Reflections on our opening Polymathic Pizza by Mana Afsari

Reflections on our Opening Polymathic Pizza with Professor of Dance, Margo Apostolos

by Mana Afsari


Polymathy originates in curiosity, initiative, and risk. At Wednesday's Polymathic Pizza, students heard Dr. Margo Apostolos, Associate Professor of Dance, describe how she became a consummate polymath. While pursuing her PhD in Dance at Stanford, Dr. Apostolos had four unused credit hours in her semester’s schedule. She enrolled in a course on Mechanics with Professor of Mechanical Engineering Larry Leifer. Inspired by the continuities between her study of somatic mechanics and inanimate mechanics, Dr. Apostolos pursued a thesis in robot choreography, later published, fittingly, in a journal called “Leonardo.” Dr. Apostolos has been called the ‘Leonardo of our time’, and not without cause. She’s worked in space telerobotics for NASA and JPL, co-directs the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center, integrates motion capture technology and robotics with modern dance, and has even directed robots on the theatrical stage.


“Hearing Dr. Apostolos talk about her interdisciplinary career path was so inspiring for a young polymath like me,” said Raphael Rosalen, M.A. candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. In the second year of his graduate program, Raphael, a Fellow of the Academy, has his professional career ahead of him as his collegiate career comes to a close. He described how “learning about her innovative research that brings robotics and dance together in such a natural way motivated me to keep searching for ways to emphasize my polymathic tendencies as I enter the professional world.” Dr. Apostolos inspired Raphael to “not give up on [his] desire to explore different fields of study in relation to one another.”


Her decision, forty years ago, to take an engineering class as a doctoral student in dance inspired a room of young polymaths decades later. This is what the Academy for Polymathic Study is for: the perpetuation of polymathy through community. Join us at the next Polymathic Pizza with Associate Professors Simone Browne and Kelly Gates on the promises and perils of facial recognition.