The Sciences

"Dance Your PhD" Winner Knows the Molecular Moves

DiscoblogBy Eliza StricklandOct 21, 2010 2:10 AM


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Have you ever seen an amino acid really get down? If not, now is your chance. The winning video produced for Science's Dance Your PhD contest features an amino acid that knows how to shake its molecules. The contest asks brave researchers to explain their PhDs in the language of dance. This year's winner is Maureen McKeague, a chemistry Ph.D. student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She'll collect a $1,000 prize ($500 for being a finalist, $500 for winning) from Science. With no further ado, here's the video: Did you get all that? If a little more explanation would help, here's how ScienceNOW sums it up:

The lab is exploring a chemical technique called SELEX--systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment--which generates short segments of DNA and RNA called aptamers. These nucleic acids can be designed to stick to almost any target molecule. For McKeague's Ph.D. research, the target molecule--played by undergraduate student and Scottish folk dancer Charlotte Bradley--is the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid are an indicator of cardiovascular disease. McKeague's aim is to use SELEX to create aptamers to cheaply and accurately measure homocysteine in blood samples.

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