Dr Peter Liddicoat wins Dance Your PhD competition
16 October 2012
Dr Peter Liddicoat, a former PhD student and now staff member in the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the University of Sydney, has won the international competition Dance Your PhD.
Sponsored by the prestigious journal Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Dance Your PhD competition challenges scientists around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available - interpretive dance.
2012 is the fifth year that the Dance Your PhD competition has run, attracting 36 dances from around the world this year, which were whittled down to twelve finalists.
Taking a dramatic circus themed approach to his dance film, Dr Liddicoat managed to explain his PhD work on the nanostructure of aluminium alloys with a circus strongman, a unicyclist, juggling, clowning and some impressive dance moves.
Dr Liddicoat wins $1000 and a trip to Belgium where his dance will be screened at TEDxBrussels on 12 November 2012.
"Winning was totally unexpected! We hoped our entry was interesting, fun and informative, but didn't know if anyone would like it. So winning means, hopefully, that people enjoyed it and might have understood the science we were explaining," said Dr Liddicoat.
"I was encouraged to enter the competition by my colleagues - it didn't take long to get enthusiastic, but there was still a lot of hard work to make it happen!"
Taking the topic of his PhD - 'Evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation' - Dr Liddicoat translated the work into a storyboard for the short film and Dr Jenny Whiting, Marketing and Business Development Manager at the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the University of Sydney, choreographed the dancing.
The two then built and evolved how the imagery and concepts would be presented in the dance film titled 'A super alloy is born: The romantic revolution of lightness and strength'. Numerous University of Sydney staff and students were involved in making the film, including Trixie Barretto who filmed and edited the short film.
"Journal publications only reach interested researchers. We're using this communication media to connect with all people as part of an exciting crowd funding campaign led by the University of Sydney to build an atom microscope for biological samples, with the potential to revolutionise medical and biological research," explained Dr Liddicoat.
Dr Jenny Whiting said, "Communicating science through dance means that you have to strip it down to the essential concepts and then make those into an entertaining story. This is something that many scientists find extremely difficult - in many ways it is easier when you don't have the temptation of words and jargon to fall back on."
"The dance concept came really quickly - having a personification of strength and lightness, that you have to try to combine, has the elements of a classic romance. Then it was just a matter of choosing really illustrative and easy steps that largely inexperienced dancers could do and be convincing," said Dr Whiting.
"There were so many talented people who helped out in the film and behind the scenes, and who really contributed to its success. I love science, dance and science communication so putting them all together and coming up with a winner is amazingly rewarding."
Watch Dr Liddicoat's winning dance film at: http://vimeo.com/49893380
See the 2012 finalists at: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/10/dance-your-phd-and-the-winner-is.html?ref=hp
Read about the atom microscope for biology funding project at: www.indiegogo.com/atom-microscope
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997