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International Women's Day: Hundreds of Women Building a Career in Nuclear Gather at the IAEA


To commemorate International Women’s Day, the IAEA is gathering hundreds of women from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme  and the Lise Meitner Programme, to exchange ideas and strengthen networking and leadership skills. This event will take place from 7 to 8 March in Vienna, Austria, and will also be an occasion for the nuclear industry to meet with this rapidly growing community of women nuclear experts and explore opportunities to advance their careers. 

Women are still underrepresented in the nuclear sector, and despite making up half of the global population, they constitute only a fifth of the nuclear workforce.  

The IAEA aims to change this by attracting a new generation of women to the nuclear field and inspiring them to stay and become leaders. Through its two flagship programmes- The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) and Lise Meitner Programme (LMP), the IAEA seeks to increase the number of women in the nuclear sector and contribute to a more diverse and balanced workforce. From nuclear power to plant breeding, nuclear physics, isotopic hydrology, safety, security, non-proliferation and more, the MSCFP and LMP are supporting the entire nuclear sector spectrum. 

The MSCFP flagship programme was launched in 2020, and named after physicist Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and still the only person to win two Nobels in two different scientific fields. Skłodowska-Curie’s legacy lives on through the IAEA MSCFP, which recently welcomed it’s fourth, and so far, largest cohort of 200 scholarship recipients from 97 Member States studying in 54 countries, bringing the total number of recipients to date to 560.  

“MSCFP made it possible for me to follow my dreams of becoming a radiological environmental scientist. After completion of my studies in the Republic of Korea, my aspiration is to use my skills to contribute towards examining the environmental situation in my home country,” said Zarina Salkenova, a 2022 Marie Curie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow from Kazakhstan. 

The programme has provided a rare opportunity for women who would otherwise not be able to pursue their studies in the nuclear field. The MSCFP lightens the financial burden of higher education by providing scholarships to help with tuition for master’s programmes and living costs, and also provides internship opportunities facilitated by the IAEA. After completing the programme, some recipients have continued to PhD studies while others have started their careers. 

Carolina Gutierrez Bolanos, an MSCFP recipient from Mexico, working as an intern at the Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A., an IAEA Collaborating Centre, in Trieste, Italy. (Photo: C. Gutierrez Bolanos) 

Building on the momentum of the MSCFP, in 2023 the IAEA announced its second flagship programme to support women grow their career in the nuclear sector – the Lise Meitner Programme. This programme is aimed at early- and mid‑career women professionals and provides an opportunity to participate in a multiweek visiting professional programme to advance technical and soft skills at host institutions located around the world.  

“The LMP technical visits have been a transformative experience for the cohorts as well as host organizations, providing invaluable insights and fostering cross-cultural collaboration. It's not just a programme; it's a catalyst for professional growth and a bridge connecting diverse perspectives in the global nuclear community,” said Tatjana Jevremovic, an expert in the Nuclear Power Technology Development Section at the IAEA, who led the first two LMP cohorts. 

The first Lise Meitner Programme participants at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, USA. (Photo: IAEA)

The first visiting professional programme was hosted at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, USA in June 2023. The cohort had the opportunity to visit a nuclear power plant, research reactor, fuel factory, and research labs, among other activities.  

"Attending the Lise Meitner Programme was an eye-opening experience,” said Simona Miteva, an LMP Visiting Professional from Bulgaria. “Witnessing the latest advancements in the nuclear field and engaging with industry experts has reinforced my passion for this industry. The programme has not only expanded my knowledge but also ignited a drive to contribute to the future of women in nuclear engineering."   

The second 2023 cohort took place in October 2023, and the visiting professionals shared their time between the Oak Ridge National Lab and the Idaho National Lab, in the USA. This visit focused on strengthening the participants’ individual technical expertise, as well as nuclear reactor modelling, simulations, and virtual environment. Participants also had the chance to visit the nuclear research labs and computational facilities. 

“The Lise Meitner Programme was extraordinary. I got familiar with a suite of tools for reactor physics modelling and simulation. These tools are crucial to my organization, for safety analysis of nuclear reactor structures systems and components during normal and accident conditions,” said Diana Musyoka, a Senior Environmental Scientist from Kenya’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency. “I also enjoyed the mentorship sessions which opened doors to the careers and lives of women in nuclear. I learnt a lot of best practices that I am currently applying to advance my career in nuclear and to help other young women develop their careers too. The international networks created are proving to be very valuable.” 

The third LMP visit is expected to take place from 25 March to 5 April 2024 in the Republic of Korea and will focus on nuclear power. The fourth LMP application cycle will be announced here, and you can read more participants’ testimonials from past cohorts here. The fifth MSCFP application cycle will be announced here, and you can read more students’ testimonials here.  

“Supporting the higher education of young women and their career growth in the nuclear sector is pivotal for the field. With these two programmes, the IAEA supports women at the most crucial stages: their entry to the field and, afterwards, their continued professional development,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy. “We will continue to support women from all corners of the globe to fulfil their aspirations and contribute to a better world, through nuclear science and technology.” 

The IAEA works to address the underrepresentation of women in the nuclear field through the IAEA MSCFP and the LMP. The IAEA welcomes partnering with public and private sectors, academia and civil society to work together for more women in nuclear. Partner with us. 

For information on how to participate in the event, please contact IWD2024@iaea.org.

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