When Aditi Chandra, who has a degree in Nuclear Science from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US), presented her paper at the British Council’s FameLab Climate Change Communicator 2021, she had no idea what would become of it. Four months after the final, she is happy to have secured the runner-up spot in the global competition and is gushing about the lifelong friends she made there.
In a chat with Edugraph, Chandra, an entrepreneur and executive director at Kay Bouvet Engineering in Pune, speaks about how Nuclear Science can be a perfect career path leading to a sustainable future.
Edugraph: You work in the domain of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Can you tell us how that can be used to resolve climate problems?
Aditi: The biggest cause of climate change is the emission from fossil fuel, a source that’s polluting the environment and causing greenhouse gas emissions. So, what’s the solution for that? Either we cut back on our energy needs, something which the world is not going to do, or find a way to produce massive amounts of energy without causing emissions. Of course, we have options like wind and solar energy. But we are not able to produce and store such energy in the amounts that we need. Nuclear energy is the only option to replace fossil fuels right now as it could generate large amounts of energy in a stable way 24*7. Contrary to popular belief, it’s one of the safest forms of energy.
What are your biggest takeaways from the FameLab Climate Change Communicator programme?
Aditi: My biggest takeaways are the people that I met throughout the competition. Being friends with them is the most important aspect of the programme for me. I’m still in touch with them even after the competition. We’re thinking of ways to work together as all of us share the common goal of fighting climate change.
You’ve done your master’s course in Nuclear Science and Engineering from MIT. What’s the background needed for this degree?
Aditi: You can come from any engineering background to get into Nuclear Engineering. I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering before doing my master’s course in Nuclear Science and Engineering.
There were mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, computer science experts and physicists in my class at MIT. There were also people without any engineering background at all. Most of them came from the policy side. People from International Relations or Political Science enrolled in the course to work on how to make nuclear energy a more acceptable option in this day and age.
What’s the best way to get scholarships or grants in this field when you study abroad?
Aditi: When you apply, you can take part in a research project and become a research assistant. Working as a research assistant will make you eligible for a grant — it’ll help you cover your tuition fees and you’ll also get a small stipend to cover your living expenses. Other than that, there are various fellowships and scholarships that you can apply for.
What are the three most important skills that one should have to work in the domain of Nuclear Science and Engineering?
Aditi: First, you need an open mind for accepting new ideas. It’s extremely important in any research field as you try to gather and analyse new information.
Second, you need to be good in maths and analytical skills. They are essential for any form of engineering.
Third, you must learn to ask questions. As a student, I was initially afraid of talking to my professors. But I found out that the best way to learn is through questions. The more questions you ask, the more you learn.
Did you intern from any organisation? Are there any such opportunities in your field of work?
Aditi: There are actually several opportunities to work as an intern in Nuclear Science. I did one at CERN, which is the European Council of Nuclear Research. It has a summer student programme where you could apply. If you get in, you would be part of around 200 students from all over the world.
I did another internship at the International Atomic Science Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. It’s an international body that is in charge of all civilian nuclear programmes around the world. This body helps new countries adopt nuclear power. Anyone can look for information on the organisation’s website and just fill out the forms to apply for internships.
What career prospects are available to students who are studying Nuclear Science?
Aditi: Well, the possibility is endless. You can, of course, go into academia and get involved in research work. As you learn to research during your master’s or PhD course, you can develop that even further. You also can opt for a postdoctoral position, become a professor and then eventually have your own research group working on that.
You can also explore the actual nuclear industry, which is my career pathway at present. I work at a company that manufactures the equipment for nuclear power plants. India is a great place to be if you have studied Nuclear Science. The Indian government recently sanctioned 10 new reactors and we need people who are experienced in the field.
Another option is to manage the policy side of things and work for different international organisations that work with governments, partner organisations and global leaders to develop nuclear policies.
You have an initiative — Nisaba Education — which connects children to the scientist’s world. Can you tell us about it?
Aditi: Nisaba Education is my brainchild that came out almost three years ago from my passion for education and science. I wanted children in India to feel the passion for science, to know how beautiful it can be, to understand how magical the world around you can become through the lens of science. I experienced it when I was in MIT, so I wanted to share that with children in India. We aim to inspire the next generation of scientists in India.
The organisation works with children aged eight to 12 years who are super curious about black holes, dark matter and nuclear energy. We invite scientists from around the world who are experts in these fields to conduct workshops for the children. These workshops are completely free. All one has to do is visit our website.