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IAEA Daughters Day Encourages Girls to Embrace Science and Technology

IAEA Satellite Imagery Lab

Girls listen attentively during their visit to the IAEA Satellite Imagery Lab. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

For kids and teenagers, thinking about the future can be challenging.

Yicheng Hong, 16, hasn't yet decided on a professional path, but knows what she likes. "I enjoy math and chemistry. And in university I want to take additional science and technical courses. But no, I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, nor do I think it is the best time for me to decide my future job," says Yicheng, one of dozens of teenage girls who attended the IAEA's Daughters Day on 24 April 2014.

The girls toured areas that are off limits to most - such as the Radiation Safety and Monitoring Section, the Safeguards Inspectors' equipment workshop, the Satellite Imagery laboratory, and the Isotope Hydrology lab - listened to lectures from accomplished female Agency staff, and got a feel for some of the less well-known work of the IAEA.

Yicheng's mother, Xiaohong Cheng, who works in the Agency's Department of Technical Cooperation, says Daughters Day is an important part of her daughter's education.

"I think it is very important for her to enlarge her perspective of science and technology, and their many applications," says Xiaohong. "It's important for her to see that there are successful women in science and technology, and to see the kind of work they're engaged in, so that, in the future, she might have a good basis for decisions about what she does and doesn't want to do as a career."

While addressing the girls and their parents at the beginning of the day-long programme, Head of the Department of Management and the IAEA's only female Deputy Director General, Janice Dunn Lee, said, "We are delighted to participate in this event because we want to encourage young women and girls to pursue careers. This may be in nuclear science and technology, but it could also mean a host of other careers such as law and diplomacy."

In line with this year's theme, From Teenage Girl to Female Executive, Dunn Lee also said, "I hope that we can stimulate a future passion in you by introducing to you to the many fields that relate to nuclear. Nuclear can be a scary word, but it can also be a very positive one, if people understood it better. Nuclear technology is wide ranging and covers energy production, water resources, the environment, climate change, agriculture, food, and health.

"Many of you who are interested in plants and curing human diseases such as cancer, will find out the important role that nuclear plays," said Dunn Lee.

During the day, the 11-16 year-olds also toured the Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC), which is the focal point of IAEA assistance to Member States during an emergency, saw the Agency's printing and publishing operations, and heard from interns about their experiences working for the IAEA.

Six daughters of IAEA staff members also spent the day at the IAEA Laboratories in Seibersdorf, Lower Austria. The Agency maintains dedicated specialist laboratories where technologies are developed and scientists from around the world are trained.

The girls visited the Insect Pest Control Laboratory, the plant breeding facilities, the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory - where they analyzed historic coins, the Safeguards Nuclear Material Laboratory, and the Safeguards Environmental Sample Laboratory - where they learned about mass spectrometry and the uses of a scanning electron microscope and thermal camera.

The laboratories are central to Agency efforts to help Member States implement nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes.

Daughters Day, or Wiener Toechtertag, is an annual citywide event that is sponsored by the City of Vienna and occurs in late April.


- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication

(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)