Evan Sengbusch (WAVE ’11) seemed remarkably calm for someone standing inside a concrete bunker with three-foot-thick concrete walls, next to a machine that is designed to generate radiation. I tried to match his cool demeanor and follow along with his explanation of Phoenix Nuclear’s business. Fortunately, as a Ph.D. in medical physics with an MBA from the Wisconsin School of Business, Evan knows how to communicate with his audience.
“Basically, we smash atoms into each other and blast out neutrons,” he explains. As the Phoenix Nuclear Labs website points out, this proprietary technology can be used for a variety of applications, from creating medical isotopes to helping the military identify roadside improvised explosive devices.
Evan’s entrepreneurial journey was surprisingly straightforward. While studying with Professor Rock Mackie for his Ph.D., Evan expressed an interest in also pursuing an MBA–an interest that Professor Mackie both inspired and supported.
Then, in Professor Phil Greenwood’s Entrepreneurial Management class, Evan was paired up with Phoenix Nuclear Labs for the class’s semester-long project. Two years later, Evan circled back to the company and was hired as the sixth employee (Phoenix now employs around 30).
“It’s a perfect fit,” Evan explained, “I still get to do the science,” even as he spends about 50 percent of his time on business-management work. After two years with the company as vice president of business development, he’s excited to see things really start to take off. Phoenix has funded much of its growth through non-dilutive capital—mostly grants—and is now expected to double revenue this year.
It’s easy to see the tie between Evan’s MBA experience and his position at Phoenix, but the enduring takeaway he emphasizes is the support he received from Professor Mackie. Evan knows that he wouldn’t be in the position he is today if he hadn’t pursued “the world beyond research” in getting his MBA. As the Weinert Center continues to stress interdisciplinary ties and innovation across campus, it’s exciting to think about the opportunities future students will have to follow Evan’s path.