Tetramer Technologies owes much of its initial success to the National Science Foundations Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. These NSF grants provided the funding necessary to launch Tetramer's first commercially available product, TOPS2000 PFCB monomer and polymer. "The primary objective of the NSF SBIR/STTR Program is to increase the incentive and opportunity for small firms to undertake cutting- edge, high risk, high quality scientific, engineering, or science/engineering education research that would have a high potential economic payoff if the research is successful."
In addition, the NSF has the goal of "developing a diverse, internationally competitive, and globally-engaged science and engineering workforce." Towards this goal, Tetramer is actively training high school students and undergraduates during the summers and through part-time employment using two types of grants.
For three years Tetramer has participated in the RAHSS program. Two high school students each year spend the summer working the Tetramer laboratories. In addition to getting hands on experience in cut- edge chemistry and materials science, the students have seen first-hand what it takes to run a small business and what entrepreneurialship is all about.
To date, four high school girls have gone through the RAHSS program and most of them for two consecutive summers.
Success Stories Parker Freudenburger Parker currently worked at Tetramer during the summer while attending high school. Parker currently attends Clemson University.
While working at Tetramer Technologies, I assisted with experiments, cleaned glassware, and helped organize the lab. The experiment that I enjoyed assisting with the most was during my first year at Tetramer. Emily Wagener and I had to spin coat glass slides with different dyes that were dissolved with various polymers in THF. Working at Tetramer made me decide to take AP chemistry in high school, which also fueled my attraction to chemistry. This helped to narrow down my major from anything engineering to either chemical or ceramics and materials engineering. Not only this, but writing the reports for the NSF at the end of the summer each year prepared me for the lab reports we have to write for the labs at Clemson. Making decisions in the past year would have been a lot harder if not for Tetramer.
Emily Wagener Emily worked at Tetramer Technologies during the summers while attending high school and she now attends Clemson University.
Working at Tetramer has been a fantastic eye-opening experience for me as I have come to understand how life in a research environment runs beyond the cheesy labeled test tubes of freshman year biology lab. Its been a great ride with fun coworkers. I always look forward to coming in, massive pile of dishes and all.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation.
Success Stories Matt Baker Matt Baker worked at Tetramer Technologies for a short time before deciding to get his Ph.D. from University of Florida.
I started working for Tetramer on specialty polymer films for gas separation technologies; being a young scientist, Tetramer Technologies gave me an opportunity not available to the vast majority of recent technology based graduates. At Tetramer, I was not only a scientist performing basic research, but was also an included member in the development and growth of the company. Since Tetramer is a small startup company with a penchant for mentoring young scientists, I was able to quickly learn the importance of interplay between the business and technology interests of a company – an opportunity few of my colleges have experienced. Honestly, most colleagues are impressed by the opportunities and working environment that I was given at Tetramer. I left the company in July of 2007 to pursue my Ph.D. at the University of Florida under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Castellano as a supramolecular organic chemist. Though no longer a strict polymer chemist, my experiences at Tetramer have allowed for new insights as to the implications and use of our chemical systems on polymer technologies in commercial applications. Upon graduating I plan to build on my experiences with Tetramer and continue to work with chemical technology start-up companies. Trip Floyd Tripp worked at Tetramer Technologies for about a year in 2005. After graduating from Clemson University, Tripp is now working towards his Ph.D. at Berkeley.
I synthesized new polythiophenes for solar cells and sulfonated PFCB polymers for fuel cell applications, and also worked on systems for solubilizing and stabilizing various quantum dots. It was an excellent chance to practice everything from sophomore organic chemistry to dry box technique and electron microscopy experiments, as well as learn about a wide variety of fields within polymer chemistry. In the fall of 2006 I joined the Frechet group at U.C. Berkeley to continue my work in polymer chemistry. I'm currently working towards my PhD in the area of dendrimer synthesis and drug delivery strategies for cancer, and very routinely rely on the knowledge and skills I first obtained at Tetramer. I have routinely spoken with many other chemists about their work environments and experiences over the past few years, and have yet to hear anyone describe a setting as agreeable as the one at Tetramer.
Cooperative Education Students (Co-ops) Tetramer Technologies works with Clemson University to provide undergraduate students with valuable job experience. In general, co-op students alternate semesters of classes and work. Tetramer currently has several co-op students working with us.
Success Stories Benjamin Bergmann Ben is a chemistry major and worked as a co-op student for Tetramer in the summer of 2008. He has now graduated from Clemson University and is working at Tetramer Technologies.
Over the summer, I worked for Tetramer as a formulations lab chemist. My duties were to test and analyze new soy based candle waxes performance. In addition, I was responsible for checking current methods and creating new methods as needed. Working for Tetramer has been a great experience. The company is small and self-driven. My boss was never hovering over me to get my work done but was there if I needed help or guidance with a project. The company CEO, Earl Wagener, is very experienced in the chemical industry. He has made a point to pass on his experience to me and everyone else in Tetramer so that we cannot only survive as a new company but also how we can be successful wherever we work.
Ethan Knapp Ethan is a Ceramic and Materials Engineering major at Clemson Univeristy. He is currently working his fourth co-op rotation at Tetramer Technologies.
I started here in December 2008 and worked a full year straight before going back to school for a semester. After doing all of my interviews I knew Tetramer was the company that I wanted to go too. It was small but it would give me an opportunity to contribute through applying what I had been studying in school in a hands- on manner. I was originally assigned to a project focused on soy wax replacements for current petroleum products on the market. In specific I worked on candles. Every day I was able to work in a lab and design my own experiments. I would have to report my findings to my bosses who would then instruct me how to proceed forward. Thus I had a reasonable amount of work which I was held accountable. The small team sizes meant that expectations were higher and thus it was imperative that I take an active part in my project. I learned how to use a variety of lab equipment and learned how to efficiently analyze and present data. Upon returning to school I posted my highest ever single semester GPA at Clemson despite the fact that I had a year layoff.
CES 403 OR 603: CAREER SUCCESS IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (download .pdf flyer) Originally funded by the NSF Discovery Corp Fellowship Program, a "program seeking . . . professional development models that combine research with service-oriented projects. . that address areas of national need (including . . . workforce development and job creation, and innovative linkages between chemistry and other fields)," CES 403/603 "Career Success in Research and Development" is Dr. Earl Wagener's chance to teach undergraduates and graduates at Clemson University what you need to know before going into an industrial setting. Dr. Wagener, a Clemson University graduate who has spent 39 years in global industrial R&D at Dow Chemical, Stepan Company, and Clemson University spin-off Tetramer, teaches the course and provides an insider’s look at how to successfully use the tools and processes needed to pursue a rewarding career.
The course is open to all college of engineering and science junior and senior undergraduate and graduate students interested in a career in industry. Not only will this course enhance a resume, but it also provides a clear understanding of the future research and development working environment which will help a student avoid the land mines many encounter early on.
The course topics involve both the linear and non-linear aspects of career development including research project execution and prioritization, salary and benefits, intellectual property, how to react to performance reviews, career path options, insider’s advice and more. The course is designed for 5 member team assignments and will provide stimulating interactive discussion on how to succeed both personally and professionally in an industrial research environment.
This course has been incredibly successful, having received the highest student ratings in the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson. In addition, versions of this class have been adopted for use at Auburn and Virginia Tech.