His father worked there as a technician in the Department of Physics.
A young Sasanelli helped out his dad and, every so often, he would disappear.
“I’ll be back in five minutes,” he would say, before vanishing for hours.
But where did he go?
Sasanelli was headed for the department laboratories.
There, he spoke with the researchers, trying to understand what they were doing.
He was curious about the photographic images he saw of particles in collision, and was fascinated by the equipment which the researchers used to obtain these images.
Sasanelli’s curiosity brought him to eventually study electronic engineering at the University of Bari, where he graduated in 1987.
The following year, he did his military service in Rome.
“In the mornings I worked at the Palazzo Marina [the headquarters of the Italian Navy],” he recalls.
“In the afternoons, I would take my motorbike to Alenia Space on Via Tiburtina, which is now called Thales Alenia Space.”
Sasanelli worked with “rad-hard” electronic components which are resistant to electromagnetic radiations.
“There are huge amounts of electromagnetic radiations in orbit, particularly in the low Earth orbit,” Sasanelli says.
“Components must be designed in such a way as to resist these radiations.”
Just like that, Sasanelli’s ongoing collaboration with the aerospace industry had begun.
It’s a collaboration which has led Sasanelli to the position he holds today as managing director of the South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC).
In 1988, Sasanelli took a position at the Laboratory of Microelectronics, at CSATA Tecnopolis (today known as InnovaPuglia), where he first worked as a researcher and then as marketing manager.
In 1995, Sasanelli’s position changed when the laboratory developed the Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC), which can be used in military and aerospace fields.
Sasanelli, who had been working purely in research, transitioned to a role in research marketing.
He travelled to Europe and the Middle East as a salesman for Tecnopolis, promoting ASIC.
He was eventually promoted to the position of managing director of International Relations.
But Sasanelli’s long-term association with Tecnopolis was soon to come to an end.
While on a trip to Egypt, an Italian Embassy official encouraged him to consider a career in diplomacy.
Sasanelli wasn’t afraid of a career change.
“The time had arrived for change,” he explains.
“I had worked at Tecnopolis for 11 years.
“I needed a new challenge.
“I wanted to meet new people, and be challenged within a different environment.
“The key to success is believing that what you do is important.
“If you go to the office every day just to receive your pay, you will never reach your goals.
“Passion is necessary to really move forward.”
Sasanelli applied for a position as scientific attaché at the Italian Embassy in Canberra.
They offered him the job and, in 2001, he moved to Australia.
In his new role, Sasanelli had the opportunity to do what he’s best at: promoting international collaboration.
To stimulate cooperation between Australia and Italy, Sasanelli created the Association of Research between Italy and Australia (ARIA), a network for Italian and Italo-Australian researchers and Australian researchers who are interested in cooperating with Italy.
He also launched the ‘Publications for Italo-Australian Researchers’ (PIAR) initiative, which is designed to share information about research and is published in both English and Italian.
Sasanelli attributes great importance to the use of both languages.
He advises young Italians wishing to work in Australia to practise their English, put it to the test and become accredited.
“And if you don’t pass them, study and try again,” he adds.
Nevertheless, Sasanelli is keen to promote scientific communication in Italian.
After being appointed director of Il Bollettino – “the newsletter for the scientific community in Australasia” – Sasanelli ensured that all articles were written in both Italian and English.
“Il Bollettino was established in March 2001, and in the past eight years, we have never missed an issue,” Sasanelli writes, in the accompanying note to the final edition he curated.
“With its 28 editions, the journal has been a tool for researchers, academics and business-people who have exchanged ideas and projects within its pages.
“It has been an indispensable tool for improving cooperation between Italy and Australia.”
In 2003, Sasanelli became Adjunct Professor in Science and Technology at the University of Canberra and, in 2007, he received the Order of Australia for his work dedicated to promoting cooperation between Australia and Italy.
In all these years, Sasanelli has never abandoned what he describes as “one of his biggest passions”: painting.
He paints with oil, on large rectangular canvases.
“My wife and daughter couldn’t handle the smell of turpentine,” Sasanelli says.
“So, I decided to paint on the balcony.
“In winter, I’d put on a thick jumper and go outside with my colours and canvas.”
In 2008, Sasanelli published What if They Never Existed?, a book showcasing images of four of his painted works, each one dedicated to a scientist who has changed the course of history with their ideas.
The book explores figures such as Pythagoras, Da Vinci, Galileo, Alessandro Volta, Meucci and Darwin, plus Marie Curie, Einstein and Fleming.
“Scientific research and technology is born from the work of simple men and women, who, like explorers, have sought to discover the unknown,” Sasanelli writes, in the introduction to the volume.
When he began reading these scientists’ biographies, he immediately discovered a trait which they each had in common: “a passion which is almost an obsession.”
“Think about Leonardo [da Vinci], who wrote down everything he saw,” Sasanelli says.
“Or Madame Curie, who, being a woman, couldn’t go to university in Warsaw, so she went to Paris and studied chemistry at the Sorbonne.
“Or Darwin: his family wanted him to become a doctor but, to pursue his passion, he embarked on a voyage on the Beagle almost as if he were a nomad.”
In Sasanelli’s paintings, the scientists are represented by abstract figures, often coloured red, and they are on the path of scientific discovery.
The book seeks to promote awareness of the importance of scientific research.
It was a non-profit initiative which nevertheless raised enough money to facilitate exchanges between Australia and Italy.
“Back in the day, I made an agreement with the Australian Academy of Science,” Sasanelli recalls.
“They created scholarships for Australian researchers wishing to go to Italy, and with the profits of the book, we funded scholarships for Italian researchers who wanted to come to Australia.”
After eight years in Canberra, Sasanelli became the Special Envoy in Higher Education and Technology Transfer, for the South Australian government.
Two years ago, he became the director of the South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC).
“I am responsible for stimulating the aerospace industry through the creation of an ecosystem of small- and medium-sized companies, multinational companies, schools and universities,” Sasanelli says.
This “ecosystem” includes companies and research institutions responsible for the planning, assemblage and launch of satellites.
“South Australia holds an important place in the history of aerospace research; in 1967 it put WRESAT into orbit, the first all-Australian satellite,” Sasanelli says.
Besides painting, Sasanelli is very passionate about the Italian community.
“I’ve met extraordinary people who hold the Italian flag high,” he says.
“We mustn’t forget that the majority of Italian migrants came to Australia with nothing.
“Italians have suffered a lot over time, but in the end they’ve distinguished themselves with their work ethic and creativity.
“There is no doubt that in more than 200 years of Australian history, the Italian community has played an important role in the social, cultural and economic development of the nation.”