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Memorial researchers get the cinematic treatment

Report features mock movie posters that spotlight 21 of the university’s “A-list cast of characters”.

BY JEANNE ARMSTRONG | SEP 27 2010

A movie placard for Goodfellas is pictured in Memorial University’s 2010 research report, but the mobsters on the poster aren’t Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Rather, they’re two Memorial researchers, Pat Parfrey and Sean Brosnan, recently named Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada.

The cinematic theme runs through the entire 50-page report, entitled The Shining: Research Stars 2010. The report features 21 of Memorial’s “A-list cast of characters,” all photographed in mock movie posters with recognizable movie titles that play up some aspect of their work.

Memorial has reason to grant its researchers star status: according to Research Infosource’s annual rankings, the university’s research income had increased 116 percent from 2002 to 2007, the highest jump of all Canadian medical-doctoral universities. This fuelled the direction of the 2010 research report, says Michael Pickard, associate marketing director at Memorial and creative director of the report.

The cinematic inspiration came from the movie The Sound of Music. Memorial music and folklore professor Bev Diamond had been named a 2009 Trudeau Fellow, granting her $225,000 in research funds. Picturing Dr. Diamond as Julie Andrews atop a grassy field was all the creative team needed – their theme was chosen.

Soon, the creative team, made up of in-house talent – all but the photographer, who was hired externally – set out to design, write and produce the report. Since its release this past June, it has been turning heads, says Mr. Pickard. And while this is the response the team had hoped for, it was also important that the publication be taken seriously as a university research report.

“It was great to hear people say ‘I love the idea,’ but the best feedback I got was ‘I read it,’” Mr. Pickard says.

Even with the overall positive response, he was surprised to see how the report really took off at Memorial. “They say Paul McCartney didn’t know he was popular until he heard the postman whistling one of his songs. Well, I didn’t know [the campaign] was popular until I walked through campus and saw the posters up, ripped from [the report].”

Mr. Pickard says his favourite poster pays homage to The Matrix, starring associate professor of mathematics Ronald Haynes, whose work involves applying mathematical techniques to solve real-world problems. Mr. Pickard said it was one of the more complicated photo shoots, involving a graffiti-covered sheet of glass, a staircase and a lot of trial and error.

Dr. Haynes “was such a great sport. He was Neo for an hour,” says Mr. Pickard.

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