Class of 2019 Valedictorian Nicholas Piaquadio ’19 (Electrical Engineering; Physics) was no stranger to SUNY New Paltz even before he made the decision to enroll.
The son of alumni Eugene ’92 (Electrical Engineering) and Lisa Piaquadio ’93 (Elementary Education), Nicholas grew up in Wallkill, New York, about 15 minutes from campus. He had a passion for science from a young age, and fell for engineering after taking some technology courses in high school.
“My favorite thing about engineering is that at the end of the process, you get to see what you made,” he said. “In other sciences you might do calculations, and that’s it, it stays on the white board. In engineering you get to actually make the thing, hold it in your hands, and see if it works as designed.”
That creative process – not only designing a new product or process, but building it through multiple iterative stages – is core to the engineering curriculum at New Paltz. It culminates at the Engineering Design EXPO, where student teams present their work before judges from local industry.
“The engineering faculty have done a really good job making connections with local companies,” Piaquadio said. “I’m friends with a lot of students who have gotten internships or worked part time with local companies, and I did an internship at Central Hudson two summers ago. It was fun – I got to be outside a lot and I interacted with equipment that most people never see.”
Among Piaquadio’s most significant achievements in the classroom is his work with high frequency radio and microwave transmission.
He was a member of the first-ever class of SUNY New Paltz students to earn Keysight Technologies Industry-Ready Certification, a powerful credential for those interested in careers in fast-growing fields like cellular communications, the internet of things, aerospace and defense.
“Doing the microwave research and the Keysight Certification definitely helped me find my passion,” he said. “It’s just lets you get a lot more creative with how you design things.”
Somehow, Piaquadio found time to add a physics major to his already-full course load, complimenting his aptitude for engineering design with a strong theoretical foundation.
“I just wanted to know more,” he said. “Engineering is very application-focused, which is good because you get to see the outcome of your work, but you don’t always understand exactly why something works. In physics you get to delve into the theory, and get a deeper understanding of the world around you.”
These experiences have equipped Piaquadio for any number of career options – and this is before even mentioning his SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the multiple faculty-mentored research projects he’s completed, his clarinet performances with the College’s Symphonic Band, his membership in the Honors Program, his tutoring in the Circuits Lab or his presidency of the Chess Club – but he ultimately decided on pursuing a career as a research scientist and professor. He’ll begin working toward his Ph.D. at Binghamton University this fall.
“I was not surprised to learn that Nicholas was named valedictorian of this year’s graduating class,” said Assistant Professor Reena Dahle, who worked closely with Piaquadio as a faculty advisor and research collaborator. “Not only does he excel academically, but he is a thought leader amongst his peers. I look forward to seeing his future accomplishments pursuing his Ph.D., and I look forward to collaborating with him as a future colleague.”
Piaquadio will address his fellow graduates as the student speaker at the Sunday, May 19 Commencement Ceremony for the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering.