On 2 June 2020, Deputy Director General (DDG) and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications Najat Mokhtar met with United Nations – Nuclear Young Generation (UN-NYG) members to discuss career journeys, activities of the department and to provide advice for young professionals in the field. The meeting with members was conducted remotely using WebEx, a first for the ‘Talk to the DDG’ series, with strong and active participation from the community.
DDG Mokhtar holds Ph.D degrees in Nutrition and Endocrinology from Laval University in Canada and in Food Sciences from the University of Dijon in France, followed with postdoctoral training as a Fulbright fellow at John Hopkins University in the United States of America. Following this, the DDG took up post at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a Technical Officer, working in Nutrition. The DDG’s career then moved to Morocco, taking up the roles of University Professor and Research Director at the University Ibn Tofail and as Section Director of Science and Technology at the Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology. In 2012, DDG Mokhtar returned to the IAEA as Section Head in the Human Health Division, serving as the Director for Asian and the Pacific in the Department of Technical Cooperation before moving into the current role as DDG and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications.
The mission of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications is to assist member states in meeting development needs through the peaceful applications of nuclear science, technology and innovation. The department works and acts as an analytical, research and training institution; it also addresses current challenges and meet common goals of advancing sustainable development and protecting the environment in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Department is uniquely multidisciplinary, with many projects implemented through IAEA mechanisms including CRPs and TC program addressing issues in the fields of human health, environmental monitoring, potable water supply, safe and sufficient food production and industrial development. Highlighted examples of the Department’s work include dosimetry for cancer control, possible effects of micro- and nano- plastics on marine animals, assessing groundwater vulnerability, ensuring food security and improving industrial production quality of radiation tools. To support this wide range of projects, the Department maintains activities across 12 laboratories located in Austria at the Vienna International Centre and Seibersdorf, in addition to Monaco and collaboration with 34 centres worldwide. These works were discussed in detail and cover a hugely diverse range of applications from Isotope Hydrology to Insect Pest Control to Marine Radioecology. The Department is also currently involved in the COVID-19 response, covering technical support, communication of guidelines and webinars and the development and distribution of equipment to detect the virus. The Department is currently modernizing its laboratories, and is continuing to build partnerships and collaborations for the future.
The advice from DDG Mokhtar to young professionals is to value international experience where individuals can grow professionally from working in different environments as well as personally by working with and experiencing different cultures. The advice also heeds for the next generation to take opportunities which present themselves, including taking limited risks when the benefits are judged to outweigh them. Further, to be persistent and to build trust with your peers.
The UN-NYG community extends their gratitude to DDG Mokhtar for the detailed presentation and discussion with young professionals. In the future, more ‘Talk to the DDG’ events are scheduled to take place and those interested can register as a UN-NYG member (free of charge) at www.unnyg.org.
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UN-NYG Communications Officer