The Arts Advantage: When BioMed and Dance Overlap

Simone Wall

Traditionally, the arts and sciences have been viewed as two distant fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon for Duke’s arts departments to see students with defined career dreams in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) also enrolled in performing and visual arts courses — adding the arts to their educations and transforming STEM to STEAM.

STEAM student Simone Wall (B.S. Biomedical Engineering; minor Dance ’22) is part of the Pratt Research Fellows program, working in a lab that develops point-of-care diagnostic tools. With a career path firmly heading toward research, Simone also wants to focus on exploring as many facets of dance as she can before she graduates. She started with ballet at age four and enjoys learning new styles of dance, but she is drawn in particular to modern dance classes offered in the Dance Program because they cover such a wide variety of movement styles.

Below, Simone discusses why she’s making a conscious effort to include dance in her studies.

How has your time in the Dance Program benefitted your STEM studies?

When I started college, I thought that biomedical engineering and dance were two very different fields. Taking dance courses has made me realize that there are a lot of ways that the two overlap.

Both fields focus on the human body; they just have different goals and perspectives. For example, in biomedical engineering, part of what we study is how our bodies work and what processes allow us to move. In dance, we study how to shape that movement. Both fields are studying movement, but they have two different approaches. 

Why is it important to include dance courses in your studies at Duke?

Dance challenges me to use my brain in a different way than I do in my STEM classes. It’s nice to have that variety in my course schedule.

I also think both fields of study make me think creatively. Dance focuses on how I move and manipulate my body while my STEM classes focus on how I manipulate things outside of my body, whether that’s a device or a code. Because of this, I think my dance classes require much more self-reflection.

Plus, dance is also something that I love to do, so I wanted to continue it throughout college.