Dance Your PhD

21st November 2013

News, Student news, Alumni news

A video made for the ‘Dance Your PhD’ competition by Wadham Lecturer in Biology, Cedric Tan, has been announced as the winner of a competition run by the journal Science.

Cedric’s video illustrates sperm competition between brothers within the red jungle fowl community.

His bizarrely creative video involves a woman in a giant plastic ball being chased by nearly naked men on a lake. Watch the video here:

Play Sperm competition

This is the 6th year of the contest, which challenges scientists to explain their doctoral research through the medium of interpretive dance.

The finalists were selected from 31 dance submissions by the winners from previous years of the contest. The production value has increased considerably from the live PhD. dance event that launched the contest in 2007. The goal is to do away with jargon - indeed, to do away with spoken words altogether - and use human bodies to convey the essence of scientific research.

The judging panel was made up of scientists and artists and  results were announced on Thursday 21 November. Cedric wins $1000, achieving immortal geek fame on the Internet, and recognition by Science.

Cedric, from Green Templeton College,  explained his research and the themes of the video: “Females of the red jungle fowl mate with multiple males, which can create competition between sperm of different males in order to fertilize the egg. In my PhD thesis, I explored the effect of brotherhood on sperm competition and female choice. Interestingly, the brother of the first male that the female has mated with invests more sperm in the female than the non-brother of the first male mate. However, the female ejects a higher proportion of sperm from the brother of the first mate and favours the sperm of the non-brother, facilitating a higher fertility by the non-brother's sperm. In addition to the main story, we showcase some of the interesting biology of sperm. First, sperm quality differs and while some move faster and are more forward-moving, others move in circles. Second, sperm of multiple males can interact with one another, sometimes even antagonistically. Inspired by various sports, the dance movements in this video reflect the competitive nature in the sperm world. The two original music pieces in this video are (1) 'Animal Love', which is about the variety of sexual behaviour in different species and (2) 'Scenester', a piece telling the story about a girl who keeps changing her ways and males trying to keep up with her.”

Watch the video on VIMEO

Watch Cedric’s winning entry in the Biology category of ‘Dance your PhD 2011’ competition about how fruit fly smell mediates the responses to relatedness between past and future mates.

Play Dance your PhD 2011

Watch Cedric’s winning 2012 video on finding less attractive friends, winner of the Evolution 2012 Video contest by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Play Evolution 2012 Video contest winner