Diana Davis

Postdoctoral Lecturer
Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois
I am a professional mathematician who loves to explain things. I work in geometry, so the objects I study are easy to describe: pentagons, octagons, and lines. I also work in dynamics, so I study movement: points moving in straight paths, and how systems change. I made a movie using human dancers and colors to explain my work to a general audience, and it was one of the best things I have ever done.
Cutting sequences on the double pentagon
Cutting sequences on the double pentagon
Diana Davis (director); Libby Stein (dancer); Diana Davis, Sarah Fields, Lynn Ann Forrester, Chris Goulart, Thomas Hulse, Mehmet Kiral, Joanna Korman, David Lowry, Victoria McGeoch, Dahlia Nadkarni, Ben Piecuch, Florian Sprung, David Wiygul (dancers)
I made this video with two purposes in mind: To explain the theorem that I proved in my math Ph.D. thesis to a general audience, and to show what "math research" means in general. Many people have made videos explaining scientific processes through dance, but mine is unique because I explain my result precisely, without using any metaphors: What you see is exactly what I study. I created this movie for the 2012 "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, and won the Math and Physics category. The video subsequently "went viral" within the math community, and has been seen by tens of thousands of people around the world. Many mathematicians have shared this video with their friends and family, to explain what they do at work. The first minute of the video, with just the dancer (Libby) on the pentagons, is the best part of the video, and is perhaps the purest bridge between math and art.