The global pandemic ruined most of our plans for 2020, but it couldn't keep graduate students around the world from setting their thesis research to dance, submitting videos produced in strict adherence to local COVID-19 restrictions. With a little help from his friends, Ivo Neefjes and Vitus Besel, Jakub Kubecka, a Finnish graduate student, won with a rap-based dance about the physics of atmospheric molecular clusters. Incorporating computer animation and drone footage, Kubecka beat out 40 other contestants to take top honors, as well as winning the physics category.
As we've reported previously, the Dance Your PhD contest was established in 2008 by science journalist John Bohannon. It was previously sponsored by Science magazine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and is now sponsored by AI company Primer, where Bohannon is director of science. Bohannon told Slate in 2011 that he came up with the idea while trying to figure out how to get a group of stressed-out PhD students in the middle of defending their theses to let off a little steam. So he put together a dance party at Austria's Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, including a contest for whichever candidate could best explain their thesis topics with interpretive dance.
The contest was such a hit that Bohannon started getting emails asking when the next such contest would be—and Dance Your PhD has continued ever since. It's now in its thirteenth year. There are four broad categories: physics, chemistry, biology, and social science, with a fairly liberal interpretation of what topics fall under each.