Indian scientist awarded for dancing to explain her research

New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) An Indian scientist who danced to explain her research on tornadoes, has won the top prize in the 2014 ‘Dance Your PhD’ contest.

Uma Nagendra is a researcher doing her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Athens, in the United States.

The ‘Dance Your PhD’ contest, the results for which were officially announced Monday, is a competition in which researchers explain their dissertations using creative movement like dance.

Nagendra said her Ph.D. focuses on how several different species of tree seedlings in the southern Appalachian mountains interact with soil organisms and how tornadoes might mix things up.

“I use a combination of greenhouse and field experiments to investigate how tornadoes can change not only what plants grow in an area, but also how they interact with each other — through the soil,” she told IANS.

The researcher said that she started taking dance trapeze classes at Canopy Studio in Athens, Georgia, about two years ago. “I like that it helps me use a different part of my brain after a long day of looking at data.”

“It’s a different way of challenging yourself, both creatively and physically. One of my first trapeze instructors is a researcher in the genetics department, and several former graduate students in my program did trapeze and silks at Canopy for many years,” Nagendra added.

Entries for the contest are divided into four main categories: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Social Science. The winner from each of these categories receives $500.

The overall winner receives another $500 and a trip to Stanford University in California for a screening of the dance at a publishing conference sponsored by High Wire Press.

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