What Is ASCB’s Celldance?

Falling-MouseWhen I first heard of the ASCB Celldance contest, I thought it might involve an interpretative dance, so I steered clear of it. But it’s actually a great chance for grad students and post-docs to make use of their beautiful scientific movies for cash prizes, and the guidelines are extremely simple. Any ASCB member can submit their very own movies (4 minutes max) that illustrate a cellular process in an educational way.

This year the ASCB is emphasizing that the videos will be used for outreach and education. The videos must be instructional, in particular for AP biology courses, biology undergraduates, or the general public. The videos can show any cellular process—whether it be mitosis, meiosis, or cell motility—of general interest and may include explanatory narration or text. Entries will be judged mainly based on their educational qualities with cash prizes for first ($500), second ($250), and third ($150) place—so starving grad students out there may be even more enticed. The first place winner will also receive complimentary registration for the 2013 ASCB Annual meeting in New Orleans.

Besides the money or the glory of winning Celldance, this contest is a great avenue for scientists and the ASCB to share with the public what scientists do and what cell biology is all about. It’s a particularly strategic tactic to share scientists’ love and work with the public because it shares it in a visually attractive way that will catch the public’s eye. I myself remember when I was an undergraduate wanting to get a taste of research and trying to choose a lab to do just that; I ultimately gravitated toward a lab that studied mitosis because the images and movies were absolutely breathtaking. It sounds superficial to be attracted to science because it’s visually appealing, but protein gels and graphs aren’t going get the public excited about how cool science is.

Because public outreach is the focus of Celldance, the ASCB will also give the Celldance Public Outreach Award of $250 for the video that ultimately educates and excites the public about science in the most creative way. So start looking at your data in a different light and start thinking of how it can be used to teach and excite young students and the general public. Just be sure to submit your work by October 31 at 5:00 pm.

Below is a quick summary of the guidelines, along with a few examples of past winning videos. But please check this website for the rules’ fine print.


1. Entrants must be an ASCB member or ASCB member applicant.
2. Movies must be no longer than 4 minutes.
3. The movies will be judged based on 1) the quality of the images, 2) how well it shows a cellular process, 3) and how useful it will be in an educational setting.
4. The submissions must have a title and credits.
5. The entries can have music, narration, and/or text. But if music is included, the entrant must have evidence of permission from the copyright holder/creator.
6. Each award will be given to one person. So if a group of people creates a single entry, all participants can be listed as contributors but one person must be designated as the “entrant.”
7. Be creative and have fun!

Past winning videos on YouTube:

2012 Celldance winner
2012 ASCB Celldance Public Outreach Winner
2011 Celldance winner
2010 Celldance winner

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