The Super-Hero Salsa

If you’ve ever wondered about how to explain something, anything, then you’re in good company. Andrés Flórez undertook the momentous task of trying to explain his Ph.D. research with dance for the annual Dance Your Ph.D. competition held by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). I sat down with Andrés to get an idea of what it was like to dance your thesis instead of lecture it. He was good enough to give me an insight as to the process and what it takes to be a crowd favourite.

Andres, cancer researcher, salsa lover, and Batman fan.

Why dance your Ph.D?

If you ask Andrés why he would want to dance his Ph.D., you’ll hear a voice full of passion as he explains:

I grew up with salsa, and I love it. It wakes me up in the morning more than a cup of coffee does. When I found out about the competition, I knew I wanted to do it.

What was it like?

This year the competition was a little late in being announced because they weren’t sure they were going to have it. However, once it was, Andrés was celebrating. However, he found a snag in getting the dancer’s together.

Scientists were unsure about the competition, so I went to my fellow salsa dancers. They were interested in dancing, so all I had to do was plan the steps.

Planning dances out is not as easy as it seems, doubly so when you’re trying to tell a complicated story. Cell cycles aren’t that easy to demonstrate in most forms of dance, but salsa does it perfectly.

As I was practising some Cuban dance steps, it occurred to me that this is a cell cycle. It was perfect and showed exactly how cells move and interact with each other in harmony until they disrupted by something — the cancer cells.

Take a look at his dance below and you’ll see it for yourself!

The Super-Hero Salsa: Understanding the Role of MYCN in Neuroblastoma using a Systems Biology Approach. (Dance your PhD 2013) from Andres Florez on Vimeo.

What would you recommend for the future entrants?

Andrés recommends that you look at different dance types to figure out the best moves that represent the concepts in your thesis. For him, different salsa styles were his main inspiration, but he also looked at other forms of dance to find the moves that would deliver the strongest message. But there is more to it than that.

You should have fun and be yourself. A lot of people didn’t like the Batman idea. They thought it should be a scientist or doctor in a white coat. However, I had a Batman costume that I really wanted to use, so I went with it.

Andrés’ dance isn’t just instructive, it’s entertaining and light-hearted. The lessons he shares with us are just as poignant as the dance itself is.

Learn more:

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If you’re a scientist and you’d like an interview, please either contact the PR department to set up an Interview (PR at Insanitek dot net) or fill out the questionnaire form.

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