Dr Dimartino’s research group wins prize at international conference for 3D printing video


Please note that the areas shown in this film were risk assessed and made safe. The lab coats used were clean and had not been exposed to harmful chemicals or materials. 

Dr Simone Dimartino’s research group have won first prize for their science communication video at an international conference in Milan. The video, which was filmed in the style of a 'silent film' from the early 20th century, takes inspiration from Milan Cathedral to illustrate a novel way to separate liquid using 3D printing.

The prize was awarded at the 48th International Symposium on High-Performance Liquid Phase Separations and Related Techniques (HPLC 2019) which took place between 16 and 20 June 2019 at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan.

This year, for the first time in its 48-year history, the conference invited delegates to submit a video illustrating their research for a ‘HPLC-Tube’ competition. The new initiative marks the growing importance of science communications in today’s research environment.

We interviewed Dr Dimartino to find out more about the inspiration and process behind the winning video. 

How did the video come about?

I’ve wanted to make a video showcasing my research for a while, but – as happens when one doesn’t have a set deadline – I ended up postponing this idea indefinitely.

The ‘HPLC-Tube contest’, together with the generous cash prize associated with it, finally convinced me to prepare one! 

You made the video with virtually no film-making experience. Can you explain how you approached it?

Together with my research group we looked at a number of science communication videos to get inspiration, but they either required sophisticated and expensive equipment such as drones or miniaturized cameras, had support from experts in the film industry, or simply were not original enough. 

We had to find a way to create a technically sound video, which was at the same time engaging, low budget (using a smartphone, a phone holder, a microphone and a tripod), could be put together in just one week, and where we could also have some fun doing it! 

How did you solve the problem? 

This almost impossible feat was solved by taking inspiration from the old movie industry.

Silent films rely on still cameras which are easy and cheap to operate, and short subtitles to convey important messages, while the mime actors captivate the audience’s attention. 

Plus, they simplified our task hugely as we could break down the whole video in a well-defined number of shorter clips. 

How did you come up with the content for the video?

While planning the clips we thought about including a number of key details, such as fun tags, screens showing the conference website, the Milan cathedral in various forms, and even the chromatographers’ “bible” Fundamentals of Preparative and non-Linear Chromatography by the late G. Giochon and co-authors. 

After shooting the clips in a single afternoon, one of my students kindly went about the cut-edit-merge procedure using free video software, and the job was done!

How do you feel about the finished video?

We’re very pleased that our efforts were acknowledged at the conference with our first place result. 

I am even happier to see this video being considered as an exemplar by the University’s Video Production Team and hope it will serve as an inspiration to others to communicate their science ideas to a wide audience.

And how do you plan to spend the prize money?

I must stress this was a team effort, and am forever grateful to all members of my research group for their passion, motivation and creativity.

For this reason, I am planning to spend the €2,000 prize money on an “away weekend” combining social, scientific, and fun activities!

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