What if the Ph.D. research becomes too complex for words? Dozens of candidates turned to the language of dance in the fifth annual national contest sponsored by Science Magazine. Diana Davis, a graduate student in mathematics, won the first-ever “Dance Your Ph.D.” prize in pure mathematics.

All about Bouw-Möller surfaces: “Most people have some idea of what biology or chemistry research would mean,” says Diana Davis, “but they don’t have any idea what math research is.”
All about Bouw-Möller surfaces “Most people have some idea of what biology or chemistry research would mean,” says Diana Davis, “but they don’t have any idea what math research is.”
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.

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.”