By Leslie Jernegan
Holding a position that requires a multitude of talents, UW–Madison alumnus, Mark Staudt, takes advantage of his diverse background in science and engineering to make a big impact on the local and global communities.
After finishing his undergraduate career at the University of Texas, Staudt worked as a chemical engineer before pursuing his PhD in biomolecular chemistry at UW–Madison. When in the midst of his studies he realized that a career in academia wasn’t suitable for him, Staudt decided to explore his post-graduate options.
An informational interview with a friend led Staudt to an internship with Madison’s Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which introduced him to the field of technology transfer. Completing his PhD and the internship, Staudt briefly moved back to Texas, to then return to Madison in 2012 and rejoin the WARF licensing team. “I enjoy the town, and WARF is a very good place to be in my field.”
As a licensing associate, Staudt serves as the interface of business, law and research, operating as a liaison for inventors on campus to determine the best commercial path for their technology.
“It’s the virtuous cycle where inventions are made at the university. We commercialize them, royalties come back, and we give to the university. WARF has done some amazing things. It supports the university and funding. This is where the Wisconsin Idea can be found. It helps people.”
Translating between the corporate and academic worlds, Staudt combines his research studies and his communications skills.
“I think particularly having a PhD is useful,” Staudt says. “You can have different conversations with the faculty members. I also understand more of what goes on in these labs for research. I like that I stay close to the research. I get to interact with amazing people. A world-leading expert has to come in and explain their research to me. That’s pretty neat, and you just help push it along.”
After intensive research for his PhD, Staudt advises students considering their career paths to see themselves as “skimmers” or “divers,” regarding expertise.
“I found that diver didn’t work for me,” he explains. “I found that I prefer to have a lot of different things. The tradeoff is that you don’t know as much about each of these things. It wasn’t for me. I figured that out year four or five, but I found a job like this for me is much better because I like to be in the skimmer space. I get to see the science before it gets out there. I like being associated with the university, and I like the people I get to interact with.”