New CU-ICAR leader plans to grow Clemson automotive research and education
GREENVILLE, South Carolina — The visionary who gave rise to Clemson University’s Restoration Institute (CURI) in North Charleston has been named associate vice president for Strategic Initiatives and executive director of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in Greenville.
Nikolaos “Nick” Rigas, the former executive director of CURI, will lead the 250-acre campus strategically focused on automotive and motorsports research. The campus offers a two-year program serving nearly 200 students from all over the globe pursuing graduate degrees in automotive engineering.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to lead CU-ICAR into the future,” Rigas said. “To work with Clemson on the larger initiatives again, it’s really invigorating.”
Rigas said his vision is not just to oversee the daily operations of CU-ICAR but also to work closely with industry and to listen what they have to say. He also plans to leverage the resources in the automotive engineering department and the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences to grow the research and education programs.
“Let’s be honest, when industry engages with us, their primary concern is what can we do for their workforce,” Rigas said. “By keeping that in mind, it helps shape what we do both on the educational and research side here at CU-ICAR. If we’re going to be developing the engineers of the future, we want to make sure they’re properly prepared to meet those needs.”
Rigas points to advanced manufacturing as a real point of emphasis for the university. With companies like BMW, Bosch, Volvo and now Samsung locating plants in South Carolina, the opportunities for growth in this area are plentiful.
The St. Louis native replaces Fred Cartwright, who headed CU-ICAR for the past six years. Rigas reports to Angie Leidinger, Clemson’s vice president for external affairs, and Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research.
“He’s ramping up quickly,” said Zoran Filipi, chair of the automotive engineering department and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR. “In particular, Nick embraced the vision for the new umbrella organization in manufacturing, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and is on the forefront of discussions regarding plans for the expansion of the Greenville campus.”
Rigas formerly served as vice president of EcoEnergy in Chicago as well as director of South Carolina Institutional Studies at Clemson. Before that, he was the director of operations and technology for the FMC Corporation, where he led the expansion of lithium manufacturing capabilities in India, Argentina and China. Most recently, he oversaw the construction and completion of the $110 million CURI SCE&G Energy Innovation Center which features the brand-new $21 million Zucker Family Graduate Education Center.
“Nick has already done wonderful things for Clemson with the vision and realization of the Energy Innovation Center and Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in Charleston,” Leidinger said. “By utilizing his ability to bring together the great minds within the university as well as strategic corporate and international partners, I fully expect he will be able to take CU-ICAR along the same path as the automotive world enters one of the most consequential transitions in history.”
“A seasoned business executive and research scientist, Dr. Rigas brings vast experience with industry and government collaborations that be will valuable to the ongoing success of CU-ICAR,” said Karanfil.
“So far, it’s been great working with university staff and key leaders, not just on the day-to-day operations at CU-ICAR but on the larger initiatives as well,” Rigas said. “I couldn’t be more excited for the direction we are heading here.”
Rigas earned his bachelor’s degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1984, his master’s degree from Kansas State University in 1988 and his doctor of science from Washington University in St. Louis in 1991.