PhD researcher dances his way to international victory

16 October 2012

Peter Liddicoat (right) won the Dance Your PhD competition with 'A Super-Alloy is Born'.
Peter Liddicoat (right) won the Dance Your PhD competition with 'A Super-Alloy is Born'.

A University of Sydney scientist has outclassed ballerinas, breakdancers and flaming hula hoops to dance his way to victory in the fifth annual 'Dance your PhD' competition.

Peter Liddicoat, of the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, overcame 35 competitors from around the world to win a $1000 prize and an all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium where his video will be shown at TEDxBrussels.

The competition, run by the journal Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, aims to turn a graduate's work into a jargon-free interpretative dance that anyone can understand.

It also presents itself as a solution to the awkward reaction many people experience when they try to explain their PhD topic.

Peter, a self-confessed shy research associate who is "more comfortable hiding behind the computer monitor", agreed to enter the competition after pressure from his labmates.

"A turning point was my boss's enthusiastic laughter when encouraging me to do it," says Liddicoat. "And the realisation that this would tackle head-on the ominous question, 'So what is your PhD about?'"

Peter's video, 'A Super-Alloy is Born', turns his discovery of a super-strong aluminium alloy with world-record properties into a burlesque circus show. The video took six months and included the creative talents of dozens of colleagues from the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis and the University's Faculty of Science.

Peter is the second Australian in a row to win the international competition, and the first to win for a PhD dance based on atom microscope science.

Peter hopes to use the video to draw attention to his crowd funding project to build an atom microscope for biomedical research.

Watch Peter Liddicoat's winning entry 'A Super-Alloy is Born'.

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