Science to a Beat

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Graduate student Jeffrey Vinokur and his act as the “Dancing Scientist” was recently profiled by ASBMB Today.

ASBMB Today (By Maggie Kuo): The Dancing Scientist is decked out like a rock star in a bejeweled lab coat and Bono-like lab glasses. He is on the set of ABC’s TV show “The View,” standing by glass containers of purple cabbage juice. The show’s host pours lemon juice into the first container. The Dancing Scientist stirs the mixture, and the deep purple color of the cabbage juice fades to a brilliant pink. The studio audience “ahh”s in surprise. “So this is an acid-base indicator,” he explains. “It’s telling us that the lemon juice is acidic.” At the end of the segment, the Dancing Scientist remarks, “Red cabbage juice has some amazing effects.” As he takes a sip of the liquid, techno music begins playing, and he slides into a slick hip-hop dance routine. The audience goes wild.

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The Dancing Scientist is a science-outreach persona who dazzles his audience with classic chemistry and physics demonstrations while explaining the science behind them. While he can be seen on TV shows like “The View” and “The Today Show,” he does mostly school programs, performing for students from kindergarten to high school. He sets the demonstrations to upbeat music, makes them interactive and performs some while dancing to engage and inspire kids to be enthusiastic about science.

In between shows, the Dancing Scientist is Jeffrey Vinokur, a Ph.D. student in biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. Vinokur redesigns enzymes to produce biofuels and commodity chemicals. He solves the structures of enzymes using X-ray crystallography and figures out how to mutate them to make useful chemicals instead of the metabolites that they normally produce.

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