Nick Rutigliano: Engineering his interests for a law career

Issue Date: 
April 27, 2015

Life is full of uncertainties, but where Latrobe native Michael Nicholas Rutigliano would go to college wasn’t one of them.

Nick Rutigliano (Photo by Emily O'Donnell)The graduating senior, who goes by Nick, comes from a lineage of University of Pittsburgh alumni that goes back to his great-grandfather. His parents met here. 

Today, Rutigliano will receive a degree in chemical engineering from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and a degree in economics from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. He will also take with him a bevy of collegiate experiences, knowledge, and memories: He studied abroad in China, spent a Semester at Sea, touted the Swanson School of Engineering as an Engineering Ambassador, and served as vice president of the student section (the gang that sings “Sweet Caroline”) at Pitt football games. 

“I’m a huge Pitt football fan,” he says. “I can count on one hand the number of games I’ve missed in the last five years.” As a student section officer, Rutigliano worked with Pitt’s Athletics Department, finding ways to help improve the game-day experience and to encourage fans to become even more energized. 

“I’m just a fan of this place in general,” he continues. “I love this school and this city. It has been an incredible experience. It’s a very supportive campus, and it has been even better than I expected.”

Rutigliano says he’s as interested in business as he is in engineering. So while he initially planned to study just engineering, he added an economics major once he found out that he could earn two degrees in five years. 

“It has been interesting,” he says. “I had this weird epiphany that there are a lot of similarities between the mathematics used in my engineering and economics courses. The math that models chemical behavior is similar to that which models manias and panics in the financial markets.”

His academic adviser Götz Veser, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in the Swanson School, isn’t surprised about Rutigliano’s drive and quest for understanding. He has known the graduate since 2013 when Rutigliano took Veser’s thermodynamics course and then joined Veser’s lab as an undergraduate researcher.

“He is a very bright and exceptionally mature student who needed little guidance in the lab. He is clearly very dedicated to his studies and is willing to go the extra mile to succeed—he continued his research for an additional semester on a volunteer basis when his course schedule did not allow him to add any more research credits. At the same time, I don’t think I have ever seen him without a broad smile on his face!”

This fall, Rutigliano will take his smile and his dedication to the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a recipient of the Hardy Cross Dillard Scholarship, awarded to promising entering students for their prior academic achievements, leadership, and integrity.

“I’m really not sure what field of law I want to study,” he says. “Maybe patent law. I want a career where I can have a foot in the science/technology world and one in the business world, maybe working with startups. I’m just trying to follow my interests. I want to keep as many paths open as possible.”

Robert Parker, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and the Swanson School’s B.P. America Faculty Fellow, is sure Rutigliano has what it takes to succeed in whatever career he chooses—even brewing, if his performance as team leader in Parker’s senior-level systems engineering class is any indication.

The class’s task was to create a brewery production line. Sounds like fun, but it’s also serious engineering.

“Each team is responsible for units that require reaction engineering, heat exchange, transport phenomena, and separation processes,” Parker says. 

Bottom line? The beer was good because Rutigliano’s engineering was strong. 

“Nick is a highly motivated and hard-working student who has an excellent understanding of chemical engineering fundamentals,” Parker says. “His outstanding work ethic supports a strong leadership drive.”

Rutigliano will soon be applying his abundant talents in law school—and that’s for certain.