Dance Your Ph.D. FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you serious?

Totally serious. Here’s a bizarre TED talk/dance by the founder, John Bohannon. Also see last year’s videos and media coverage in NYTimes and NPR.

But I don’t know how to dance.

Nonsense. Everyone knows how to dance. And anyway, the judges will be looking for great ideas and great performances. You know a great idea when you see one. (It makes you say stuff like, “Ah ha! I get it! Cool!”) And we definitely know a great performance when we see one. It’s about emotion and stage presence, not being virtuoso. Consider, for example, the OK Go treadmill dance, the Numa Numa guy, and the prison Thriller video. And if you’re going for a more serious sort of dance, you can hardly do better than to emulate Pilobolus. Take a look at the Tips & Tricks page for how to make a good Ph.D. dance video.

I’m shy. Do I really need to be in the video?

Are you serious? Yes, the author of the Ph.D. thesis has to be one of the dancers.

I’m not a scientist anymore.

We still love you. If you completed a science-related Ph.D. sometime in your distant past, you’re in.

I’m an engineer/mathematician/economist/historian of science.

Odd-balls are welcome. Your Ph.D. must be in a science-related field, but that’s loosely defined. If you’re seriously in doubt, you can always email us at gonzo@aaas.org

But I’m not even vaguely a scientist, and never was!

OK, that’s a problem. But not a deal-breaker. You just need to find a scientist friend and convince her to enter this contest. Then you can make a dance based on her Ph.D. She just has to be part of the dance. (Note: The prize still goes to the author of the Ph.D.)

OK, I’ll do it. But I don’t know how to make video.

Take a look at the Tips & Tricks page for how to make a good Ph.D. dance video.

Why do I have to put my video on YouTube?

You can actually put your video wherever you want. It’s your Ph.D. dance, after all. But to officially enter the “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest, you have to upload it to YouTube. Up until 2015 we used Vimeo.com as the video hosting platform. Vimeo was a sponsor of the ISF Film Festival, which is where the “Dance Your Ph.D.” screening and award ceremony took place in 2010. That was the main reason. But it’s mostly arbitrary.

I totally just danced my Ph.D.! Now how do I enter the contest?

Congratulations! That was surprisingly fun, wasn’t it? OK, now you have to upload your video, and send us a link. Here are instructions for doing that.

How do I win?

Finalists for each category (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Social Sciences) will be announced in September. A panel of judges will score each Ph.D. dance with 3 parameters: scientific merit, artistic merit, and creative combination of the science and art. Basically, to win this contest, you have to impress the judges. Some of them are scientists, some of them are artists. Your dance has to convey something essential about your Ph.D. research. Whatever that is, the judges need to “get it”. But you also have to make something that is fun to watch. Sure, it can be funny. But if so, it should also be impressively creative. And put some effort into the “Description” text for your video. This is really important. Steer clear of jargon. This is your one and only chance to nudge viewers (including the judges) in the right direction as they try to interpret your Ph.D. dance. It should be short, sweet, and easy to understand. Take a look at the Tips & Tricks page.

How do the categories get decided?

The short version: We decide; the end. Long version: We divide the dances into PHYSICS, CHEMISTRY, BIOLOGY, and SOCIAL SCIENCE based on the phenomenon being studied. If it is at the level of fundamental (or applied) physics or lower (e.g. mathematics), then it goes in PHYSICS. If it focuses mostly on the behavior of atoms, molecules, or interactions at the molecular level, then CHEMISTRY. If the focus is on an organism (genetics, cell biology, physiology, evolution, etc.), then BIOLOGY. And anything that focuses on a higher level of interaction between social organisms, or involves the mind in any way (psychology, sociology) goes into SOCIAL SCIENCE.

Do all PhD projects divide neatly like this? Of course not. But we’re trying to get a broad representation across disciplines. This seems to help. Please don’t get mad.

When do I find out if I win?

You’ll be hearing from us by email as soon as the results from the judging are in. Also, Science will announce the winners with much fanfare.

Got a question we haven't answer? Email us at gonzo@aaas.org