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IAEA Awards First 100 Fellowships Under Plan to Improve Gender Balance in the Nuclear Field

Vienna, Austria

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has awarded fellowships to a first group of 100 female students from around the world under a new initiative to help close the gender gap in nuclear science and technology.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP), named after the pioneering physicist, was launched by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March to support women pursuing nuclear-related careers. Director General Grossi announced the inaugural class of fellows at this week’s IAEA Board of Governors meeting, which was held virtually from 18 to 20 November. “After their studies, the fellows will join the ranks of those working on peaceful uses of nuclear energy all over the world,” he said.

Out of over 550 applicants from more than 90 countries, the first 100 fellows represent geographic diversity, coming from 71 different countries. Their studies focus on a wide range of nuclear-related subjects, from nuclear engineering to nuclear medicine, and from nuclear security to non-proliferation and nuclear law.

The fellowship offers up to €10 000 per year to each student to cover tuition for a Master’s degree programme plus up to a further €10 000 annually for living costs for a maximum study period of two years. Fellows will also have an opportunity to undertake an internship, facilitated by the IAEA, in activities related to their field of study. The next MSCFP application cycle is anticipated to be announced in the first quarter of 2021.

The fellowship programme has so far drawn extra-budgetary funding pledges of over €5 million, indicating strong support from IAEA Member States. Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the United States as well as the European Union have all pledged money to the initiative. China, France, Pakistan and Russia have pledged in-kind contributions, for example by sponsoring students to attend universities in their respective countries. URENCO has also sponsored the MSCFP and other companies have shown interest in the programme.

“Thanks to the generosity and commitment of our Member States and the private sector donors, the lives of these 100 students will change,” said Grossi. “The challenge now is to make this programme sustainable. We have to move from the initial 100 students to many more, and we are appealing for multi-year funding to achieve this.”

The fellowship programme honours Marie Skłodowska-Curie for her pioneering research on radioactivity, which was a crucial step in the scientific journey to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Marie Skłodowska-Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person, and still the only woman, to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, one for physics in 1903 and one for chemistry in 1911.

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