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The IAEA Launches its New Professional Development Programme to Boost Women’s Careers in the Nuclear Field: the IAEA Lise Meitner Programme

Vienna, Austria

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, IAEA Director General Grossi launched today the “IAEA Lise Meitner Programme” (LMP). Building upon the success of the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP), which provides scholarships for Master’s programmes in nuclear related studies and internship opportunities facilitated by the IAEA, the LMP focuses on the development of women’s technical and managerial skills through a multiweek visiting professional programme.

This new programme is named after the Austrian-Swedish physicist, Lise Meitner, to honour her trail-blazing brilliance and bravery and to inspire women to follow her footsteps. Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch provided the theoretical explanation of the process that was later called “Nuclear Fission”. After working together with Otto Hahn for 30 years, studying radioactivity with her knowledge of physics and his knowledge of chemistry, Hahn alone received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their joint work in 1944.

The IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, opened the launch event of the LMP by highlighting the importance of helping to “bridge the gender gap in the nuclear field and increase the number of women in leadership positions. The world needs nuclear technology to help solve many of its most pressing problems, from climate change to energy and food security. It cannot afford to forgo the contribution of women.”

Other speakers at the launch event of the LMP included representatives of Member States and partners of the new programme, as well as Monica Frisch, the great-niece of Lise Meitner and the daughter of her nephew, Otto Robert Frisch. She shared personal recollections of her grandaunt and how she paved the way for more women to embark in the scientific and nuclear fields. This was followed by several IAEA Member States expressing their support to the LMP.

As the inaugural partner of the programme through the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States will host the first visiting professional programme expected to take place in June 2023. The U.S. resident representative to the IAEA, Ambassador Laura S. H. Holgate, delivered remarks about the U.S. support to the programme: “Initiatives like the Lise Meitner and Marie Sklodowska-Curie programs will have ripple effects -- the participants and beneficiaries of this fellowship will go on to help, inspire, and mentor others. Together, we will break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in the nuclear sphere”.

The resident representatives of Austria and Sweden to the IAEA, Lise Meitner’s citizenships, were invited to talk about her contributions to their countries, in particular her important role in fission discovery. Ambassador Gabriela Sellner from Austria stated that “Lise Meitner was one of the first two female graduates from the University of Vienna in 1906, became a world-famous scientist and proved the theory of nuclear fission. The Austrian position regarding nuclear fission is well known. Therefore, I appreciate that the Lise Meitner programme aims at boosting the careers of women in the whole field of nuclear science and applications, including for example decommissioning”. Ambassador Annika Markovic from Sweden also reiterated that “Lise Meitner was a true trailblazer, becoming one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century, despite all odds”. Together with the Director General and with Monica Frisch, they unveiled the new IAEA library name plaque: The “IAEA Lise Meitner Library”.

After the unveiling of the plaque with the new library name, the “IAEA Lise Meitner Library”, an inaugural ceremony took place at the library to celebrate Lise Meitner’s pioneering research and the role model that she has been for many future women scientists. As she once said, “I realized how thankful especially women who are working in academic jobs should be to those women who have fought for equality.” By recognising the remarkable role model of Lise Meitner for women in science, the IAEA intends to honour her courage and visionary work through the Lise Meitner Programme.

Candidates interested in the first professional visit of the LMP to the U.S. can submit their applications until 19 March 2023 (11:59 p.m. CET). For more information about the programme, please visit our IAEA website.

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