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Science Takes Center Stage

Science Takes Center StageA graduate student in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy blends her dance background with her academic research for a unique contest.

Boston [11.17.08] Ever wanted to see a scientific process brought to life on the stage? Thanks to Lara Park (N'09), now you can.

Park, a graduate student in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy who is also a member of Tufts dance troupe Sarabande, recently choreographed a dance routine based on the topic of her directed study, "The role of folate in epigenetic regulation of colon carcinogenesis," for a contest called "Dance Your PhD."

The contest, held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), aims to bring science to a wider audience through the arts.

Hear what Park, her advisor Sarah Booth, PhD, director of the Vitamin K Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, and some of her dancers had to say about the experience of translating science into dance.

Watch the final product, Park's video submission for the contest:

But what does it all mean? Park explains the science behind the dance:

  • As Dr. Booth eats her lunch, her thoughts drift to the folate in her spinach salad. Figments of folate and its role in health play out in her head.
  • Inside the cell, the couples represent DNA strands, which unwind to be transcribed.
  • Transcription factors dance through the nucleus to bind to DNA and make an mRNA transcript.
  • Methyl-tetrahydrafolate passes the methyl group to turn homocysteine into methionine with the help of vitamin B12. The methyl group is passed to SAM, which then methylates the DNA.
  • The methyl group on the DNA inhibits transcription.
  • When folate is depleted, the methylation process is impaired.
  • This means that DNA can be aberrantly transcribed, causing a tumor.

Photos, interviews and audio slideshow production by Joanie Tobin, University Photography.

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