How did you become a NASA citizen scientist?
Coincidentally. To be honest, I never thought I would participate in scientific research since my interest has always been in the world of art and entertainment. My only relationship with the world of science was being married to a math professor at a local university.
Back in 2006, my closest friend Andreas (a computer engineer) told me about a search that would begin shortly thereafter, and he suggested that I have a look. He was convinced I would love it. Today I can say he had it right. Today I am a "Duster," since as volunteers of Stardust@Home are self-named “Dusters.”
What are your favorite citizen science projects to work on?
After 14 years involved with this research, I can only answer, "Stardust@Home!" I like this research because it matches my innate aptitude to examine and compare images and even details of small objects. This research has given me the opportunity to find out if my inclination could somehow be useful to someone.
What do you do when you’re not doing science with NASA? Tell us about your job and your hobbies!
Although I started working as an architect in the urban planning field, I later dedicated myself to the world of entertainment. For more than a decade, with my friend Pino Chibbaro, I was curator and creator of the show "Premio Cultura e TV" (Culture and TV Award), which our national broadcaster RAI (via RAI International [today RAI Italia]) has aired in several countries (including the USA and Canada).
Although my main hobby is woodworking, I also like to draw cartoons. In the past, I used to draw with a pen, but today I use computer graphics.
Over 14 years of activity in Stardust@Home, I have produced several cartoons about that team, as well as other compositions inspired by images taken from our research on aerogel and foils. I called them "Weird Views" and posted them on the Stardust@Home Forum, which is easily accessible by anyone. In the past, I also restored ceramic objects (the oldest object was a vase from the 1700s), and I painted family coats of arms on real parchment sheets — in short, heraldry.
What have you discovered or learned as a NASA citizen scientist?
First, what I learned: patience, humility, and perseverance. From what I discovered, I was the first finder of a new interstellar particle candidate. Per tradition, I got to name it. I named it Bianca, the name of my wife, who passed away in 2010.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a NASA citizen scientist?
The biggest challenge was to get my eyes used to seeing and my brain used to identifying the tracks left by small bodies, such as interstellar particles, from small signs in the aerogel. We do this in accordance with the training given to us by the Stardust@Home team, led by Andrew J. Westphal. It's by no means easy or trivial.
What advice would you give to others who might want to volunteer with NASA?
I would have many suggestions to give to new volunteers who want to dedicate themselves to research similar to Stardust@Home, in which you have to examine images, but here are a couple of tips from my experience: The first is humility. You must always remember that we do our research to help scientists, not to demonstrate our own skills. Next is patience. When we do not find anything for a long time, our frustration can become great, and we must learn to overcome it. Third, I recommend perseverance and passion because when you do something with love and perseverance, sooner or later, you will reach your goal.