Dance Moves Allow Student to Explain Her Thesis

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Ph.D. student Chandana Kolluru is a finalist in an international dance competition — a competition with a scientific twist. She’s dancing her thesis.

In the video submission, Kolluru performs an Indian classical dance to demonstrate her work to help create an effective, safe microneedle patch for polio vaccination.

The “Dance Your Ph.D.” competition is hosted annually by Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

“I have always loved to dance,” said Kolluru, who learned Kuchipudi dance as a child in southern India. “Now I’m learning it again with my daughter, who is also in the video. The competition is a perfect opportunity for me to combine two things that I am passionate about: my research and dance.”

Polio is a highly contagious disease that can cause lifelong disability. It primarily affects children and is still endemic to three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

“As part of the polio elimination strategy, my Ph.D. thesis involves optimization of formulations to develop a polio vaccine microneedle patch that is safe and stable. We are creating something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, dissolves quickly upon administration and doesn’t leave behind dangerous, sharp needles.”

The six-and-a-half-minute dance is based on a simple concept: no children should be dancing only in their dreams. It begins with two kids happily playing and dancing, only to be later attacked and paralyzed by polio. The remainder of the performance explains the research and concludes with vaccinated children fighting off the disease.

“I dream of a polio-free world,” Kolluru said.

Kolluru is in Mark Prausnitz’s lab in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The group garnered headlines around the world earlier this year after a phase I clinical trial, conducted by Emory University and Georgia Tech, tested a flu vaccination using Band-Aid-like microneedle patches. 

The public can vote until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, October 30. A panel of scientists will judge the entries on their artistic and scientific merits. The overall winner will screen their dance at the annual AAAS meeting in Austin, Texas, in February 2018.


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