. about?'"

Liddicoat's solution was to turn his Ph.D. thesis--"Evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation"--into an elaborate burlesque circus show. It required six months of preparation and the help of dozens of friends. For using dance and clowning to explain how crystal structure can be manipulated to create a light-weight aluminum alloy as strong as heavy steel, Liddicoat will receive $1000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium where his dance video will be shown at TEDxBrussels.

This is also the first win for a Ph.D. dance based on pure mathematics. The winner of the PHYSICS category went to Diana Davis of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She literally translated her Ph.D. research on geometry and dynamical systems into a dance that played out her geometric theorem. She wins $500 and will also attend TEDxBrussels.

Finalists were announced on 9 October, at

The results in full:

Winner of the CHEMISTRY category and overall winner of the 2012 "Dance Your Ph.D." contest:

Peter Liddicoat, for the dance based on his Ph.D. thesis, "Evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation." Dr. Liddicoat is a research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Winner of the PHYSICS category:

Diana Davis, for the dance based on her Ph.D. thesis, "Cutting sequences on Veech surfaces." Ms. Davis is a mathematics Ph.D. student at Brown University in Providence, RI, currently spending a semester doing research at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Winner of the BIOLOGY category:

Maria Vinti, for the dance based on her Ph.D. thesis, "Spastic co-contraction in spastic paresis: Biomechanical and physiological characterization." Ms. Vinti is a physiology Ph.D. student in the Laboratoire de Biomécanique, Arts et Métiers, Paris Institute of Technology in France.

Winner of the SOCIAL SCIENCE category:

Riccardo Da Re, for the dance based on his Ph.D. thesis, "Governance of natural resources and development of local economies in rural areas: Social network analysis and other instruments for good governance indicators." Dr. Da Re is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Padua in Italy.

The judges for this year's contest:

Nicholas Christakis, sociologist, Harvard University
Jean Berko Gleason, psychologist, Boston University
Albion Lawrence, string theorist, Brandeis University
Jonathan Garlic, molecular biologist, Tufts University
Erez Lieberman Aiden, mathematician, Harvard University
Paul Ginsparg, physicist, Cornell University
Keith Nelson, chemist, MIT
Suzanne Walsh, program officer, Gates Foundation
Matt Kent, associate artistic director, Pilobolus
Emily Kent, coordinator, Pilobolus Institute
Renee Jaworski, associate artistic director, Pilobolus


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