Over 550 candidates from more than 90 countries submitted applications to the IAEA Marie Sklodowska‑Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) by the 11 October deadline. The fellowship aims to increase the participation of women in nuclear science by providing scholarships in nuclear related subjects to 100 graduate students per year. At the same time, six more donors have announced financial and in-kind support to the initiative.
“We are extremely pleased to see great interest in the programme,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, which runs the fellowship programme. “Enabling more women today to study and excel in nuclear engineering and operations, nuclear medicine, radiation protection and other nuclear related fields will lead to more women in leadership positions in the field tomorrow. This is the first step towards that goal.”
Fellows will receive up to €10 000 per year towards the cost of tuition for a Master’s degree programme and up to €10 000 for the cost of living at their university’s location, for a maximum study period of two years. They will also be provided with an opportunity to pursue an internship at the IAEA relating to their field of study.
The names of fellows will be announced by the IAEA Director General at the next meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, scheduled for 19‑20 November.
€2 million and growing
The programme has also drawn interest from several governments, with many expressing strong support, including financially. Ireland pledged 20,000€, Poland €50,000 and Finland €150,000 towards the initiative. They join Canada, Japan, Norway and the United States who had earlier pledged funding to support the initiative. With an additional funding of €250,000 from the United States, the pledges received so far amount to about €2 million.
Some countries place special interest in particular aspects of the nuclear field. Canada, for example, is hoping to see diverse experience and perspectives toward the goal of strengthening nuclear security regimes, officials have said. “We are very pleased to provide the tools required to encourage women to pursue studies and careers in nuclear security and non‑proliferation,” said Julia Gibson, Project Leader in Weapons Threat Reduction at Global Affairs Canada.
Other countries have pledged ‘in‑kind’ contributions. China will sponsor ten international students enrolled at Harbin University of Science and Technology. Pakistan will support three students at the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Science, while Russia will sponsor up to ten international students at the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and the National Research Tomsk State University.
“Russian universities have traditionally accommodated foreign students,” said Alexander Bychkov, Senior Counsellor at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna. “By increasing the number of women in nuclear projects, we support not only nuclear power but also other areas that have a positive impact on the socioeconomic development in various countries, and eventually Sustainable Development Goals.”
France and the United Kingdom confirmed their support and details are being finalized.
Non‑governmental donors have also shown interest in the MSCFP, such as Urenco, a nuclear fuel company with headquarters in the United Kingdom, which pledged €40 000 towards the programme.
Breaking down barriers
Girls often face barriers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, including in education, whether due to stereotypes or a lack of role models. Providing young women with an opportunity to complete their studies in nuclear science and technology can help them build rewarding careers as well as contribute to meeting the demand for a workforce in this field. Raising the overall participation of women in the nuclear field will also contribute to gender equality in national programmes and at the IAEA.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi launched the MSCFP in March 2020 to provide scholarships to female students towards their Master’s degrees in nuclear science and technology, nuclear safety and security or non‑proliferation. Scholarships are awarded annually to 100 students, subject to the availability of funds.
“The MSCFP continues. While applications for the programme’s first year are now closed, I encourage young women interested in nuclear science and technology to apply in the next cycles,” said Chudakov. “By taking advantage of this opportunity and becoming an active player in the nuclear field, women can influence developments and decisions to improve the lives of millions of people.”
The next call for applications will be announced here in the first quarter of 2021.