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Illustration by Anna Formilan


The importance of images in the development, understanding and dissemination of scientific ideas is hard to overestimate, but in some disciplines they can appear as a less relevant or even marginal tool. In the hard sciences such as theoretical physics, for example, numbers and graphs dominate: quantitative laws that establish relationships between measurable properties, tables of values, diagrams illustrating those laws.

However, in the study of extremely complex systems such as biological macromolecules, the descriptive power of a graphic representation provides an essential complement to the quantitative tool. Computational physics, which harnesses the power of computers to model and simulate matter, enables researchers to study the behaviour of incredibly minute and sophisticated fragments of nature, and does so with the power of numbers: an atom, a molecule, a quantum of energy, an interaction between particles… everything is encoded, manipulated, and returned by the computer in terms of numbers. But this “numberification” of matter is in itself incomprehensible to human beings, who incorporates and processes the surrounding reality through their five senses – the most important of which is sight, as the main instrument for both investigating the world at a distance and transmitting knowledge (writing, drawing, schematisation…).

Thanks to graphic representation, it is possible to establish a bridge between what the computer gives us and our way of understanding things: we see atoms moving in space, we observe molecules being deformed, we create abstract pictures that show the hidden order within numbers. The computer creates a world that we can only understand by giving it the right representation.

The VARIAMOLS VISUAL project aims at showing a research group and what it produces. Images are used to describe not only science, but also the people who work on it on a daily basis. The scientists of the ERC VARIAMOLS project change role and become subjects of an “investigation”, studied in the spaces in which they move, in the relationships between them, in the way they relate to their work. The representation of the research group will try to make the public understand how it operates, opening a passage in the ivory tower and showing the everyday life, the work, the activities of the research laboratory. At the same time, scientific research is shown in its most evocative graphic representation, from the diagrams and renderings that populate scientific articles to the artistic reinterpretation of these images and the relationships that their creators have with them.

The images produced in this project establish an informal dialogue between the members of the group and the observers, fostering a conversation on the importance of representation in science. These images are offered to the public in a variety of manners and occasions, each of which occupies a dedicated block hereafter (the most recent outcome comes first).

A daily conversation with wonder – the booklet

January 2022

The VARIAMOLS VISUAL project found its completion in the realisation of a booklet that describes the rationale, the story, and the outcomes of the work. The booklet was printed in 2000 copies distributed to libraries and departments of the University of Trento, as well as handed to by team members to friends and colleagues, in a personal and concrete act of science communication.

The booklet is freely available as a pdf file from this link
You are encouraged to download it, read it, print it, distribute it, but most importantly enjoy it!

In the gallery at this link you can find the images featured in the booklet.

A daily conversation with wonder – the exhibition

January 2022

The VARIAMOLS VISUAL project as presented to the public on January 14, 2022, when the exhibition A daily conversation with wonder was inaugurated. The exhibition features 36 images – 12 photographs, 12 illustrations, and 12 scientific images – that walk the observer through the scientific research of the VARIAMOLS group as well as through the group itself – the people, the objects, the buildings, the spaces.

The exhibition will be accessible until February 15, 2022.

Here the link to the event.

In the gallery at this link you can find the images featured in the exhibition.

Exhibition inauguration – January 14, 2022

Media outlets

Photos by Elisa Vettori

Click on the thumbnails for the high-resolution version.

Photos by Manuel Micheloni

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September 2021

Poster image by Anna Formilan for the VARIAMOLS VISUAL project. Distributed as a printed poster during the European Researchers’ Night / Sharper Night 2021


September 2021

The first outcome of the VARIAMOLS VISUAL project is a participation to the European Researchers’ Night 2021 in Trento, Italy.

Click on the thumbnails for the high-resolution version.


May 2021

Our team and the space in which it operates have been the subject of a photographic reportage by Elisa Vettori. Through the following gallery you can take a look into the daily life of our research group.

Click on the thumbnails for the high-resolution version.