Scientific research can be a solitary pursuit. And for Pramodh Senarath Yapa, a physicist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, even the subject of his research is solitary: singleton electrons wandering in a superconducting material. "Superconductivity relies on the pairing of isolated electrons when they are cooled to a temperature below a certain temperature," Yapa explains. "Once, I started to think of electrons as unsociable people who suddenly become happy once matched, imagining them as dancers was obvious!"
After six weeks of choreography and songwriting later, Yapa won the "Dance Your Ph.D." competition of 2018. The judges – a group of world-renowned artists and scientists – chose the swing electronic dance of Yapa among 50 proposals based on artistic and scientific merits. He wins $ 1,000 and the immortal glory of geeks.
"I remember hearing about Dance Your Ph.D. many years ago and marveling at all the entries," Yapa says. "It's definitely a long-time dream come true." Meanwhile, his research evolved from superconductivity – which he pursued at the University of Victoria in Canada, where he earned a master's degree – at the superfluid physics, object of his .RE. research at the University of Alberta.
It's the 11th year of dance of your doctorate hosted by Science and AAAS. The competition invites scientists from around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance.
"Most people would not normally think of interpretative dance as a scientific communication tool," says artist Alexa Meade, one of the contest's judges. "However, the body can express its conceptual thoughts through movement in the same way as words and data tables, and the results are both cleverly poetic and scientifically profound."
The 12 finalists were announced on February 4 in each of four major categories: biology, chemistry, physics and social sciences. Yapa won both the physical category and the overall prize. "By using gentle dancing partners for shy electron pairs and aggressive metals as spin impurities, Pramodh was able to create an intuitive visual representation of the non-local electrodynamics of superconductivity," Meade explains.
Below you will find the four winners selected by the jury. one of them was also the public favorite, determined by an online vote.
General Winner and Physical Category
Pramodh Senarath Yapa, "Non-local electrodynamics of superconducting wires: consequences for noise and flux inductance"
Winner, category Biology and favorite public
Olivia Gosseries, "Measuring Awareness After Severe Brain Injury Using Brain Stimulation"
Winner, Chemistry category
Shari Finner, "Theory of Percolation – Conductive Plastics"
Winner, Social Sciences category
Roni Zohar, "Movements as a door to learning concepts of physics – Integrating embodied pedagogy into teaching"
The 2018 dance of your doctorate judges:
John Bohannon, the inventor of the "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, is a former correspondent correspondent of Science and still runs the contest on his behalf. He is currently Scientific Director at Primer, an artificial intelligence company based in San Francisco, California.