TU/e PhD student dances her PhD to the finals

It’s nice for a change not to explain the research topic of your promotion in words, but in movements. Shari Finner, a PhD student in the Theory of Polymers and Soft Matter group, has had the idea to dance part of her promotion for years. In the end she put her money where her mouth is and with success: with her video she is one of the twelve finalists of Dance your PhD.

photo Shari Finner

It was not the first time that Finner did something creative with her research on conductive plastics. "When I published my first article, I sang at a conference about my research while playing on a ukulele. After this, I was regularly asked if I would also start dancing my PhD. I was familiar with the concept Dance your PhD already, but I had never seriously considered joining it."

Yet the idea never left her. Ever since the 28-year-old German started working at the TU/e department of Applied Physics, she has been dancing with student dance association Footloose. So Dance your PhD seemed to be perfect for her. She went in search of inspiration, the right - license free - music and how she wanted to shape her video. The dancers were quickly found at Footloose.

The dance style had to be Brazilian zouk, Finner quickly decided. "That is currently the only dance I can do because of a knee injury. In addition, the other zouk dancers that I know are nice people who are good at this. And zouk gives a lot of freedom and improvisation possibilities."

Video | Shari Finner

Dance your PhD 2018: Percolation Theory - Conducting Plastics!

Video | Shari Finner

Emily Electron

All recordings were made in a few evenings; in the dance hall of Footloose in Luna with a group of sixteen dancers who represented electrons and carbon nanotubes. "I found it quite stressful; I had to figure in the film myself (as Emily Electron, ed.), had to direct the group and tell the filmmaker exactly what kind of shots I wanted." The choreography offered enough room for improvisation: "I did not want to fix everything completely, it just needed flow." Recordings were also made in the boulder hall of Monk and in the Student Sports Center with student polesport association Blue.

Only after the recordings the real hard work started for Finner: editing. She starts laughing and then calculates aloud how many hours she has spent doing so: at least 150 to 200. “I did not know the editing program yet, so I had to learn everything. But it is certainly not a loss of time, I have learned so much from the whole process. "


Mid-January was the deadline for submitting her video for the Dance your PhD competition. This competition will be held for the eleventh time this year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This society publishes, among other things, the scientific journal Science. Fifty videos were submitted for this edition. "I saw that the views of my video suddenly skyrocketed. Back then I did not know that I made it to the final."

In the coming months Finner is busy writing her thesis, which she will probably defend in the beginning of next year. That will certainly not happen while dancing, she swears. "A promotion is an academic ceremony, I think it can seem disrespectful if I do that." She has only received positive reactions on her video. "The people in our group are very open-minded and two co-PhD students have even played a part in the video."

Finner is very proud that she made it to the final, but does not dare to hope for more. "The competition is of a high level. But if I win, I will certainly use the prize money to organize a nice zouk party for everyone who helped out."

Voting for Shari's video is still possible, until Wednesday.

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