Dance Your Ph.D: A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship

By Julye Huggins

Gonzo Lab is back at it again with the “Dance Your Ph.D” contest, which recognizes the best dance interpretations of scientific doctoral work, including physics, chemisty, biology and social science. This year’s dances were based on titanium alloys, x-ray crystallography, fruit fly sex, and pigeon courtship.According to the contest’s sponsor Science, a record of fifty-five submissions were entered, covering everything from psychology to astrophysics. The sixteen finalists were “scored by a panel of judges that included scientists from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston University, as well as choreographers from Pilobolus and the entire dance cast of Shadowland.” The grand-prize winner Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia in Perth, was awarded $1000 and a trip to Belgium to be crowned at TEDxBrussels (a gathering of scientists, artists and business leaders).The social science category was won by Emma Ware, a behavioral biologist at Queen’s University in Canada! Her work is entitled A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship. Her work is described by Science magazine: “For her Ph.D. research, she presented male pigeons with closed-circuit video of females in separate cages and then recorded the males performing courtship dances. To test what the males actually pay attention to while they’re courting, she tricked them by presenting video of the females with an increasingly long delay, making it seem as though the males were being dissed. Ware replicated that experiment with a human dance partner, pulling off an impressive choreographic feat.” The cast included Ware (as per the contest rules) along with Geoff Goodson, Cory Glowinski and Evann Frisque.Click here to check out all fifty-five entries from the 2011 contest. Or check out the videos below to see the winners in the physics, chemistry and biology categories.Physics (Grand Prize Winner):



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