Wednesday, September 13, 2017

OSCAR Student Isabella Williams Integrates Dance, Psychology, and Bioengineering

Dancers can often be stereotyped as purely artistic, not academic. As a dance major, however, I have always cared a lot about academics and being an intelligent artist. This Engineering Dance project seemed like the perfect way to combine dance and academia, through research. Discussing potential ideas in a room with other dancers, bioengineers, and psychology students, made me see how perfect this project was for me. In fact, it was only after the project began that I remembered my essay for admittance to the Honors College at GMU was about the benefit that dance could bring to science.  I am still unsure of what I will do post-graduation, but I feel that this project has further revealed my interest in science, specifically how it can be related to dance.

Our project assessed how dancers perform under different stressors, specifically under the observation of various authority figures. Using a motion capture system with point markers, we measured the range of height during a grand jeté (a big jump), the distance traveled during a circular walking pattern, and the angular velocity of a quick spin. We also recorded heart rate throughout participant activity and administered surveys that revealed presence of anxiety. Although we didn’t have enough participants to claim any statistical results, we found several trends that demonstrated that participants responded most strongly to the presence of a familiar, expert authority figure.

I have always been someone who likes to work independently, as I generally have strong opinions and a specific way of accomplishing tasks. Having experienced difficulty with group projects over the years, I pretty much figured that working in a team this summer would be a challenge. However, this project taught me to successfully collaborate with a group, specifically in a team with members across three disciplines. I discovered that there can be several “right” ways to do things and that a conclusive decision can still be made in the face of many wonderful opinions. I have learned so much this summer and I am excited to see how this project might impact my future studies.