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video: Brown Math Grad Student Wins National “Dance Your PhD” Prize

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


What is Diana Davis' math PhD about? Don't try to understand the blackboard... she how she translated it into dance, below. Photo: Brown University.

Brown University math graduate student Diana Davis studies the symbolic dynamics that arise from cutting sequences on Veech surfaces and Bouw-Möller surfaces.

No idea what that means? It’s OK. She can show you.

Dance Your PhD

Davis is one of the winners of the fifth annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest sponsored by Science Magazine. Her entry took the top prize in the physics/math category. Davis says she entered the contest partly because she wanted to show people what “math research” really means.


“Most people have some idea of what biology or chemistry research would mean, but they don’t have any idea what math research is,” she said. “In my video, I show how math research works. First, I observed something with shapes and sequences, and I wanted to figure out the pattern. My thesis question was to figure out the pattern, and then prove it. That’s what math research entails: looking at shapes, finding patterns, and then proving it.”

Watch Davis's winning dance, right here. And next time you've studying something too complicated for words, try dancing it out.


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