When Carmichael Roberts first arrived in Boston as a 25-year-old chemist who had just earned a doctorate at Duke, he didn’t know what a venture capitalist was.

While Roberts says that he was fascinated by learning about how venture capital worked, “I wasn’t interested in becoming a VC at that point.”

More than two decades later, Roberts has become one of the most respected venture capitalists in Boston, and he has been setting up his own venture capital firm, the Material Impact Fund.

Roberts is also the only African-American venture capital “Partner” – that’s the industry term for a decision maker, rather than someone who analyzes potential investments – that I’ve met in my 20 years of covering the startup scene in Boston.

“Not all the companies were great,” says Michael Greeley, a co-founder of the Boston venture firm Flare Capital Partners, “But he stuck with it.”

Material Impact, which Roberts runs alongside former medical device exec Adam Sharkawy, has so far put money into three companies.

Says Vause, “Is bold and unafraid” to invest in fledgling companies developing new materials and new ways to use them, “Which terrifies a lot of people. But there are not a lot of folks who understand materials science in the way Carmichael does.”