Meet the winners of the 2024 Dance Your PhD Contest

Weliton Menário Costa of the Australian National University won the 2024 Dance Your PhD contest with “Kangaroo Time.”

We’ve been following the annual Dance Your PhD contest for several years now, delighting in the many creative approaches researchers have devised to adapt their doctoral theses into movement—from “nano-sponge” materials and superconductivity to the physics of atmospheric molecular clusters and the science of COVID-19. This year’s winner is Weliton Menário Costa of the Australian National University for his thesis “Personality, Social Environment, and Maternal-level Effects: Insights from a Wild Kangaroo Population.” His video entry, “Kangaroo Time,” is having a bit of a viral moment, charming viewers with its catchy beat and colorful, quirky mix of dance styles and personalities—both human and kangaroo.

As we 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 the AI company Primer, where Bohannon is the 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 would be—and Dance Your PhD has continued ever since. It’s now in its 16th year. There are four broad categories: physics, chemistry, biology, and social science, with a fairly liberal interpretation of what topics fall under each. All category winners receive $750, while Costa, as the overall champion, will receive an additional $2,000.

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