Living in a Nuclear Free Zone
When talking about my major with family and friends, I am most often met with a look of confusion and the inevitable question: Why Nuclear Engineering?
As a junior at the University of California Berkeley, I’m confronted daily by the, shall we say, “unique” culture that this city has. On occasion, I like to stroll through Sproul Plaza and listen to spiels about what’s wrong with society and today’s youth. Admittedly, most of what I hear just rolls off my back as I move on to whatever class I’m late for, but I always have to stop and soak it in when I find someone ranting about the nuclear engineering research that is taking place at UC Berkeley.
Now you might be thinking that this would dissuade me from a career in nuclear, especially given my unyielding love for the quirky, liberal atmosphere that is Berkeley. On the contrary, I have more opportunities than most to talk about what I want to do and defend my chosen branch of engineering, and who doesn’t like talking about their passions?
To many, passion would seem an unusual word to associate with a topic such as nuclear engineering. Most people hear the words “nuclear power” and a mental lead shield goes up faster than you can say Greenpeace. To me, however, nuclear engineering isn’t something to be afraid of; it’s something that has more possibilities than I’m even capable of realizing yet. I’m a young woman, one of only three in the American Nuclear Society Student division. I’m at one of the greatest universities in the world, and I’m taking on a major that has the potential to change the way we live, and the earth that we live on. What ISN’T there for me to be passionate about?
I love that I have the opportunity to tell people about my passion. I love seeing their intrigue when I dispel common myths about nuclear power. I love talking about radiation and energy and even the faux-pas topic: nuclear waste. That’s one of the great things about living in a nuclear free zone– I’m free to engage in lively debates about nuclear as much as I please.
So I’m sure it’s easy to see that asking me why I picked nuclear engineering is a risky question, as my passion for the topic will allow no short response. I admit that I am occasionally discouraged by the immensely difficult classes at Cal and the highly competitive atmosphere. But that’s what being a student today in America is all about: passion for knowledge, and a fiery desire to take what we learn and change the world.