Our People

Theodore "Ted" Besmann, Center Director

Dr. 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.

 Juliano Schorne-Pinto, Research Assistant Professor

JSP Juliano earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse for his research at the CIRIMAT and Laboratoire de Génie Chimique (LGC). His undergraduate and master’s studies were completed at the Université de Montpellier and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in a dual-degree path in MSE and Physical chemistry of materials, respectively. His research focus includes thermodynamic modeling of materials, crystallography, and thermo-structural and thermodynamic characterization of materials.

Amir Mofrad, Research Assistant Professor

Amir earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2020, where his research focused on the application of electronic structure calculations to vibrational spectroscopy and gas encapsulation in zeolites. He also holds a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Sharif University of Technology. Amir’s current research and activities as a postdoc in Dr. Besmann's group focus on predicting Raman spectra of complex molten salts as well as modeling these crystalline materials using density functional theory calculations.

Jorge Paz Soldan Palma, Postdoctoral Fellow

Jorge earned his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 2022, where his research was based on the studying the thermodynamic stability of the Yb14MnSb11 thermoelectric compound when exposed to extreme conditions. Dr. Palma’s current research is focused on the thermodynamic modeling of molten salt systems and broader aspects of modeling and computing these properties.

Ronnie Booth, Postdoctoral Fellow

Ronald earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at North Carolina State University in 2021. He also holds a B.S.E. in Engineering Physics from Murray State University. At NC State, his research work was focused on flexible semitransparent electrode fabrication and implementation for wearable electronic and organic photovoltaic devices. Ronald’s current work is addressing the thermodynamic modelling of tri-carbide fuel mixtures for nuclear thermal propulsion applications.

Aiswarya Padinhare Manissery, Postdoctoral Fellow

PM Aiswarya holds a PhD in chemistry from the Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai, India. During her PhD, worked determining ternary phase diagrams relevant for understanding the interaction of structural steel materials with lead-bismuth liquid metal reactor coolant. While working as a postdoctoral research associate at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, India, she was involved in the determination of the thermochemical properties of different ternary oxides using calorimetric and emf methods. As a postdoctoral researcher in the General Atomics Center, her research interests are on the structural characterization and thermodynamic modeling of nuclear materials with an emphasis on molten salt reactor-related systems.

Jack Wilson, Postdoctoral Fellow

JW Jack earned his PhD in Nuclear Science and Engineering from Bangor University, UK, with funding from the National Nuclear Laboratory, UK, and Nuclear Energy Futures Centre for Doctoral Training. His research focused on developing complex and high-entropy alloys for light water fission reactors, combining atomic-scale simulation and targeted experiments. His research in the group focuses on developing thermochemical databases for Generation IV molten salt reactors and modeling the behavior of nitride and carbide nuclear fuels.

Clara Dixon, PhD Student

Clara earned her Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Biology with a minor in mathematics from the University of Washington - Bothell in 2020. She realized her passion for thermodynamics and physical chemistry as an undergraduate, and decided to pursue a PhD in nuclear engineering because she is a big proponent of clean energy and is passionate about environmental conservation. Her current research consists of thermodynamic modeling of molten salt systems, in particular systems containing volatile fission products cesium and iodine.

Zachary Gardiner, Undergraduate Researcher


ZG Zachary Gardiner is currently an undergraduate student in the Honors College class of 2027 at the University of South Carolina pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. He plans on obtaining an accelerated master's degree in nuclear engineering. Zachary is highly interested in Generation IV nuclear reactors, especially molten salt reactors, and is very excited to be working with the General Atomics Center. Zachary is also a member of the American Nuclear Society.