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Utah State Ph.D. student drums and dances his agricultural theory

Published October 28, 2013 5:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Utah State doctoral candidate, Zack Brym, hopes to drum up interest in agricultural science.

His 6-minute video, "Prune to Wild," uses percussion and dance to convey his message to people whose ears might not otherwise perk up at the mention of pomological yield efficiency.

Ballet dancers portray trees who begin the video in a wild state, with apples too small for sale, before the Aggie Marching Band Drumline represents prune-prone fruit growers who snip excessively until their orchard consists of just one tree that can't bear the weight of its own unnaturally large fruit. Then a drum-bearing Brym enters and coaxes the orchard back to a fruitful life with minimal intervention, and thus, minimal resources.

Brym recently entered his project into the American Academy for the Advancement of Science's "Dance Your Ph.D." contest. (See last year's finalists here.)

"[There's] great value to taking science and the arts and producing something that's a collaborative effort," said the Connecticut native who was in the University of Michigan's drumline. His wife, Maria — who also has a master's degree in agricultural studies from Michigan — co-stars in the role of "Naturally Pruned Tree."

USU adjunct instructor Andy Lorimer helped with the videography, and USU staff member Stephanie White — of the Cache Valley Civic Ballet — choreographed the dance.

"I sort of had the scientific component and the message that was built into that, but Stephanie and Andy were able to make sure that that side of the coin was represented as well," Lorimer said.

If the judges favor Brym's video, he stands to win $500 or $1,000 and be recognized in the AAAS journal Science. Twelve finalists will be announced Nov. 7 and a winner on Nov. 21. But even if he doesn't get cash, he's happy to have gotten through to people who may not have otherwise understood his work.

Brym will give an introductory drum lesson at the International Bioneers Conference at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday while simultaneously describing the fundamentals of tree pruning.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper