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24 August 2015

Engaging students in nuclear science and technology

Students in the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory

Students in the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory

Seibersdorf, 24 August 2015. What is it like to slip into a white laboratory coat every morning and to conduct scientific research in a laboratory every day? As part of the IAEA’s efforts to engage youth in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at the grassroots level, a group of 25 high school students had the chance to spend one day with scientists at the IAEA laboratories in Seibersdorf.

This is part of the IAEA’s collaboration with the Vienna International School on a pilot project, running from spring to autumn. Participating students take part in a broad range of discussions and educational site visits, including a visit to the eight Nuclear Applications laboratories and the Safeguards Analytical Laboratories in Seibersdorf this week. “Our aim is to engage, inspire and motivate young people to choose studies and careers in nuclear science and technology, which would benefit the nuclear sector and the Agency in the longer term” explained Julie Ford, Head of Staff Development at the Agency.

Visiting the laboratories, the students learned about the wide range of global issues tackled by scientists in fields such as food and agriculture, human health, dosimetry and nuclear sciences. They spent the afternoon with one of the eight Nuclear Applications laboratories and had the chance to get involved in hands-on laboratory activities and use the laboratory equipment.

Students preparing to extract DNA in the Animal Production and Health Laboratory

Students preparing to extract DNA in the Animal Production and Health Laboratory

“The STEM project has given the students insights into the work conducted behind the Agency’s name,” said Rachelle Ruebe, teacher at Vienna International School and one of the partners of the pilot project. “Visiting the [IAEA] Seibersdorf laboratories is a great way for students to understand theory in practice”, emphasized Ruebe.

The students agree: “Especially in science, you actually have to see and do the things instead of only reading about it”, said 16-year-old Mahnoor Jalal, who spent the afternoon with scientists in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory where the students got to extract DNA from strawberries.

Alin Suseanu, who spent the afternoon with scientists from the Dosimetry Laboratory, enjoyed getting to know the real world of scientific research beyond classroom theory: “It is not simply the textbook; here I have the chance to discuss one-to-one with real scientists.” The 16-year old high school student aims to study medicine.

17-year old Bruno Noa Juric has a strong interest in engineering and spent the afternoon with scientists from the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory. “I get to see how laboratory instruments work and what I might do after university,” he said.

At the 59th IAEA General Conference in September this year, the students will present research projects they have been working on with the help of IAEA experts.

For more information, please contact the Staff Development Unit at the IAEA: mthr-sdu@iaea.org

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