There is an old joke motif the origin of which is obscure (to me, perhaps you can inform us): A highly technical, or perhaps mundanely boring, or perhaps very formal or conventional thing … a police report, the new HR guidebook for a large company, the manual for your new programmable graphing calculator … is being discussed, and someone suggests doing it as an “interpretive dance.” I know I first heard that joke a very long tie ago. Since it probably predates Wikipedia, it is unlikely that we will ever know who first used this theme.

An aptamer is a molecular tool that is used to find, grab, affect through contact, a particular tiny thing, like another molecule (but even perhaps a whole cell or even a tiny organism). The process of probing around in the microscopic world for research, engineering proteins or molecular interactions, pharmacology, etc. might use aptamer molecules in a number of different ways. The trick with using aptamers is to find them either from natural sources (rare) or from a large pool of diverse semi-randomly tossed together molecules. A method used to put a large number of different candidate molecules to the test in order to identify an aptamer for a particular tiny thing (like a bit of DNA, for instance) is SELEX.

The SELEX method is complex, perhaps even boring, and certainly has the potential of becoming mundane to Maureen McKeague, who has developed a SELEX for targeting homocysteine. So, let’s see how Maureen does this in the form of Interpretive Dance! And since the target molecule is a HOMOcysteine, we hope and expect there will be a homo-erotic aspect to the performance.

Selection of a DNA aptamer for homocysteine using SELEX from Maureen McKeague on Vimeo.

This is, as I’m sure you now, part of the Dance your PhD context. You can see details here.

Hat Tip Skepchick Jen


  1. #1 jaf
    September 22, 2010


  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 22, 2010

    jaf: I hope you are working on your thesis!