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About me

  • I have a passion for understanding people and how technology can help people be happier, smarter, and more fulfilled. (I also love to create real stuff that gets your hands dirty.)
  • I’ve led and grown multidisciplinary UX teams that focus on creating beautiful and delightful user experiences. I’ve worked on desktop, mobile, and even paper forms.
  • Many years of behavioral research have taught me how to design experiments and how to measure complex things like human behavior.
  • Many years in product development have taught me the importance of identifying business goals and needs, measuring results, and providing value (real and perceived) to both users and stakeholders.
  • Many years of usability experience made me quite good in understanding what works and what doesn’t in a user interface.
  • The skill I am most proud of is the ability to understand what’s in people’s heads by observing what they do, how they do it, and how they talk about it; and how to translate what I learn in user research into products, interfaces, and experiences.
  • I believe in working with others, because most of the times groups of people solving a problem together find better solutions than lone geniuses. Social dynamics are tricky, though, so I try to avoid large groups of people designing by consensus.


My Work History

User Experience Lead, Jan 2011 – present
Google, Inc. – New York, NY

I led the Google Docs and Drive User experience team (UI designers, user researchers, and prototypers) for more than two years as we redesigned the entire Google Docs suite from the ground up.

In July of 2013 I moved to Display Ads, and I’ve managed larger (42 UXers) and smaller (9 UXers) teams of UX researchers and designers responsible for Google Display ads products (DoubleClick for Publishers, DoubleClick for Advertisers, Adsense, and AdMob, among others). These are the products that online publishers, advertisers, and media/creative agencies use to manage the entire lifecycle of display advertising.

Senior User Researcher, October 2006 – Dec 2010
Google, Inc. – New York, NY

As individual contributor, I led UX research at Google in many product areas, from Search to Google Apps. One project I really loved was the “startup” initiative that produced Google Squared. Although Google Squared was never launched as a full product, it brought many innovations to Google Search.

User Experience Manager, January 2006 – October 2006
The Vanguard Group – Malvern, PA

  • I managed a multidisciplinary design team (information designers, information architects, and usability engineers) that designed concepts for web applications.
  • This team focused on on the early phases of the User-Centered design process (user research, visioning, and concepts) and on recommendations for appropriate technological solutions for our designs.

Web Usability Manager, April 2002 – December 2005
The Vanguard Group – Malvern, PA

I managed Vanguard Web Usability team for 3 years. The team supported usability work for all our web-based application, both client-facing and internal-facing. Some of the projects we supported were very large, and in this period we contributed to the redesign of almost all our company’s internal and external applications

During my tenure the team increased in size (from 3 to 12 researchers). In addition to data from usability studies and interviews, we collected data from web logs, data mining, marketing and third party research, and used several research methodologies, from contextual inquiries to predictive modeling and efficiency studies.

  • For six months, I worked with our print design teams to apply a modified version of our User-Centered approach to designing forms and brochures. The new print kit showed a 2-fold increase in conversion rate.


Web Usability Engineer, August 2000 – March 2002
The Vanguard Group – Malvern, PA

  • Here I learned the crafts of usability engineering and found ways to apply my behavioral research background to design. I immediately got myself in trouble for trying new tools and techniques when the old didn’t seem to provide the right answers or reliable results, for questioning assumptions and simplifications, and for asking “why?” too many times. At the end, striving for quality paid off, but I also learned how to balance diplomacy, persuasion, and assertiveness.
  • I planned and conducted usability studies, heuristic evaluations, card sorting exercises, user interviews, field studies; I created user profiles, personas and scenarios; I contributed to the development and iteration of design with the other members of the project team.

Post-doctoral Fellow, October 1998-July 2000
Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA

At Moss Rehab, I was principal investigator in a research project that compared attention and memory functions in healthy people and people who had sustained a brain injury. I also co-lead several research projects on object perception, visual cognition, and the effects of visual affordances on action selection.

Research Fellow, August 1994-September 1998
University of Oregon, Department of Psychology, Eugene, OR

In Oregon I worked with Mike Posner and coordinated two large research projects that investigated language functions and the effects of attention rehabilitation in traumatic brain injury populations. I learned about high-density Event-Related Potentials and project management.

I managed and trained a group of undergraduate research assistants. I wrote articles and presented the results of my research.

Adjunct professor, March-June 1998
University of Oregon, Department of Psychology, Eugene, OR

I taught a 400-level course on Cognition (PSY 435-545). I created a web site and an e-mail list for the class. The class web site can still be found on Geocities


Doctor of Philosophy, June 1997
University of Padova, Department of General Psychology, Padova, Italy
Cognitive and Experimental Psychology

Laurea in Psychology, July 1991
University of Padova, Department of General Psychology, Padova, Italy
Graduated Cum Laude (110/110)

Selected Publications

Birnholtz, J., Steinhardt, S.B., Pavese, A. (2013). Write here, write now!: An experimental study of group maintenance in collaborative writing, Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 27–May 2, 2013, Paris, France.
View/Download PDF file

Au, I., Boardman, R., Jeffries, R., Larview, P. Pavese, A., Riegelsberger , J., Rodden, K., Stevens, M. (2008). User experience at Google: focus on the user and all else will follow. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing System, ACM Press, New York, NY, US, pp. 3681-3686
View/Dowload PDF file

Pavese, A., & Buxbaum, L., (2002). Action matters: The role of action plans and object affordances in selection for action, Visual Cognition, 9(4), 559-590.
View/Download PDF file (496kb)

Sohlberg, M. M., McLaughlin, K., Pavese, A., & Heidrich, A., & Posner, M. I. (2000), Rehabilitation of attention disorders with Attention Process Therapy, Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 22(5), 656-76.
View/Download PDF file (156kb)

Pavese, A. & Umiltà, C. (1998). Symbolic distance between numerosity and identity modulates Stroop interference, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24(5), 1535-1545.
View/Download PDF file (64kb)

Posner, M. I. & Pavese, A. (1998). Anatomy of word and sentence meaning, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(3), 800-905.
View/Download PDF file (240kb)

Angrilli, A., Cherubini, P., Pavese, A., & Manfredini, S. (1997). The influence of affective factors on time perception, Perception & Psychophysics, 59(6), 972-982.
View/Download PDF file (56kb)

For a complete list of publications see my Vita



GP-2003-00-US – Accessing a search interface in a structured presentation (March 2015)


GP-3404-00-US-CON – Collaborative Electronic Document Editing (Sept 2012)

GP-1709-00-US – Retrieving and displaying information from an unstructured electronic document collection (Jul 2010)

References Available upon Request

Related » Academic Vita :: About Me