Empowering the next generation of STEM professionals

NEA International Mentoring Workshop, Texas, 2024 8509

Educating and training new professionals in science and technology is vital for ensuring the safe, sustainable and secure supply of energy the world needs. As countries around the world are navigating the low-carbon energy transition, attracting talent is a matter of increasing importance to ensure a robust and innovative workforce that will be needed in the sector.

To address this, the NEA has been organising International Mentoring Workshops, a pioneering initiative aimed at empowering and inspiring the next generation of nuclear energy professionals. Since their launch in 2017, more than 20 NEA International Mentoring Workshops, organised in collaboration with member countries and partners, have engaged over 550 students and young professionals around the world.

The latest edition organised in collaboration with Texas A&M University took place on 4-6 May 2024 on the University campus in College Station, Texas, United States. It was the first such event held by the NEA in the country. More than 50 high school students considering following a professional path in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) participated in the three-day event. The group also included five Japanese secondary school students who shared their country’s perspectives with the participants.

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In his opening address, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV emphasised the importance of capacity building to reach net zero targets.

During his opening address, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, highlighted the importance of capacity building to achieve net zero goals.  “As many countries around the world are calling for tripling nuclear energy capacity, one of the biggest challenges today is to ensure that we have the skilled workforce needed to make this possible. For this reason, NEA organises these workshops to encourage young people like yourselves to become the scientists and engineers that we need to save the world,” said the Director-General.

As women pioneered the nuclear and radiological fields and continue to play an important role in innovation today, each NEA International Mentoring Workshop invites female leaders in STEM and nuclear fields who can serve as role models and mentors to inspire and attract more women into the field. Highly accomplished female professionals from Canada, Japan, Korea, the United States and the NEA joined the workshop in Texas as speakers and mentors to share their personal journeys, and to highlight the benefits and excitement of careers in STEM.

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 IMG 9075Students participate in interactive sessions with their mentors and peers.

Open dialogue and a supportive environment, which are essential pillars of this initiative, provided students with the opportunity to address questions and uncertainties, share concerns and foster meaningful exchanges with the workshop co-chairs Annie Caputo, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Lisa McBride, Country Leader, GE Hitachi SMR Canada and current President of WiN Canada. Other mentors at the Texas workshop were:

  • Ai Asanuma, International Affairs Office, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Japan;
  • Sabrina Atack, Deputy Director, Office of International Programmes, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC);
  • Rita Baranwal, Senior Vice President AP300TM Small Modular Reactor, Westinghouse Electric Company;
  • Aleshia Duncan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Co-operation, US Department of Energy;
  • Yeonhee Hah, Vice president for Global Activities, Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS);
  • Tatiana Ivanova, Head of the Division of Nuclear Science and Education, NEA.

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Workshop co-chairs Lisa McBride, Country Leader, GE Hitachi SMR Canada and current President of WiN Canada, and Annie Caputo, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, provide a summary of the key takeaways from the first day.

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Keynote speech by Kreshka Young, North America Business Director, Energy & Climate, Dow. 

Each of these mentors and invited guest speakers shared their personal and professional journeys and shed light on their experience in the nuclear field.

A site tour of Texas A&M University facilities, including the Nuclear Engineering and Science Centre with its Triga reactor, the Centre for Advanced Small Modular and Microreactors and its NuScale digital simulator, introduced students to the research and scientific activities in the field and provided a glimpse of potential opportunities that might follow for those that choose to pursue studies in STEM.

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