Nugent received a BA from Bowdoin College in 1990, followed by an MS and PhD in Physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1997. Nugent came to Berkeley in 1996 to work with Saul Perlmutter's Supernova Cosmology Project in the Physics division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where the group made the first measurements of the accelerating universe. He then moved to the Computational Research Division in 2000, and subsequently co-founded the Computational Cosmology Center in 2010. That same year, he became a Senior Staff Scientist at LBNL, and an Adjunct Professor in the Astronomy Department at UC Berkeley. He is currently the Division Deputy for Scientific Engagement in LBNL's Computational Research Division, and the Department Head for Computational Science.