Scientist wins award in “Dance Your PhD 2014” contest

Many consider obtaining a Ph.D. to be one of the most grueling and challenging educational tasks an individual could set out to stare down. However, Uma Nagendra managed to do something few Ph.D. students, or graduates can lay claim to. She won a contest called “Dance Your Ph.D.” and it is, almost precisely what it sounds like.

The contest has been around since 2007 and has been raising eyebrows, as well as curiosity for several years now. It has often been referred to as a “universal medium” which allows individuals who are not heavily trained or educated in the field to expand, and understand the knowledge that is being placed in front of them.


In simple terms, it takes complicated doctorate level research and makes it readily available for everyone to understand through dance, of various forms. It offers a different way to communicate and gives individuals an opportunity who studied the material, to expand their thoughts and knowledge onto an audience through a non-conventional medium.

The concept behind Nagendra’s winning video includes 6 aerialists. She is one of the 6 aerialists in the video, and they perform acrobatics on a trapeze to show “how several different species of tree seedlings in the southern Appalachian Mountains interact with soil organisms – and how tornadoes might mix things up.” Her research was based on understanding “how the natural world recovers from disasters.”

Specifically, her research was called and titled “Alterations to plant-soil feedbacks after severe tornado disturbance.” The effectiveness is actually overwhelmingly in favor of those who support this type of learning, and this method of expression.

Initially, the “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest was one that was met with relative uncertainty. No one really was sure how it would work in actual practice, even as the concept itself was really impressive and well-thought-out. However, since the contest launched in 2007, the overwhelming success has quelled any thoughts or considerations of failure or uncertainty. This year was no exception, and the impressiveness of the dances, and the work that goes into the production of these entries alone, is worthy of serious praise.

In fact, the production of the video in many cases takes as long as the physical research itself. For the research that many put into their Ph.D.’s to begin with, this is a significantly larger undertaking, and something that is very challenging in many cases.

About the author

Nitin Agarwal

Nitin Agarwal

Nitin has a background in Electrical Engineering and is passionate about the Internet of Things. He covers how connected devices like smart homes, wearables, and industrial IoT are changing our daily lives. Nitin is also a DIY enthusiast and loves to build IoT gadgets.