One of the reasons I love academia is the crazy talented people you come across. Naturally, everyone has their own area of hyper-specialization, which is what we think describes that person’s particular arena of knowledge and skill. But academics are complex people, often with complicated, varied and quirky pasts.
Despite what our CVs say about us, despite our attempts to tell smooth, progressive narratives with consistent and logical story arcs about our lives and our professions, we’re all a lot more complicated and messy than that. Me? I’ve a got a messier back story than that guy on Barney Miller. The one who had somehow been a doctor, lawyer, an alligator wrestler, all before becoming a New York City detective.
We’ve all got hidden, sometimes bizarre skills and talents.
That’s why I love it when the frozen mask of The Academy splinters a little, and we get to see a little bit of the humanity behind all the lab coats, and beneath the frosty reserve of the tenure track.
The PhD student with a hell of an arabesque.
The microbiologist with a killer cartwheel.
The physicist who can hula hoop. In the dark. With a flaming hoop.
The winners of this year’s AAAS/Science Dance Competition have just been announced. It’s a competition that asks PhD students (and sometimes their faculty advisors) to submit brief videos that tell the story — in dance, music, and movement — of their dissertations. Their. Dissertations. In. Dance.
Holy heck, you have to see these. I promise you, it will bring you joy. And, quite likely, renewed hope for the future of higher education in America.