On Monday, Nicholas J. Viggiani began serving as RPI’s assistant vice president for research. After meticulously completing his duties and reporting to Dr. Francine Berman for his first full week here at Rensselaer, Viggiani asserts that his move to RPI is indeed a long term career move.
Viggiani, a graduate from Shaker High School, comes from Latham, N.Y. His father owned a famous barber shop in the area. His grandmother, a 1912 immigrant from Ellis Island who he regards to be the most inspirational figure in his life, owned a popular restaurant known as Fannie’s Restaurant, and his mother worked as a waitress in that restaurant. His mother also attended Troy Catholic High School, which is now part of RPI’s campus.
Despite his background Viggiani worked hard and followed his motto to live life to its fullest. His work paid off as he became the first in his family to go to a college for a four year degree. In 1987, he became a graduate of the University of South Carolina-Columbia where he majored in government and international studies. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he aspired to work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Within a year, he obtained his first real job at the Democratic National Headquarters in the congressional campaign committee where he served for a year. He then obtained a job under the New York Representative Mike R. McNulty as a legislative assistant.
With five years of government experience, he left his post to work as a detective in Prince George’s County, Md., for eight years. He then left the police department to work in the National Institute of Justice. With some of the jobs issuing grants for scientific research and technological development, Viggiani appreciated how this particular job had aspects of both government and law enforcement.
After discovering this passion, Viggiani moved back with his wife and kids and took a job in an Albany based not-for-profit group specializing in economic development and promotional organization called the Center of Economic Growth. There he worked for a business incubator and helped advise startup companies regarding how the federal government runs programs that help such companies in several ways.
He left his job as program director at the Center of Economic Growth roughly around the time when Congressmen McNulty retired and Congressman Paul D. Tonko was running his campaign for the capitol region. Before Tonko was elected, he and Viggiani had a few conversations where Tonko asserted that he wanted someone with work experience at D.C. working for his region. Hence, Viggiani joined Tonko’s staff for two and a half years.
However, after those two and a half years, Viggiani was given the opportunity to work at RPI and he seized that opportunity with excitement. His current post requires him to work as a part of an existing team to grow RPI sponsored research enterprise. He hopes to gain more federal and state grant dollars and to work closely with other offices and principal investigators on campus to obtain these grants.
Despite his strictly being an administrator for research, Viggiani’s job indirectly affects the undergraduates. The dollars brought into a science and technology research institute expands the entire knowledge base of the Institute and broadens the facilities the students have to study in. Viggiani works to enhance the stature of undergraduate education both nationally and globally.
When Viggiani is out of office, he enjoys playing the drums and golf, as well as participating in sport activities with his kids. However, when he is in office, he says that he is interested in learning the culture here and has plans to make the research here more robust.