2024 Academy Perla BalbuenaPerla Balbuena, Mike O’Connor chair | professor of chemical engineering and university distinguished professor at Texas A&M University, holds joint appointments with the chemistry department and with the materials science and engineering department.

Perla’s research pioneered the theoretical understanding of solid electrolyte interphases for lithium-ion batteries in the early 2000’s, and over the years her team has contributed to the design of materials for advanced battery technologies with innovative chemistries. As part of an interdisciplinary team, Perla’s recent work centers in the analysis and design of materials able to display neuronal behavior while responding to certain stimuli, constituting the core of analog computing devices.

Her research interests center on the underlying mechanisms driving surface and interfacial chemical and electrochemical processes. She uses and develops first-principles computational materials design, and her findings are integrated with experimental measurements from multiple laboratory collaborations in the U.S. and abroad.  

Perla has more than 350 peer-reviewed publications with over 23,000 citations according to Google Scholar and has received numerous prestigious awards including the National Science Foundation POWRE Award, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Texas Engineering Experiment Station Research Impact Award and the Engineering Genesis Award, and The Association of Former Students of Texas A&M University Distinguished Achievements Award in Research.

Perla is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American institute of Chemical Engineers, and a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society. Perla is an associate editor for the Journal of the Electrochemical Society and on editorial board for the Journal of Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society

She received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, under the supervision of Professor Keith Johnston, in close collaboration with Professor Peter Rossky, using molecular simulations to develop a better understanding of chemical reactions in supercritical water.



2024 Tricia Berry V2For more than 30 years, Tricia Berry has served her surrounding community as an engineer, educator, and advocate for gender equity in STEM. Recognized nationally as one of 100 Women Leaders in STEM by STEMconnector, Tricia impacts thousands of students, educators, and organizations each year through the award-winning programs she leads.

Tricia began her career as a process engineer at The Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas. She earned two patents at Dow, received several engineering society awards, led the sitewide Take Your Daughter to Work “STEM Day”, and served on the UT Austin recruiting team.

Finding her passion, Tricia moved to higher education and has become a national leader in informal STEM education and broadening participation in STEM. At UT Austin, she served as Women in Engineering program director for 20 years before creating and launching Women in STEM as executive director in late 2021. For two decades, Tricia has led the Texas Girls Collaborative Project, a statewide network of advocates and educators from non-profits, K-12 schools, colleges, and companies across Texas who are committed to motivating and supporting women and girls to pursue and thrive in STEM careers. She has also served as broadening participation director for two National Science Foundation-funded research centers.

As an entrepreneur, Tricia co-founded 825 Basics, a company to help people craft career strategies, find their passions, and achieve career success. During 825 Basics’ decade of operations, she co-authored “You Can’t Eat Your Degree: Combine Your Passions and Philosophies to Create the Story of Your Future” and “Exceeds Expectations: Take Control of Your Performance Review.” She launched STEMwise Connections in 2023 to advance and scale equitable and inclusive STEM curriculum, programs, systems, and networks.

Tricia holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from The University of Houston–Clear Lake. She is the mom of 2 chemical engineering college students, and is married to another chemical engineer.



2024 Academy Tejuana EdmondTejuana L. Edmond is vice president, Plastic Additives Americas at BASF and a member of the BASF Corporation North America leadership team. Tejuana serves as a member of the BASF North America Diversity & Inclusion Council and as co-chair of the BASF North America Philanthropy Committee, where she guides strategic giving and partnerships for the region.

With experience in process engineering, strategy, and international business management across the Americas and Europe, Tejuana has enjoyed a career in oil, gas, and chemicals, including spending time as an expatriate in Kaposvar, Hungary. Before joining BASF, Tejuana spent several years at BP and Halliburton/KBR, holding various leadership, technology, sales, and engineering roles. 

Tejuana is actively engaged in community work, advocating for STEM education, educational equity, and diversity and inclusion efforts. She currently serves as vice chair and nominating committee chair on the board of directors for the Houston Area Urban League and is on the board of directors for Performing Arts Houston. Since 2022, Tejuana has been a member of the External Advisory Council of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering. As a Texas Exes Life Member, she established the Tejuana L. Edmond Scholarship Endowment in Chemical Engineering which aims to attract and retain a diverse student population within the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Tejuana is a member of various service-oriented organizations, including The Links, Incorporated and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and supports mental health awareness through her involvement with The Menninger Clinic. She has received various awards and accolades for her advocacy, STEM work, and leadership, including being acknowledged in Diversity Woman Media magazine as a member of the 2023 Power 100 List of Top Female Leaders.

She holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from The University of Houston–Clear Lake. Tejuana resides in Houston, Texas and loves spending time with her family, friends, and godchildren.



2024 Academy Les SteuwerLes Stuewer worked for ExxonMobil for 36 years in a variety of positions:  simulation/optimization of plant processes in Esso Math & Systems (NJ); managerial positions in information technology, technical, and business services at Exxon chemical plants (TX); olefins planner in Exxon chemical HQ (TX); and was information technology manager (both in Houston chemical HQ and Irving corporate HQ).  He received his B.S. in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1971 and his Master of Science in engineering from The University of Michigan in 1972.  

Les enjoyed his time at UT Austin playing trumpet in the University’s experimental Jazz Ensemble and bringing notables to speak on campus as a member of the Union Speakers Committee.  He was awarded the Outstanding Engineer award in 1971 by Tau Beta Pi.  

Les developed great respect for the work of chemical engineering professors at UT Austin: strong research coupled with a commitment to nurturing and inspiring students. That experience led Les to mentor engineers at ExxonMobil and catalyze the Les & Sherri Stuewer Chair in Chemical Engineering at UT Austin. Les also served as a member of the External Advisory Council for the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

Les and Sherri (also an engineer) have two daughters (both engineers) and seven grandchildren. He enjoys playing piano and golf. Fifteen years into retirement, he has used leadership skills on various committees and as board president in his community in Chapel Hill, NC.



2024 Academy Tom TruskettThomas (Tom) Truskett is the Dick Rothwell Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering and a professor of chemical engineering and physics at UT Austin.  

For the last 22 years, Tom and his research group have studied the behavior of soft condensed matter including biomolecular solutions, colloidal dispersions and assemblies, gels, and glassy solids. Using statistical mechanical theory and simulation, they have helped to discover how properties of soft materials derive from their structure across length scales, informing design strategies for applications ranging from optical materials to biotherapeutics.

Tom has been recognized as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and a David & Lucile Packard Foundation Fellow. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, the O’Donnell Award for Engineering from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science, and Technology, and both the Allan P. Colburn Award and the 2016 CoMSEF Impact Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers. 

He received his bachelor’s degree from UT Austin and his doctoral degree from Princeton University, both in chemical engineering. Before returning to UT Austin to join the faculty, Tom pursued postdoctoral studies in biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. 

Tom served for eight years as department chair of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering (2013-2020). Highlights from his leadership include recruitment of eight chemical engineering faculty members and helping to raise more than $28M to complete the Challenge for McKetta and support chemical engineering education and research at UT Austin.