The educational achievement of three young Cambodian women is a historical first in the world of nuclear engineering and thermal physics.

Graduating from top-tier Russian universities – Bauman Moscow State Technical University and the Obninsk Institute for Nuclear Power Engineering – they are paving the way for gender equality in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

These graduates, alongside a male student, are trailblazers, epitomising resilience and the spirit of change in an industry typically male-dominated.

Poised to transform Cambodia’s energy landscape, they are challenging the gender stereotypes in the STEM arena.

“It was quite hard in terms of everyday life, studies and finances,” shares Ky Marinet, one of these pioneering graduates.

She had to master Russian, a language entirely foreign to her, in a mere year before commencing the Russian programme.

Her classmate, Norng Chealina, had her own struggles, often confronting gender bias in the industry, which threatened to undermine her confidence and prospects.

“I frequently encounter stereotypes that could limit my prospects and confidence. But this also motivates me to achieve my goals,” she shares.

Similarly, Siv Kimly, another graduate, encountered the linguistic barrier.

“We had to immerse ourselves in Russian by only interacting with native speakers,” she notes.

Apart from the challenge of mastering Russian, they had to accustom themselves to the culture, cuisine and the bitter winter temperatures, which could drop to -30 degrees Celsius.

Driven by a vision of nuclear power as a reliable energy source and inspired by the prospect of working on complex systems, Chealina hoped to push the boundaries of science.

Marinet was drawn to the field out of curiosity, while Kimly found her passion for physics fuelling her studies in nuclear power.

All three graduates faced the additional trials of adjusting to Russian academia and financial constraints.

“During my studies, I realised the significance of nuclear power for the future of energy, especially in a developing country like ours,” Marinet elaborates on her motivations.

Chealina envisions nurturing a generation of skilled professionals who can foster technological advancements and find innovative solutions for Cambodia’s energy conundrums.

“We can achieve this through dedicated research and development in nuclear engineering and thermal physics,” she adds.

A major challenge that these trailblazers face is addressing the misconceptions about nuclear power in Cambodia, where it is often equated with atomic bombs, instigating fear and resistance.

They believe educating the public about the safe use of nuclear power is of paramount importance.

“When people are better informed, their fears can be alleviated, and we can have a more constructive dialogue about nuclear power in Cambodia,” they collectively agree.

Khoeun Chanto from CamAtom shares that there are currently 12 Cambodian students studying nuclear engineering and thermal physics in Russia.

CamAtom is a company dedicated to learning nuclear skills and sharing knowledge.

“Many people in Cambodia are confused about this skill, often associating it with the production of weapons. But nuclear technology offers many more benefits,” Chanto explains.

He stresses the necessity of public education about civilian nuclear science in Cambodia and advocates for partnerships for capacity building, knowledge sharing, research and human resource development.

With their studies in Russia now complete, Marinet and Kimly are preparing for further education.

Meanwhile, Chealina is deliberating whether to continue her studies in Russia.

They all acknowledge the potential of nuclear power in enhancing Cambodia’s energy sector, health and other related areas.

They are committed to investigating and understanding the diverse facets of nuclear power and its implications for their country.

The three pioneers are also keen on emphasising the need for government and educational institutions to provide scholarships and financial aid to students keen on these fields.

Marinet further proposes that educational institutions should collaborate with international partners, providing students access to resources and global research opportunities.

As their story continues, they hope to inspire more Cambodian students to follow in their footsteps, proving that gender is no barrier to the world of nuclear engineering and thermal physics.

“Working together, we can investigate and understand the many facets of nuclear power and its implications for Cambodia,” Marinet emphasises.

Kimly, Marinet and Chealina are more than just victors of their personal journeys. They represent a victory for every young girl in Cambodia who dreams of making her mark in fields traditionally dominated by men.

They hope to inspire anyone who dares to dream big and break societal norms, proving that the road to nuclear power engineering, while fraught with challenges, is a path worth taking.

As they continue to inspire, the significance of their achievement extends beyond the scientific community.

They have caught the nation’s attention, sparking conversations around energy sustainability, gender equality and the future of education.

They are already making waves, transforming lives and communities through their dedication, serving as a testament to the boundless potential that lies within each of us.

Their journey is an historic milestone for Cambodia, symbolising a future where women are at the forefront of scientific innovation and development.

Their story is a celebration of strength and resilience, and a reminder that with passion and determination, women can conquer even the most male-dominated fields.

With big plans for the future, these graduates continue to shape Cambodia’s energy landscape.

As they break down barriers and challenge the status quo, they will no doubt inspire many others to follow in their footsteps. Their achievements are a testament to the power of education and resilience, and their journey serves as an inspiration, proving that obstacles can be overcome with determination, and the once impossible can become possible.

There’s no telling what these determined graduates might achieve next. Their story is just beginning.