Ever wonder what an interpretative dance version of “Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography: A comparison between single subject and group analysis” would look like? Now you can find out!

Back in October, The Gonzo Scientist invited researchers to film dance interpretations of their Ph.D. research and post the results on YouTube as part of the 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science Dance Contest. Amazingly, 36 dances were submitted for judging by a nine-member panel made up of past Dance Contest winners, Harvard scientists and artistic directors from the Pilobolus dance company.

The entries were broken down into four categories. Sue Lynn Lau of Australia won in the “Graduate Student” division for her five-person classical ballet/dance party interpretation of “The Role of Vitamin D in Beta-Cell Function,” while the “Post-Doctoral” division was taken by Germany’s Miriam Sach for her solo performance of “Cerebral Activation Patterns Induced By Inflection of Regular and Irregular Verbs With Positron Emission Tomography: A Comparison Between Single Subject and Group Analysis.” Biochemist Vince LiCata of the U.S., assisted by his grad students, won the “Professors” category with “Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids,” and the “Popular Choice” award went to Markita Landry, a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her “Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes” tango, which was by far the most popular entry on YouTube with over 14,000 views.

I was ready to be appalled, but I have to admit that as I watched the dances I began to feel a certain respect and affection for their attempts at interpreting their research in completely foreign forms of expression. The results vary wildly; Landry can dance, while Sachs gets points for effort but should probably stick to the neuroscience. But they’re all far more engaging, interesting and fun to watch than I expected, and if nothing else, good for a laugh or two.

Contest winners will be paired with professional choreographers to translate a research paper they’ve authored into a dance, which will then be combined into a single, four-part performance that will debut in February 2009 at This Is Science, “a contemporary dance interpretation of contemporary scientific research,” where they will be the guests of honor. All four winning entries in the 2009 A.A.A.S. Science Dance Contest can be seen here.

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