A philanthropic catalyst for chemical engineers’ success
“The future belongs to those who create it.” Those are guiding words for Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering alumnus Michael Triplett.
Growing up in East Liverpool, Ohio, Triplett was deeply affected by the collapse of the local steel industry in the late 1980s and the resulting socioeconomic disruption it caused in his tight-knit community.
“The lack of hope and the lack of economic opportunity drove me to understand what led to that and how to overcome it,” he said. “My conclusion was that in order to deal with inevitable technological change, you needed to be at the forefront of it.”
That realization spurred Triplett’s decision to pursue a chemical engineering degree at Ohio State, first his bachelor’s (’97) and later his Ph.D. (’04). The first-generation college graduate has become a successful entrepreneur with a passion for translating science and technology into businesses and products that enhance human health, American competitiveness and economic opportunity.
Now he’s helping to ensure others can create their own bright futures, for themselves and their communities.
Triplett and his wife Nanette—a first-generation college graduate from Dennison, Ohio, and an Ohio State chemical engineering (’97) and Fisher MBA alum (’02) herself—recently donated $1.2 million to establish an endowed chemical engineering graduate fellowship at their alma mater.
The endowment will help recruit and support Ph.D. candidates, with a preference given to students from Ohio, to the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity this generous fellowship provides chemical engineering graduate education at Ohio State,” said COE Distinguished Professor and Department Chair Umit Ozkan. “So often, funding becomes an issue when pairing a potential student with their ideal research area and the Tripletts' support will eliminate that barrier for the foreseeable future.”
Competitiveness, from an economic and technological standpoint, has been a primary source of inspiration for Triplett for many years, he said.
“I’ve been motivated for a long time to facilitate the number of Americans, especially Ohioans, who go on to pursue STEM degrees, particularly engineering,” he said, adding that both he and Nanette believe chemical engineering is a discipline that can transcend many different fields and make significant contributions to society. And with Ozkan’s passion for elevating the program even higher, they felt confident investing in the next generation of Buckeye engineering leaders.
“We want to develop the pipeline of individuals who really lean into the most challenging and complex problems we face in our society that can be addressed from a chemical engineering perspective,” said Triplett. “We want them to have a positive impact that by extension benefits the department, the university and Ohio, if possible.”
Triplett is co-founder and CEO of Clarametyx Biosciences, Inc., a biotech company headquartered in Columbus pursuing novel therapies and vaccines for life-threatening bacterial infections, and president of Carmen Partners, a life science commercialization and innovation consultancy. He co-founded and served as president and CEO of gene therapy company Myonexus Therapeutics, which was recently acquired by Sarepta Therapeutics in 2019.
The best way to create more Buckeye engineers-turned-entrepreneurs is to expose students to what it truly means to innovate, said Triplett, beyond what is seen on TV’s “Shark Tank.” Experiential opportunities with venture or startup companies, collaboration with Ohio State’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship and professional mentors, along with a world-class education, are all essential components.
“Ohio State has given us a tremendous opportunity. We feel a duty to capitalize on that opportunity, but also invest in the university and the state of Ohio,” said Triplett. “Nanette and I both hope that this gift serves as a catalyst for more gifts like this from others.”
Story by Meggie Biss