Originally from Argenta, IL, Roberts obtained his first research experience at the James R. Randall Research Center in the Archer-Daniels Midland Co. While attending the University of Illinois, Roberts worked in two research groups; Seabauer Group (semiconductor defects for nanoscale devices) and the Kenis Group (microfluidics for applications in energy, crystallization, and cell study) both in the Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering. Roberts' undergraduate work in the Kenis Group produced an original journal article and a patent on microfluidic device for preparing mixtures of fluids with highly differing viscosities for applications in membrane protein crystallization. Roberts was highly active in the student AIChE chapter at Illinois where they attended multiple regional and national meetings as well as hosting a regional meeting. Roberts was a leader in their chapter's ChemE Car Competition.