When she isn’t out in the forest gathering data for her Ph.D. in plant biology at the University of Georgia, Athens, Uma Nagendra spends a good deal of her time hanging upside down from a trapeze doing circus aerials. “It turns out that there are a lot of scientists doing it,” she says. To combine the two halves of her life, she teamed up with her fellow aerialists to create the midair dance based on her scientific research. Nagendra’s circus extravaganza (see video above) is the overall winner of this year’s “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest.This is the 7th year of the contest—sponsored by Science, AAAS (publisher of Science), and HighWire Press—which challenges scientists around the world to explain their Ph.D. research in the most jargon-free medium of all: dance. Nagendra was one of four Ph.D. dances chosen by an expert panel of scientists and artists from this year’s 12 finalists.Nagendra’s own home city of New Orleans, Louisiana, was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As the human residents put their lives back together, she became curious about how the natural world recovers from disasters. After she became a biology Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia in 2011, she realized that she could answer this question herself by gathering data out in the field. But destructive events like Hurricane Katrina are rare on the timescale of a Ph.D. So Nagendra focused on a natural disaster that occurs far more frequently and does more localized damage: tornadoes.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Tornadoes are destructive events, ripping up the surface of Earth, crushing buildings, and tossing automobiles in their paths. And based on some models of climate change, they are likely to become more frequent and damaging. But according to a study of forest soil ecology, tornadoes also do some good—for trees, that is. It turns out that tree seedlings get a respite from certain parasitic fungi in a tornado’s aftermath, allowing them to flourish.For winning the BIOLOGY category and the overall prize, Nagendra receives $1000 and a free trip to Stanford University in May 2015, where her video will be screened.The winners of the other three categories—PHYSICS, CHEMISTRY, and SOCIAL SCIENCE—cover a wide range of both scholarship and dance. Hans Rinderknecht filmed a live performance of his Ph.D. dance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, which explained how he uses light to trigger nuclear fusion. To explain the chemistry of emulsions like mayonnaise, a group led by Saioa Alvarez of the University of the Basque Country in Leioa, Spain, even wrote their own song. (And lipids have never looked so sexy.) Costumes were key for another Spanish team, David Manzano Cosano of the Complutense University of Madrid, who danced about the history of technology and colonialism in the Pacific.Each category winner receives $500. We congratulate them all!Winner, BIOLOGY and overall:Uma NagendraUniversity of Georgia, USAfor her dance about tornadoesWinner, CHEMISTRY:Saioa AlvarezUniversity of the Basque Country, Spainfor his Ph.D. dance about mayonnaiseWinner, PHYSICS:Hans RinderknechtMassachusetts Institute of Technology, USAfor his dance about nuclear fusionWinner, SOCIAL SCIENCE:David Manzano CosanoComplutense University of Madrid, Spainfor his dance about colonialismWinner, online audience vote:Venanzio CichellaUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USAfor his dance of the dronesThis year’s judges:Janet Echelman, independent artistDavid Feldman, independent engineerSuzanne Walsh, Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationAllan Adams, MITRebecca Saxe, MITPaula Hammond, MITMarc Abrahams, Improbable ResearchRobin Abrahams, Boston GlobeJustin Werfel, Harvard UniversityMatt Kent, associate artistic director, PilobolusEmily Kent, education coordinator, PilobolusRenee Jaworski, associate artistic director, PilobolusAnd the winners of the previous 6 years of the Dance Your Ph.D. contest.