UTSA Klesse Scholar Hopes to Change the Future of Carbon Emissions


San Antonio native and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) student, Elijah Garcia ‘22, is a senior chemical engineering major and Klesse Scholar — receiving an endowed scholarship in chemical engineering that has benefitted 10 top-performing students. Elijah will graduate in the first class of UTSA students who have become scholars through the Margie and Bill Klesse Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering. The generous scholarship provided by the Klesses allows students to expand their research and academic opportunities, ultimately preparing UTSA’s graduates to go out into the workforce and create positive change in the world.

Elijah is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, BSChE, at the University of Texas at San Antonio. As a senior in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, Elijah found an interest in petroleum/fuel and energy. He is now conducting his third semester of undergraduate research in the field of applied catalytic chemistry where he is working under one of his mentors and professors, Dr. Gary Jacobs. The pair also work with Southwest Research Institute, which has partnered with UTSA since 2019 to understand the susceptibility of additively manufactured materials to hydrogen embrittlement— a common problem that can lead to mechanical hardware degrading and losing functionality. Elijah and Dr. Jacobs are preparing the catalysts that will be furthered characterized and used in a reactor that SwRI is currently developing.

“It’s amazing that we get to work with organizations like Southwest Research Institute. I never thought I would be able to do something like that as an undergraduate in a young engineering program,” said Elijah. “Though I have a busy schedule, my scholarship provides me with the time to place the majority of my focus on my studies and research projects like this that will help further my career.”

The Margie and Bill Klesse Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering has allowed Elijah to cut back on working outside the classroom to pay for school and hone in on his passion for the field. With more personalized guidance from his professors and mentors, Elijah has found an interest in processes related to the extraction of crude oil. To understand the real-world applications and operating procedures of distillation as it applies to petroleum refinement, he uses the college’s distillation column, which was also funded by the Klesses.

“I am incredibly grateful for this scholarship from Bill and Margie Klesse. It allows me to work more closely with my professors and gives me the opportunity to connect with the deans, associate deans, and outside mentors including Bill himself. This access to additional mentorship has helped enormously in my studies. Having more guidance from professionals in my field has helped me find clarity on what I want to pursue in my future career,” said Elijah.

Elijah ultimately hopes to pursue turning biomass and plants into fuel to lessen carbon emissions in the environment and mitigate off-shore drilling. Elijah was recently accepted into the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Both talented and multifaceted, Elijah also hopes to pursue an additional degree in Music Theory/Composition at UT Austin.

-Jordan Allen