By Leslie Jernegan
Growing alongside the up-and-coming local success story of Phoenix Nuclear Labs, UW–Madison alumnus, Evan Sengbusch, exemplifies how a well-rounded résumé of expertise, and a push from an advisor can lead to extraordinary post-graduate ventures.
While pursuing his PhD in medical physics, Sengbusch decided to simultaneously pursue his MBA in management and human resources.
“For most people in my department, there are two paths,” Sengbusch says. “You’re either going to be a professor, or you’re going to work in a hospital doing clinical-medical physics, and, ultimately, neither of those was super appealing to me.”
Finding inspiration in his advisor, Dr. Thomas “Rock” Mackie, co-founder of TomoTherapy, Sengbusch approached Mackie with the idea of getting his MBA.
“Most advisors would probably be like, ‘No, you’re here to do research for me and this would be a huge distraction for you,’” Sengbusch explains, “and Rock, being a great advisor, was like, ‘That’s a fantastic idea. I’m fully supportive of it.’”
Taking two years in the middle of his PhD to do his MBA, Sengbusch had the assignment of finding and helping a local businessperson. This led to Mackie introducing Sengbusch to Dr. Gregory Piefer, PhD in nuclear engineering from UW and founder of Phoenix Nuclear Labs, a local company that specializes in neutron generator technology.
After working with Piefer and completing his studies, Sengbusch returned to become Vice President of Business Development with the company, which has rapidly grown since Sengbusch’s start in 2012. This growth, he says, has been one filled with plenty of learning opportunities.
“Everyone is forced to wear a lot of different hats and learn a lot of different things. It’s what I love about my job. I do a lot of different things each day by necessity. It’s a challenge because you have to learn new stuff you didn’t have to do before, but it’s also a lot of fun because it makes your job exciting and gives you all sorts of skills that will be useful for all sorts of things.”
Had Sengbusch’s advisor discouraged him from pursuing his MBA, Sengbusch says he not only would lack essential skills for Phoenix, but also not be working for the company whatsoever.
“Rock got me into the world out of academia,” Sengbusch credits. “A lot of these things when I first started at Phoenix – a lot of just running the business type of things – I would’ve been so much more clueless if I hadn’t done the MBA, and, frankly, I would have never met Greg. I don’t know where I’d be.”
Sengbusch’s entrepreneurial spirit and his advisor’s encouragement to step outside the box in his career path have led him to participating in an original team that is not only experiencing major growth, but also that, by developing technology for medicine, defense and energy, will soon be creating a positive impact on the local and international communities.