Schwabe North America donates lab equipment to UW-Green Bay

Joe Schoenebeck admits he was like a kid on Christmas during a recent trip to Schwabe North America in Green Bay.

But one can hardly blame Schoenebeck, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay laboratory technician, for his enthusiasm.

After all, he and Julie Lukesh, assistant professor in Natural and Applied Sciences, were being given their choice of high-quality surplus lab equipment — at no charge. Thanks to a generous donation from Schwabe, parent company of Enzymatic Therapy and employer of numerous UW-Green Bay alumni, they got to take their pick of rotary evaporation equipment, an extensive glassware selection and more.

By the time the pair had grabbed their fill, Schoenebeck estimates they’d picked up equipment that would be worth $15,000 to $20,000 if purchased new.

“We started at it like it was Christmas, pulling stuff aside,” Schoenebeck said. “And pretty soon we realized that we didn’t have enough room in our cars to bring all of this stuff back. So we actually had to get a surplus truck to bring everything back that was here — really neat stuff.”

The donation was made possible after Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany purchased Enzymatic Therapy in Green Bay, and decided to integrate it with Nature’s Way of Springville, Utah, said Brandon Podhola, quality control laboratory manager for Schwabe. The Springville operations moved to Green Bay, the Green Bay lab was expanded — and a lot of equipment, much of it redundant, was moved.

When company officials made the decision to donate the extra equipment, UW-Green Bay was a natural fit, Podhola said. After all, eight UW-Green Bay alumni work in the lab at Schwabe, putting into practice the skills they learned while earning their degrees.

“The UWGB grads have been excellent performers,” Podhola said, “and that says a lot for (alumni) who I receive resumes from … for jobs that are posted.”

One of those alumni is Brittany Brodziski, ’09, a quality control chemist at Schwabe. Formerly one of Schoenebeck’s student employees, Brodziski earned her degree in Chemistry, with a double minor in Physics and Human Biology.

“I worked in the lab prep area on campus,” Brodziski said, “so I think that really helped getting me a job here. And I just really like working in the lab, and being hands-on.”

Schoenebeck is looking forward to using the new equipment, he said; but perhaps just as much, to cultivating the relationship with Schwabe. On both counts, it seems, both company and University have found a formula for success.

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Video Transcript:

Brandon Podhola
Quality Control Laboratory Manager, Schwabe North America

Podhola: It all started around three years ago when we were purchased by Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Karlsruhe, Germany. They own Nature’s Way products of Springville, Utah. The decision was made to combine the two companies and make Green Bay the headquarters. So in the process of the integration of the two companies, the entire operations was moved from Springville and was added onto the operations in Green Bay — so we’ve gone through quite a big expansion in the laboratory.

With that integration, and with moving all that equipment, we have a lot of equipment, that you see in the room right here, was added to what we already had existing in the laboratory. And with that, there was a lot of redundant equipment — certain laboratory pieces of equipment that are used for sample preparation, such as Rotovaps; we also had a number of extra drying ovens, stir plates, glassware — we had tons of glassware that were left over.

A lot of that was just surplus and we didn’t know exactly what to do with it; we don’t have a lot of room to store all of that and we really didn’t see a need to hold onto it — so the decision was made to donate it. And I made the selection of UWGB just based on the fact that we have seven UWGB grads in our laboratory.

Joe Schoenebeck
NAS Laboratory Manager, UW-Green Bay

Schoenebeck: I’d open up a drawer and they’d say you know anything in this drawer you can take and Dr. (Julie) Lukesh and I would look at each other and be like, ‘this is Rotoevaporator equipment.’ So we started pulling it out and we have boxes full of stuff that we’re walking around (with); and then they took us to the warehouse after the tour and said, ‘everything on these 12 tables you can have.’ Well, we started at it like it was Christmas, pulling stuff aside — and pretty soon we realized that we didn’t have enough room in our cars to bring all of this stuff back. So we actually had to get a surplus truck to bring everything back that was here —really neat stuff.

I also got talking to Brandon, who is the laboratory manager there, and he told us that over half of the grads that work in the lab are from UW-green bay, which I thought was really neat. And he also said that in the future, he may be looking for interns — and I said, ‘you know, depending on the time, you should at least give me a call, and I can at least add to the applicant pools.’ I normally have student employees — and one student employee, Brittany Brodziski, was one of my student employees when I started here. And now she works at Schwabe, which was pretty neat.

Brittany Brodziski, ‘09
QC Chemist, Schwabe

Brodziski: Well I graduated with a chemistry degree, and a double minor in physics and human biology. And I kind of decided because I was more into the lab and the hands-on experience that I can get working in the lab — which, I worked in the lab prep area on campus, so I think that really helped getting me a job here. And I just really like working in the lab and being hands-on.

Schoenebeck: (It might be a) working relationship where it might be something, if they keep us in mind when they have obsolete equipment that they no longer have use for; and then, in the same token, they keep us in mind when they’re looking for internships and stuff like that.

Podhola: The UWGB grads have been excellent performers, and that says a lot for people who I receive resumes from for future — or, for jobs that are posted.