Carleton team wins Dance Their PhD contest

Ottawa chemistry students boogie their way to the top in a Science Magazine competition called Dance Their PhD.
A team of Carleton University chemistry students has won Science Magazine's Dance Their PhD 2010 contest. ((Maureen McKeague))
A team of Ottawa chemistry students has boogied its way to the top of Science Magazine's competition Dance Their PhD.

The team led by Carleton University doctoral student Maureen McKeague and professor Maria DeRosa received a $1,000 cheque Monday night at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City.

"I never thought I'd be asked to dance my thesis," McKeague said. "But I'm delighted that this kind of competition is helping to get the word out about our scientific research."

The students, wearing leotards and baggy shirts, performed a dance version of a paper called DNA Aptamer for Homocysteine Using Systemic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment.

Using a mashup of different dance styles — from highland jigs to disco — the students created a dance video to illustrate how a type of nucleic acid, called an aptamer, can bind to specific molecules. The research could have implications for the diagnosis of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and birth defects.

Contest judge Richard Losick, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, said the video was equally entertaining and educational.

"The dance was enjoyable and humorous to watch in and of itself," Losick said. "I am planning to show it in my molecular biology lecture."

Members of the winning team include Johny Abboud, Mike Beking, Elyse Bernard, Charlotte Bradley, Amanda Foster, Tariq Francis, Amanda Giamberardino, Uyen Ho, Erin McConnell, Laura Novitsky, Yasir Sultan, Ryan Walsh, Xiao Li Wang and Xueru Zhang.