Burt Beardsley ’74
Owner, Catalina Scientific Instruments
Owning and operating a successful business may be the American dream, but for Burt Beardsley (B.S. ’74) of Tucson, Ariz., it’s literally out of this world.
In 2004, Beardsley and his wife received a grant from NASA to create a spectrograph that could eventually be used on a Mars rover.
The device did so well they created a company around it. Now Beardsley’s spectrograph is used in labs all over the world.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently gave Beardsley a grant to build an even stronger spectrograph to use in the nuclear industry. Another client is the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which uses spectrographs to measure nuclear contamination in the Fukushima reactors hit by a tsunami in 2011.
Being an entrepreneur in the scientific frontier comes with its own set of trials and successes.
“There is a new challenge every day,” Beardsley says. “Some of them are cash flow issues with a small company, or how to deal with a lack of resources. Every challenge has its own solution.”
Beardsley credits UMKC with giving him a solid foundation on which to build his career.
“I had heard that UMKC had outstanding professors in the physics department, which turned out to be correct,” he says. “I had some of my best physics instructors while I attended UMKC.”
He also has a message for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“It is best to have a known customer before starting your own business, and know your market very well,” he says. “It is difficult to build a product and then try to find the customer. It is an excellent idea to have the resources to survive at least two years without an income from a new company.”