Team:Queens Canada/SynthetiQ/whowhy




This is the big question. Why would anyone do this? What are the advantages? Is it worth the effort? And there are so many different answers to these questions. Some of these answers can be found in Dr. Bohannon's TEDxBrussels talk can be found from feedback of the Dance Your PhD Contest. In his series of articles in Science, called the Gonzo Scientist, he talks about each year of the competition as well as number of his other projects. In Episode 13, he asked the participants of the DYPhD Contest why they did it.

In general, dancing their science helped them:

  • Get jobs and scholarships.
  • Summarize extensive research, into a few minutes of video.
  • Explain their work to friends and family.
  • Have lots of fun

The kinesthetic learning style in scientific theory is virtually non-existent. Lectures and textbooks are the predominant form of teaching. But, there's so much potential in teaching with movement. Everyone remembers the "Right-hand rule", be it from physics, or the helical direction of DNA. Teaching and learning through dance or movement can extrapolate from that basic idea. We can make science more like riding a bike, even if your mind doesn't quite remember how to do it, your body does, and after just a couple tries, it's just like you've been doing it for years.

One of the big goals of the DYPhD contest, is to make your research easier to understand, using a few words as possible. Overall, we want there to be a better understanding by the public. On a larger scale, it's important for the general public to have an understanding of the impact of scientific research. By gaining more support and awareness from the public, research and development can become more of a priority for the government and future elections.

We all have friends and families that ask about our research. By using this form of communication, we are able to simplify things. So that they can understand what we're doing and why it's exciting, and then they can get excited and tell or show others our research.

Body language is something that everyone can speak. So whether you're trying to explain something to somebody who doesn't have a scientific background, or doesn't even speak the same language as you, this method will be the most effective way of communicating the ideas. This doesn't just appeal to interpretation by the mind, but to also basic human instincts and how we interpret the expression or movement of another human being.

What about us?

In our presentation at the iGEM Americas East Regional Competition, we wanted to test what it would be like to do something like this in an actual research setting. We imagined a situation in which dance is the commonly used method to present research. And that's how we designed our presentation, incorporating the dancers to explain our research naturally, without pointing out that these are our dancers.

This presentation has already turned up results:

  • A packed auditorium for our presentation.
  • The Best Model Award
  • Advancement to the World Finals
  • Gold Medal
  • Lots of attention at our school and worldwide
  • Everyone learned something new about synthetic biology

And these are just our initial results. Because our team is composed solely of undergraduate students from many different backgrounds, we're are still waiting to see how this unique experience will benefit them in their futures. And there is so much potential. In addition to learning a new, unique dance routine, we have learned from the experiences and challenges that we have overcome and are incredibly excited to see what comes next.

Who are we?

Devon Ryan

Choreographer, 3rd Year, Civil Engineering
The moment I got the email invitation to be a part of QGEM I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. My whole life I’ve looked for ways to combine my artistic and scientific worlds. This was an amazing outlet to work with some of my favorite dancers, develop my choreography skills with challenging concepts and be on the front lines of a brand new relationship between science and dance. I am a better choreographer and academic for joining QGEM.

Sam Demetrious

4th Year, Sociology Major
I think the Queen’s IGEM team is so unique this year in such a fantastic way! By using dance to represent the scientific concepts, the research provided by the Queen's team can reach a wider audience and even impact individuals outside the synthetic biology community. The collaboration of arts and science is a wonderful learning tool, especially for those just beginning to learn about biology, such as a sociology student like myself.

Michelle Rea

3rd, Chemical Engineering
I was approached at the beginning of the school year about this project and thought it was an amazing opportunity to combine my art with research that I am interested in. Using dance as teaching and presenting tool in science is a totally new concept and the experience was definitely one of a kind as I learned about the research through dancing it out!

Leandra Guillet

1st Year, Arts and Science
Being able to be part of something like qGEM in my first year is kind of ridiculous. It’s not something I ever thought I would be doing, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to combine dance and science. I have really enjoyed learning more about science while using my dance background to interpret the research. It’s probably the highlight of my first year so far.

Melissa Guertin

3rd year, Civil Engineering
When I was first asked to dance in a piece portraying research, I really had no idea what to expect. I went in with an open mind, and found myself very rewarded. It was so neat to not only visually represent the research, but also get my own visual aid to understand things I have not learned. I felt very rewarded when people understood our representations and interpretations at the iGem competition in Pittsburgh, as well as here at Queen's. This is such an innovative concept and I am ecstatic that I get to be a part of this new beginning!

Christina Robitaille

2nd Year, Life Science
This whole experience has been amazing for me. At first I was unsure of how successful melding science and the arts would be, but kudos to Devon and Kevin because our hard work has really paid off. The SynthetiQ project has proven to be both effective and very rewarding for all of us lucky enough to be involved. I'm so glad that I got the opportunity to be a part of the team, and I really admire QGEM for taking this risk with their project. It's been an incredible journey, and I can't wait to see where they go from here!

Alisha Giglio

2nd year, Chemistry Major
Being apart of Queen’s iGEM this year has been a truly amazing experience. By combining synthetic biology and dance, I believe we have helped broaden many people’s views and hopefully made many think about new and innovative ways to portray their research, which could potentially change the world of boring science presentations as we know it. This whole experience has been rewarding as I have been able to combine two things I am interested in, as well, I am really excited to see how this concept will develop and what it will mean for dance and science in the future!

Jaclyn Kemp

1st Year, Physical and Health Education
I found out about the opportunity to dance for QGEM through our choreographer Devon Ryan. I was thrilled to be able to use the art of dance to model and help explain scientific concepts. I think that this approach reaches out to a broader audience who are not as familiar with synthetic biology. The movement and visual images that are created in our presentation have helped me to understand the various concepts. My hope is that this new approach to presenting information can be used and expanded on in the future!

Brittany Groom

3rd Year, Nursing
I am honoured to be a part of the Queen’s iGEM team and have the opportunity to portray their innovative research through a mode of communication that is not seen very often in the science field. This experience has given me so much respect for the immense amount of time and work that every team puts forth to make this event possible. I can tell that the passion the Queen’s research team has for their work is the same passion that I have for dancing and, that is ultimately why we work together so seamlessly.

Kevin Chen

4th year, Biochemistry
I was the overall lead of the project, covering the logistical sides of things, website, videos, driving and speaking in the actual presentation. It is really hard to describe what I have learned and gained from this project. It's just been unreal, definitely the highlight of my undergraduate degree and probably my life so far. My only dance knowledge comes from BBoying, since first year. So, I've learned a lot working with these dancers.