Dance your PhD thesis

A Canadian scientist has won an international award for her PhD thesis — the dance remix of it anyway.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A Canadian scientist has won an international award for her PhD thesis — the dance remix of it anyway.

Queen’s University biologist Emma Ware is one of four winners of Dance Your PhD, a unique and lighthearted annual contest that asks researchers to convert their doctoral thesis into a dance video.

Her thesis, entitled A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship, yielded a moody, black-and-white video that shows how responses from female pigeons affect mating displays from the males.

The judges, who included both professional dancers and scientists, praised it for mirroring exactly with the dancers the experimental processes that Ware used on her pigeons.

“I’ve always been very interested and passionate about dance as well as science,” said Ware, who helped start a dance club at her university. “For me, it was kind of like two worlds colliding and this was a great opportunity.”

Not that science and art are necessarily opposed, she added.

“A lot of the great scientists are creative — they find great questions and great methods and great research through being creative.”

The idea behind the contest is to give young scientists a fun break from the pressure of fulfilling the requirements of their doctorate, said founder John Bohannon, a science journalist and sometime Harvard researcher.

Ware was one of two Canadian finalists for this year’s award. It’s also the second year a Canadian has been among the winners.

“Canada’s so solid,” said Bohannon. “Something about your sense of humour just works for this contest.”

Despite her win, however, Ware won’t be continuing her research.

“Right now, I’m trying to get into medical school.”