New York stars for Italian astrophysicist Alberto Pepe

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Alberto Pepe – photo credit: Sofia Verzbolovskis

Starting from his studies in Salento (Apulia), through partnerships with some of the best Universities (London, CERN of Geneva, UCLA and Harvard), Alberto Pepe has created in NYC, where he now lives and works, his startup AUTHOREA to optimize communication in the academicals research field through a winning entrepreneurial model.

Hello Alberto, can you introduce yourself for our readers? 

I am a researcher converted, about a year ago, to enterprise. I was born in a small, ancient town in Apulia, Manduria. Born and raised among figs, friselle,the Ionio Sea and friendship. I’ve always had a curiosity for places I didn’t know, not so much for visiting, but for living. At 19 I set off on an adventure and moved to London. I picked up my English and was admitted in the University of London Astrophysics’ graduate program. After graduating I started working in the research field, from astronomy, to physics and I.T., at CINECA of Bologna, then at the UI CERN, the UCLA and finally Harvard, where I worked up until about a year ago.

Tell us about AUTHOREA, how did you come up with the idea? What is it for? 

Just like all scientists, I had to write many articles throughout my academical career to build my “curriculum”. That’s what the world of academics is based on, published articles. The more you can produce and have published on eminent magazines (the ones that are quoted the most), the higher your reputation in the scientific community. The problem with that is that writing articles isn’t all that fun. While the research part may be very dynamic and fun (collecting and analyzing data, for one thing), conveying the results in an article is tedious hard work, especially if you think that the programs we use to write articles (Word, Latex) are not advanced enough (they were not intended for cooperation, the web and the data managed by scientists on a daily basis). So Authorea aims to make writing more modern, interactive and ultimately fun. It’s a sort of blogging platform, but rather than blogging, you write scientific articles in it!

IMG_6190You’ve been mentioned on TIME.COM for the importance you stress on follow ups in order to be “professionally pushy”. What does that mean?

Since I started becoming involved in the field of enterprise, I’ve had to learn that the behavior and conduct common in the world of academics are not the same as in the business sphere. Why is that? Scholars tend to be shy, somewhat cautious about “marketing” their ideas and results. In the entrepreneurial world you need to be more “pushy”, in a professional way, respecting the areas and timing of the people you work with. By that I don’t mean all researchers should become salesmen, but certainly we all have something to learn even from door-to-door salesmen.

What’s a positive and a negative aspect of NYC to you?

Positive: even on a freezing winter day you can always be surprised by a blinding sun. Back when I lived in London, I would go months without seeing the sun. Negative: mice through the city in the summer. Enough said.

The American dream. What does Italy have, which Americans can only dream of?

Great pasta and pizza! Just kidding. I would say creativity and flexibility that are unique qualities of our people. We are good at bypassing rules, finding different pathways of thought (even when it comes to taxes!). When I think of remixing, DIY, thinking out of the box, I think of Italy. That is our strength. One we need to make the most out of. Americans have a harder time looking out of the standardized ways and rules.

Result oriented, typical of American logic. How many hours a day do you work? 

I try to work less and less. I don’t think it’s the number of hours you sit at a desk (though I don’t sit, I use a standing desk), that indicates your productivity. I love working less and making the most of the hours I do work. Regardless, the most important indicators about a person are not about work or productivity, but rather about happiness, love and friendship.

Back to astrophysics, do you think we are alone in the Universe?

That’s a question as human beings we’ve always asked. I am not a great astrophysicist, but fortunately at Authorea we have a full time scientist who seeks hard to answer such questions. Matteo Cantiello (in the picture next to me at the SXSW festival) is our “Chief Scientific Officer”. He is a theoretical astrophysicist from Tuscany who has worked with us in the development of Authorea along with my associate Nathan Jenkins. Just last week Matteo published some blog posts called “Are we alone in the Universe?” ( I think that’s the best way to answer your question!

by Marina Rispoli



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