Jacob Brubert, University of Cambridge

And the winner of this year’s Dance Your Ph.D. contest is …

If you want to understand what Jacob Brubert’s Ph.D. in biomedical engineering was all about, you just need to watch him and his friends dance. To explain the science of heart valve bioengineering, Brubert’s crew, from the University of Cambridge, used tap dance, salsa, circus, and what can only be described as a cow doing the worm. And in the final scene, the group depicts the ugly truth about Ph.D. research: Sometimes it just doesn’t work. A dancing scientist laments “Whyyyyy …?” as the experiment—and the entire dance—falls apart.

The spectacle put Brubert over the top in this year’s Dance Your Ph.D., Science’s annual contest that challenges researchers to explain their research in the form of a dance. He wins $1000 for his effort and a trip to Boston next year for a screening and talk at the AAAS annual meeting. (AAAS is the publisher of Science.) 

It wasn’t all experimental agony this year. Below are winners in the other categories. They each win $500.

Biology

Carla Brown at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, focused on a problem created by one of the great successes of science: the genetic spread of antibiotic resistance.

Carla Brown, University of Glasgow

Social Sciences

Margaret  Danilovich at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, proposes a solution to the problem of deteriorating physical fitness in aging populations. She used popping to explore her subject.

Margaret Danilovich, University of Illinois at Chicago

Chemistry

Evgeny Sogorin, stuck with a fundamental science problem at the heart of his Ph.D. at the Institute of Protein Research in Moscow. Using an elaborate ballroom dance, he focused on the mystery of what prevents ribosomes from “jamming up” as they move along RNA strands expressing genes.

Evgeny Sogorin, Institute of Protein Research

People's Choice

And what was your favorite? The internet has spoken. The People’s Choice Award goes to Emmanuelle Alaluf for a dance based on her biomedical Ph.D. research at the Free University of Brussels. You could read her papers about myeloid-derived heme oxygenase-1 and cancer—or you can watch her stunning ballet.

Emmanuelle Alaluf, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) / Institute for Medical Immunology

Think you’ve got what it takes to dance your Ph.D.? Next year is the 10th anniversary! Don't be intimidated, says Brubert, who is now at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. All it took was several weekends and “some very willing friends” to win the contest. “My adviser thought I was crazy, but he was supportive.”

Contest judges:

Alexa Meade

Carl Flink

Weidong Yang

Emily Kent

Jonathan Eisen

Suzanne Walsh

and members of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science

For more information on this contest, visit our Dance Your Ph.D. Contest page.