Recently I have been thinking a lot about my last few years at Berkeley and what made it so special. For the last two years especially, being a part of my local ANS chapter has been an instrumental part of my life. It was where I met most of my friends and peers, got the opportunity to be involved in our department and participate in outreach activities. ANS has become such an integral part of my undergraduate career, and I will dearly miss being a part of such an amazing team, but at the same time I plan on continuing to be involved in the organization during my graduate career as well. A lot of the friends I made through ANS and my department will continue to be some of the best friends I have and will eventually go on to being my colleagues in the future. A goal of mine is to motivate more young professionals and engineers in this field to be active members of ANS, since it is the largest platform available to our small community to reach out to the public and unify the field.
I hope by reading this post, more young members will be motivated to take on an active role in their local sections or even the national chapter! As I mentioned earlier, ANS is a way for the scientific community to come together in an organized fashion to help promote nuclear science and technology. I was amazed at the variety of opportunities that are available to members of the organization; from networking with professionals, to getting involved in outreach projects. My personal experience with ANS has been very enriching and beneficial in helping me meet industry professionals and get internship opportunities in national labs. Not only this, but ANS gave me the opportunity to present my research to scientists from other institutions. ANS hosts yearly conferences and they encourage students to attend and participate. Students are encouraged to give technical presentations or present posters in front of experienced professionals and their peers. I believe this is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about research and technologies being developed across various institutions and share their own work to possibly gain a new perspective. I have been attending these conferences for the past two years, and have gained a lot from doing so. A lot of recent graduates and students don’t know where to look for jobs and career opportunities. These conferences host career fairs where people from all facets of the nuclear industry, from medicine to power, come to look for possible new hires.
The nuclear community is relatively small compared to the other engineering networks, and as a result, it is necessary for us to come together and collaborate on a way to advance our field. One major aspect that I was inspired to be a part of, and is close to my heart was outreach. After attending these conferences, and interacting with various professionals, I did realize that a major hindrance faced by the nuclear industry isn’t the technology necessary, but the politics and public opinion. If it weren’t for ANS, I would have never had the opportunity to work with the PopAtomic Studios team or be involved in the Nuclear Literacy Project!
At the most recent conference hosted by University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of speaking with President elect Dr. Eric Loewen and asked him what we can do as students and young professionals to help bolster the nuclear industry through ANS or otherwise. He made it a point to reiterate that the youth are the future, and we need to have the motivation to set goals and further the field. I agree with his stance in saying that nuclear energy technologies need to be promoted in a more positive light. In order to erase the unfortunate stigma associated with the word ‘nuclear’ it is necessary to educate the public about the benefits such as the potential for economic growth and a feasible energy alternative. ANS chapters across the nation have taken this message to heart and have made efforts to reach out to the public and help share information about nuclear energy technologies by visiting local high schools, working with Boy and Girl Scouts of America, and by having young children visit local Nuclear Engineering departments to teach them basics of nuclear physics.
In short, I want to encourage anyone considering a career in Nuclear Engineering to get involved in his or her local ANS chapter. It opened a lot of doors for me, and helped me make long lasting friendships and connections at various institutions, and I believe it is an excellent way for young professionals to network and to learn from some of the leading nuclear technology experts. It is our responsibility as the future faces of the nuclear industry to help eradicate this fear present in the average lay person’s mind regarding the nuclear industry, and to help them and the world understand the rewards that can be gained by such an environmentally sustainable technology.