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College of Engineering and Computing

Our People

 Faculty, Post-Doctoral Fellows, and Students

Theodore Besmann

Theodore "Ted" Besmann

Besmann is Professor and SmartState Endowed Chair of the General Atomics Center for the Development of Transformational Nuclear Technologies. Previous to coming to USC, Prof. Besmann led a research group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, most recently in the Materials Science and Technology Division. Current research at USC focuses on the development of novel accident tolerant and molten salt nuclear fuels; experimental measurement and computational modeling of the thermochemical behavior of nuclear and other materials; and coupling chemical behavior to system performance computer codes. Prof. Besmann is also currently the Co-Director of a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center led by USC, the Center for Hierarchical Waste Form Materials.

Vancho Kocevsky

Vancho Kocevski, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Kocevski earned his PhD in Solid State Physics at Uppsala University, Sweden, in 2015, before working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Northwestern University for 2 years. His research interests include thermodynamic modeling of materials, electron microscopy, and developing and utilizing methodologies for materials discovery and design. He has experience using computational materials approaches such as density functional theory, ab-initio and classical molecular dynamics, and the multislice method.

Denise Adorno Lopes

Denise Adorno Lopes, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Denise has a Bachelor in Physics, earned a Master's and PhD degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from São Paulo University (USP). She worked for 5 years at the Brazilian Navy Technological Center, where she performed research on fabricating, characterising and testing properties of U-Mo and U-Nb-Zr alloys for nuclear fuel plate concept. Before coming to USC she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Reactor Physics Department of Royal Institute of Technology – KTH in Sweden, where she conducted integrated modeling and experimental work on UN and U3Si2 including ab initio calculations and thermophysical measurements.


Kaitlin E. Johnson, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Kaitlin earned her Master’s degree and PhD in Chemical Engineering from University of California, Davis in 2018 for her research on the development and characterization of amorphous and ceramic biohybrid materials. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at Arizona State University. Her current research is focused on the development of thermochemical models for the development of uranium silicide and molten salt reactor fuels through experimental work and CALPHAD modelling methods.


Matthew Christian, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Matthew earned his PhD in Chemistry from Dalhousie University in 2018, where he developed surface-chemistry models using dispersion corrected density functional theory (DFT). Matthew also has a M.S. in Chemistry from Virginia Tech and a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His current research is focused on modeling complex uranium-containing molten and crystalline salts using both DFT and thermochemical models.

Johnathon Ard

Johnathon Ard, Ph.D. Student

Ard earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics with a Concentration in Mechanical Engineering from Kennesaw State University in 2017. His undergraduate research focused on the physiochemical analysis of cerium-doped bioactive borate glasses as a novel carrier for cerium nanoparticles.

Stephen Utlak

Stephen Utlak, Ph.D. Student

Stephen Utlak obtained a B.S. degree in Bioengineering at Clemson University and an M.E. degree in Nuclear Engineering at the University of South Carolina (USC) in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Upon graduating from USC, he accepted a position with Savannah River Remediation, the liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS). In 2015, he took leave from SRS to work toward a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering at USC. He is now engaged in a research project advised by Prof. Ted Besmann (USC) and supported by the US Department of Energy Office of River Protection to thermochemically model the high-level waste glass expected to be produced at the Hanford Site with the goal of characterizing nepheline precipitation equilibrium behavior.

Tashiema Wilson

Tashiema Wilson, Ph.D. Student

Wilson earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of West Florida in 2015. She holds a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fellowship which is supporting her pursuit of a PhD in nuclear engineering at the university. She is interested in the thermochemistry of advanced nuclear fuels for clean power generation. Wilson will be investigating the properties and behavior of uranium silicide-nitride fuels using both experimental and computational methods in a project joint with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Jacob Yingling, Ph.D. Student

Jacob gained his career interest in nuclear power while pursuing his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at Brigham Young University. Since then, he served his country as an Active Duty component of the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program where he taught courses in Math, Physics, and Reactor Core Dynamics at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. He is currently in the latter stages of completing a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering through his work modeling silicon carbide clad uranium silicide fuels and recently began a Ph.D. program where he is engaged in developing a thermochemical database for use in the design and operation of Generation IV Molten Salt Reactors


Savannah Howell, Undergraduate Student

Savannah earned her Associate of Science from Horry-Georgetown Technical College. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of South Carolina. She is interested in the chemical processes involved in nuclear fuel systems and renewable energy.


Past Post-Doctoral Researchers

Mallikharjuna Bogala

Mallikharjuna R. Bogala, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Bogala received MS degrees in both Metallurgy and Analytical Chemistry from the University of Alabama in 2015 and 2009, respectively, and his doctoral degree in Materials Science in 2016. These followed his obtaining a M.Tech. degree in Modern Methods of Chemical Analysis from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in 2004 after a 5-year Integrated M.Sc. in Chemistry from Pondicherry University in 2002.  Bogala’s research interests include synthesis of high-temperature materials by sintering and arc-melting techniques, carrying out mechanical, thermochemical and thermophysical property measurements using cracking/rupture tests, TGA/DSC, XRD, and SEM/TEM microanalysis, and CALPHAD assessments of the thermochemistry and phase equilibria of materials systems.


Mark J. Noordhoek, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Noordhoek earned his bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Michigan in 2009 before going on to earn his Ph.D in the same area from the University of Florida in 2014. His research interests include thermodynamic modeling of materials, crystallography and methodologies for materials discovery and design. He has computational materials science experience using first-principles (density functional theory), classical molecular dynamics and the CALPHAD method.

Emily Moore

Emily Moore, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Emily earned a PhD in Physics from the École Polytechnique for her research at the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA-Saclay).  Her undergraduate and masters studies were completed at the University of Arizona, with Bachelor degrees in Chemistry and German Studies, and a Master degree in Material Science and Engineering.  Her research focus includes chemical thermodynamics and materials properties of nuclear fuel and fission products, with competencies in thermos-kinetic modelling using CALPHAD methods and molecular dynamic simulations




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