Natalie Carbone Mangini '49 - Scientist on the World’s First Atomic-Powered Submarine - to be Featured on PCN Profiles

Natalie Carbone Mangini ‘49 has worn many hats during her lifetime. She’s been a restaurateur and a mother; ran a family oil company and, notably, worked as a nuclear scientist on the USS Nautilus and other important projects. 

“I’ve had four different lives,” Mangini said. 

Mangini will tell her life’s story as part of PCN Profiles, a Pennsylvania Cable Network show that highlights the achievements of notable Pennsylvanians through candid and personal interviews. The episode will air on Sunday, August 29 at 9 p.m. on PCN, a channel available to cable subscribers throughout Pennsylvania.  

Growing up in the village of Crabtree, just outside of Pittsburgh, Mangini spent much of her childhood and adult life working in Carbone’s, the restaurant opened by her parents in 1938 and operated by her family until 2018.

The love of learning and experimentation that she cultivated by helping in the restaurant’s kitchen led her to earn a degree in chemistry from Seton Hill, to study at what is now Carnegie Mellon University, and to accept a position at Westinghouse.  

While at Westinghouse, Mangini applied for a position at the company’s Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and was called for an interview.

“They looked at my name and they thought I was a man because when I went for an interview, two men came out. The one looked at the other and said, ‘It’s a woman. What are we going to do? We can’t send her home,’” Mangini said. 

They did interview her and offered her one of three jobs available at the plant – but not the one Mangini wanted in radiochemistry. She turned the job down, and two days later got a call that she would be offered the job she wanted. 

And so, Mangini became the first woman to hold the title of Scientist at Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and worked on nuclear procedures for the USS Nautilus, the world’s first atomic-powered submarine. In addition, she helped to develop safety procedures for the nuclear reactor at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first commercial application of nuclear power. 

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “One of the things that was funny was when the Nautilus came into port after circumnavigating the globe, Westinghouse sent me and a group of us to the festivities. They put me on ‘What’s my Line?’”

Regular customers at Carbone’s Restaurant told her they were surprised to see their waitress on the show – and find out what she really did.

“A lot of the stuff I did was secret,” she said. “I just never talked about it at all.”

She spent 10 years in the radiochemistry department until she had to leave due to her first pregnancy. Westinghouse did not allow pregnant women to work for the company at the time. 

Mangini and her husband brought up four children. She would help him run his oil business and would also continue to work at the family restaurant. 

She hopes her story illustrates that women should not be afraid of pursuing what they want to do in life.

“Don’t worry about what other people think,” she said. “Whatever you decide that you like to do –go do it. It’s never work if you love it. I never felt like I was working. I always felt like I was having fun.”