Six students at the Middlebury Institute have received the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship, awarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA awards the fellowship to female master’s degree students from around the world who are studying nuclear science and technology.
“It’s really impressive,” says Jeff Knopf, professor and program chair in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. “This important fellowship program aims to build up the number of women able to work professionally in nuclear-related fields. It is truly amazing that students at the Middlebury Institute received two out of 100 fellowships in the first year of the fellowship and then improved on that by winning six of the fellowships this year.”
Sanaa Alvira, a first-year student in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program (NPTS), says the fellowship opportunity will enable her to contribute work “towards making the nuclear field more accessible, nonintimidating, and gender inclusive.” She hopes to help educate professionals in the nuclear sector on the importance of communicating with civil society on nuclear security issues.
“I would like to focus research on how states—and their respective nuclear regulators—could distinguish between information that is actually confidential versus information that can be shared with relevant stakeholders—including, and importantly, civil society—to promote greater transparency and involvement,” Alvira says.
Alvira adds that she is also looking forward to the opportunity to pursue an internship facilitated by the IAEA for up to 12 months after her graduation via this fellowship.
Adeline du Crest, also in NPTS, believes there are significant opportunities in nuclear energy that could enhance international stability.
“I am particularly interested in the intersection of nuclear technology and the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals,” says du Crest. “For example, the IAEA Atoms for Peace and Development bulletin cites developments in radiating crops to maximize their yield. This will become critical technology as the world faces unprecedented climate change. I plan on leveraging the resources offered by MIIS and the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme to develop a better understanding of both peaceful uses of nuclear energy and current threats to nonproliferation that disrupt cooperation in this field.”
Sarah Erickson, a student in the dual degree program between MIIS and Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), will complete both an internship and thesis as part of her degree.
“Belonging to a network of inspiring and motivated women in the nuclear field will also open opportunities for me to present my research and receive invaluable guidance from connected mentors.”
Erickson says the fellowship will support both her research project, “Political and Legal Problems and Prospects for Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space,” and the internship period of her studies.
Rebecca Pantani, a dual degree student, describes the fellowship as “an amazing opportunity that will grant me the chance to focus on my studies and my future career. In particular, during the next year and a half I will center my research on my master thesis on the ‘Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space: Problems and Prospects.’” Pantani is looking forward to the possibility of an internship at IAEA headquarters in Vienna after completing her master’s degree.
Hannah Harris, a dual degree student, says the fellowship will offer an “unparalleled opportunity to learn from IAEA experts and gain industry experience through the fellowship’s postgraduation internship program. The fellowship will also support my thesis research into nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.”
Darya Kheyrie, a dual degree student, plans to continue her studies in the field of nuclear nonproliferation. “Considering the fact that I primarily do my research on the Iranian nuclear program, future research papers and projects of my particular interest will concern the modalities of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA within the legal framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Additional Protocol. I will also study the potential of multilateral uranium enrichment facilities as a solution for the issue of nonproliferation in the Middle East being worth deeper research during my studies.”
“This is a testament to the quality of our students,” says Knopf, “as well as the reputation of the NPTS program and the urgency of our educational mission to help students learn how to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.”
About the fellowship
Named after pioneer physicist and twice Nobel Prize laureate Marie Sklodowska-Curie, the program aims to inspire and encourage young women to pursue a career in the nuclear field, by providing highly motivated female students with scholarships for master’s programs and an opportunity to pursue an internship facilitated by the IAEA.
Middlebury Institute Nonproliferation Studies experts Sarah Bidgood and Nomsa Ndongwe recently provided insight into gender representation within the nuclear policy field at a panel hosted by Harvard’s Project on Managing the Atom.
Building on the successful outcomes of earlier partnerships on advancing women in STEM, the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center on Nonproliferation Studies and AFRICSIS held a virtual intensive course on WMD Nonproliferation and Security for Womenin STEM from January 25–February 5, 2021.