By Christopher Knowlton
I am a PhD student in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I work as a research assistant under Dr. Markus Wimmer in the Tribology Laboratory of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center, where I am doing my thesis research on the wear of total knee replacements. Like many graduate students, I have a second job, but I bet your list of best guesses didn’t include professional dancer.
On any given week, I spend around 10 to 20 hours per week in rehearsals and shows for various independent choreographers in Chicago. Until recently, my work as a graduate student and my career as a dancer were largely separate. But on Tuesday, I was named a finalist for the international Dance Your Ph.D. contest on Science magazine’s website.
A little over a year ago, Rachel Thorne Germond of RTG Dance, the first choreographer I worked with in Chicago, posted a link to the contest on Facebook. Not long after, there was an explosion of posts among my dancer friends sharing a TED talk given by John Bohannon & Black Label Movement called Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal. John Bohannon is a correspondent for Science magazine who created the Dance Your Ph.D. contest to encourage scientists to better engage a broad audience with complex ideas. Since I was hearing about this contest from other dancers instead of PhD students, it became obvious that nonscientists really connected to this type of presentation. It was such a great fit for me that I knew I had to participate.