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Research Group Members

Sarah Finkeldei

Sarah received her Diploma in Chemistry from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. She conducted her research on pyrochlore oxides as potential nuclear waste forms within the Nuclear Waste Management Institute at the Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany under the supervision of professor Dirk Bosbach. She received her PhD from the RWTH Aachen University in 2014. During her time as a postdoctoral researcher in the Forschungszentrum Juelich she was awarded a two-year grant to strengthen the international collaborations of the Forschungszentrum Juelich on spent nuclear fuel research with Professor Rodney Ewing (Stanford University) and Professor Maik Lang (University of Tennessee Knoxville).


In order to gain more experience in the field of nuclear fuel fabrication she joined the Nuclear Fuel Materials Group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher in the summer of 2017. Her work contributed to the Advanced Fuels Campaign of the Department of Energy under the supervision of Kurt Terrani and Andrew Nelson. In July 2019 Sarah joined the Chemistry Department at the University of California Irvine where she is currently building up a radiochemistry laboratory dedicated to materials chemistry in the nuclear context. Her research interests span from advanced fuel forms to nuclear waste forms.

Sarah has received several awards for her work including the Excellence Award of the Forschungszentrum Juelich and the PhD award of the German Chemical Society, Nuclear Chemistry Division for her PhD thesis.

Graduate Students

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Timothy Connor

Timothy received a bachelors of chemistry from University of California, Irvine in 2018. During his time as an undergraduate, he joined the nuclear research group under Dr. Mikael Nilsson and worked on the synthesis of polyamidoamine dendrimers to be used for actinide separations. As part of the Finkeldei Lab, he has published research on Density Functional Theory analysis of pyrochlore nuclear waste forms, while his current research focuses on analysis of corrosion of spent nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository. Aside from nuclear science, he also has plays quidditch as a beater with the UCI alumni team Anteaters Forever, and enjoys tabletop war games and roleplaying games.

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Jessica Granger-Jones

Jessica received a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. As an undergraduate, she joined a materials chemistry research group under Dr. Ting Xu, working on the development of peptide-polymer conjugate micelles to enhance drug delivery.  After graduation, Jessica served in the US Peace Corps in Mozambique as a high school chemistry teacher and as the National Science Fair coordinator. Outside of the laboratory, she also enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, as well as hiking and watching Premier League soccer.


Lucas Opitz

Lucas received his B.Sc in chemistry from the Technical University in Dresden, Germany in 2019 During his master degree he joined the group of Prof. Thorsten Stumpf at the Helmholtz Research Center to study the interactions of lanthanides and actinides with zirconia as a possible nuclear waste retention barrier. In 2021 he received his master degree from the Technical University Dresden. Shortly after he joined Prof. Finkeldeis group in 2022. His current work looks at the redox behavior of the spent nuclear fuel matrix (UO2) in contact with stainless steel (waste canister material) and Zircaloy-4 (fuel cladding material) under relevant repository conditions.Outside of the laboratory Lucas enjoys all water related activities such as swimming, surfing or wakeboarding as well as the exploration of earths beautiful nature.

Undergraduate Researchers


Lauren O'Brien

Lauren is currently working towards her B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Material Science at University of California, Irvine. Her primary interest is in nuclear energy. She also works as a private tutor helping students with math and chemistry, and is a mom to her 8 year old daughter, Riley. Outside of her studies, she also loves drawing, playing video games, and spending time outdoors. 

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Jacqueline Ferrer

Jacqueline is currently working towards her B.S. in Chemistry with a specialization in Nuclear and Radiochemistry, a minor in Global Sustainability, and certification for ACS at University of California, Irvine. Her primary interest for her studies comes from wanting to address the climate crisis and solutions for global energy demands. She also works as a campus representative with UCI giving tours, sitting in on student panels, and helping prospective college students. Outside of her studies, she also loves hiking, painting, and spending time with her family and friends.


Safa Yosafi

Safa is currently working towards her B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Materials Science and a specialization in Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Irvine. Her primary interest is in nuclear energy and sustainability. She also works as a shift supervisor and barista at Starbucks. Outside of school, she enjoys a variety of hobbies such as swimming, photography, baking, playing video games, and spending time with family and friends.


Colin Brown

Colin is currently working towards his B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a Specialization in Energy and the Environment at the University of California, Irvine. His primary interests for study revolve around clean energy production and sustainability. Outside of school, he enjoys pottery, cooking, hiking, watersports, and spending time with friends and family.

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