MAE PhD student receives IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship
Nuclear engineering student Pearle Lipinski received a Marie Skłodowska‑Curie Fellowship from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to the IAEA, more that 550 candidates from over 90 countries were submitted to the fellowship program for consideration. The fellowship is geared towards increasing female participation in nuclear science, and provides scholarships to 100 graduate students studying nuclear-related subjects.
Lipinski is advised by Dr. Carol Smidts, and is in her first semester as an MAE graduate student. As a dual nuclear engineering and law student, Lipinski hopes to combine her interests in regulatory law with the field of nuclear engineering.
“Pearle is our first dual degree nuclear/law student and I am both intrigued and excited to see where this will take us,” said Smidts.
“I plan on exploring how probabilistic risk assessment—which estimates risk by evaluating the consequences and likelihood of something going wrong—might need to be adapted as advanced nuclear reactors mature and are integrated into the US energy infrastructure,” said Lipinski.
The fellowship provides students with stipends for tuition and living expenses. It also allows Lipinski the opportunity to pursue an internship at the IAEA in Vienna, Austria.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore international nuclear policy and regulation alongside my studies of U.S. nuclear regulation,” said Lipinski.
Smidts said this area is of particular interest as the U.S. has been a long-time exporter of nuclear technology.
For Lipinski, receiving a fellowship in Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s name held special significance.
“I think any woman with an inkling of STEM interest has, at some point, drawn inspiration from Marie Skłodowska-Curie,” said Lipinski. “I know that I definitely did when I was younger.”
Lipinski said she is honored to be a part of the IAEA initiative to promote women in nuclear engineering.
“To be a part of the inaugural class is particularly humbling. I know that Professor Smidts’ career has also been inspired by that of Skłodowska-Curie, and it is uniquely special to have this fellowship support her academic legacy as well,” Lipinski said.
Lipinski developed an interest in STEM from a young age. However, like many women in engineering, Lipinski has faced situations where she is the only woman in the room, or has been made to feel out of place.
“There were absolutely occasions where I would be the only woman out of thirty or so engineers,” said Lipinski, “where people told me I didn’t ‘look like’ an engineer.”
In her previous career, Lipinski worked with many women in engineering, who encouraged her to continue to pursue education in the field. Programs like the Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship hope to do the same for women in engineering around the world. Several governments including Ireland, Poland, Finland, Canada, Japan, Norway and the United State have made pledges to the Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Program totaling around 2 million euros.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship is one of a growing number of programs taking the important step to encourage an increase in participation of women in engineering. And as for women in Ohio State’s engineering programs, Lipinski had some words of encouragement.
“Don’t be discouraged by anyone, anytime, telling you what you can’t do, and don’t allow intimidation from the gender gap to erode your confidence in yourself,” said Lipinski. “It is natural for these interactions to intimidate you, and they can be particularly striking after leaving school and entering the workforce for the first time. But that doesn’t make you any less of an engineer—you are just as smart and capable as anyone else, and never let anyone allow you to question yourself on that.”