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First IAEA Webinar to Encourage Women for Careers in Accelerator Science and Technology

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Claire Pacheco, Head of the C2RMF-New AGLAE Facility in France, is positioning a heritage object for analysis with an ion beam accelerator. (Photo: C. Hargoues/C2RMF)

Women account for less than 30% of the world’s scientists and researchers and this percentage is even lower in nuclear physics and nuclear engineering. If you are a young female professional in these fields, join us at the first IAEA webinar discussing careers for women in accelerator science and technology to learn why this could be an exciting career path for you.

“The low representation of women working with particle accelerators weakens the diversity and competitiveness in our field,” said Aliz Simon, Accelerator Specialist at the IAEA and one of the speakers at the event. “More outreach and additional efforts are needed to inspire young women to engage in nuclear physics and to support, inform and empower them throughout their careers.”

The virtual webinar will take place at 11:00 CET on 24 February 2021 and will feature five renowned female accelerator experts:

  • Aliz Simon, Accelerator Specialist at the IAEA
  • Ceri Brenner, Leader of the Centre for Accelerator Science at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
  • Karen Cloete, Senior researcher at the UNESCO-UNISA Africa Chair in Nanosciences-Nanotechnology, School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies at the University of South Africa 
  • Lyudmila Goncharova, Director of the Tandetron Accelerator Facility in Canada’s Western University
  • Melanie Bailey, Reader in Forensic and Analytical Science at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom

Short bios of the speakers, the programme and registration details of the event are here.

The low representation of women working with particle accelerators weakens the diversity and competitiveness in our field.
Aliz Simon, Accelerator Specialist, IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications

IAEA and gender parity in nuclear sciences and applications

The speakers will highlight their own career paths and what motivated them to start working and stay in this field. They will talk about the role of women in accelerator science and technology, what is needed to increase the representation of female experts in this field and why accelerators are a promising career for women. Attendees will be able to ask questions at the end of the webinar.

The IAEA is working to reach gender parity in nuclear sciences and applications and has been supporting women for more than 60 years to excel in their careers by providing training and fellowship opportunities for women. Read about the role of the IAEA in shaping the history of women in nuclear science here.

What are particle accelerators?

Particle accelerators are sophisticated pieces of scientific equipment. They use electromagnetic fields to propel charged subatomic particles, such as protons or electrons, to increase their energy and to travel in beams in a linear or a circular path at a very high speed, sometimes as fast as the speed of light. Accelerators have applications in fields as diverse as medicine, industry, cultural preservation and materials research.

These machines can have various sizes and shapes depending on their application, but there are two basic types of accelerators: linear accelerators (LINACs) and circular accelerators. LINACs propel particles along a linear path. They are applied in medicine to treat various cancers, where accelerated, charged protons penetrate the patient’s body to target and kill tumor cells without extensively damaging surrounding healthy tissues, which is key in treating head and neck cancer.

Circular accelerators propel particles around a circular path until they reach their optimum energy level. They are sometimes used in both colliding beam experiments, which means that the particles collide with each other to release high energy, or fixed-target experiments, which means that the beams of charged particles are directed to hit a specific target, such as in cyclotrons. A special type of circular accelerator is a synchrotron, which is fed (or ‘injected’) with electrons, that are already accelerated with a LINAC. The circular portion ramps up the electrons speed to a desired level and maintains this energy for prolonged periods. Synchrotrons are used not as particle sources, rather they are highly bright light sources for a plethora of research and development applications.

Accelerators have numerous applications, for example:

  • In cultural preservation, accelerators are used to preserve artefacts and help scientists find out what artifacts are made of and verify their authenticity without invasive techniques.
  • In medicine, cyclotrons are used to produce radioisotopes for a type of medical drugs called radiopharmaceuticals, which diagnose and treat cancer.
  • In food safety, accelerators are used to irradiate food products to kill all the bacteria, while maintaining the quality of the product.
  • In industry, experts use particle accelerators to generate tailored materials, such for solar cells and other electronic devices.

The IAEA supports Member States with research, infrastructure projects and education programmes on accelerators. IAEA’s Accelerator Knowledge Portal offers more information on many of the over 30,000 particle accelerators in operation around the world.

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