This transcript appears in the July 16, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Greetings to the Conference
Florencia Renteria is a Ph.D. student in Nuclear Science and Technology at Harbin Engineering University in China. This is an edited transcript of remarks she delivered to the second panel, “The Real Science Behind Climate Change: Why the World Needs Many More Terawatts of Energy” of the June 26-27, 2021 Schiller Institute conference, “For the Common Good of All People, Not Rules Benefiting the Few!” Subheads have been added.
My name is Florencia Renteria. I’m from Mexico. I’m 20 years old. Currently, I’m doing my Ph.D. in nuclear science and technology in China at Harbin Engineering University. My specialty is advanced reactor physics. Before that, I went to South Korea to study for my masters in nuclear power plant engineering, where I specialized in nuclear core design. And from Mexico, I got a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. For some time, I worked in the mining industry in Mexico. But afterward I went to Korea.
For me, I really like to study and to do things related to nuclear science, because I think it’s a wonderful field, where we can specialize and spread the benefits of the nuclear technology.
What Inspired Me to Study Nuclear Engineering
I’m from the north of Mexico, from the Coahuila State. In my hometown there is one of the universities where you can study engineering. And before I was finishing my high school, I was thinking, “What should I go study for my bachelors?” Then, I was thinking, chemical engineering would be a good choice because one of my aunties—she’s a chemical engineer—and I just got inspired, part of it from her, and also, from my chemistry classes in high school, because we had a good teacher. She was easily understandable in the way she was explaining chemistry and she was motivating people on how chemistry is everywhere. Eventually she was preparing her own chemical products, and selling them to the people.
Then, I thought maybe it could be a good idea, and I just started looking for some areas where I could develop myself in chemistry. When I was still doing my studies in high school, I found out that chemistry is one of the main areas that are in industry, and it gives some flexibility to work in other areas.
After college, I did one of the specialties, extractive metallurgy. It’s a part of the mining industry. That’s how I got into the mining industry. I did an internship. It was pretty amazing how people extract minerals and convert it into different parts of the technology, even computer cards, etc.
It was a great opportunity also to be there. After I finished my internship in the mining industry, I got the opportunity to go to Korea, to study the specialty of nuclear engineering. At the beginning it was a little bit hard to change my mind because I was planning to develop myself more in chemistry and [in the] mining industry. But some challenges come through in life, and I thought, “Why shouldn’t I take the chance to go for nuclear industry?” I found out it was amazing, because you can combine what you know from chemistry with the new things in nuclear engineering.
I was pretty new in the field. I had to start from scratch in South Korea with so many things, because I didn’t know many concepts. But I was really lucky, because at the school where I studied in Korea, they really train you from the basics to understand and learn the overview of the industry.
And that’s how I ended up doing my Ph.D. And also, because I got inspired and wanted to learn more. I’d like to study other competencies to broaden my knowledge and keep developing my skills.
Classical Culture in Education
History plays an important role in our lives and decisions, of course. In my high school, we took a literature class and every month we had to read at least three or four books. At the end of the month, we would take an exam and we would write answers about what the lessons were that we learned from the books.
This reading time helped us to develop our personal and interpersonal skills. Sometimes we may tend to be shy or sometimes it’s hard to express ourselves. But through Shakespeare, through Don Quixote, other authors—I remember Albert Camus as one that we read and Homer from the Greek culture. We had to understand their visions in that time, which were challenges. And we were analyzing, in the classes, how we can take it into the current stage.
In 10 years? In 50 years?
For the next ten years, I would really like to promote more programs for graduate students. I know sometimes in our countries the educational system is not created for all of us to go for graduate education. But I’ll be very happy if at least, from the people who graduate with a bachelor’s, at least half, or 20% or 30%, can go for a master’s degree, because we end up [with] very few people doing a Ph.D.
And it’s not that it’s hard—it’s just consistency and being disciplined. At least, we must help people to develop their talents. To see whether you’re good doing it, and how you can adjust or contribute to the world. And also, to see policy makers adjusting their educational plans, maybe for more energy topics. Because, hearing the opinions of many people, more now expressing more positive thoughts about nuclear energy. Not everyone shares the same opinion. But at least they can go through it; they can understand what is nuclear, or how they can adjust to many other energy sources to create sustainability in all the world.
I think that will be the plan for the next 10 years. And if every other student can have the opportunity, as I had, to go to Korea or come to China or even in your own country, just to keep developing your talents. Maybe create a system of scholarships for everyone, to develop their abilities.
For the next 50 years, I’ll be very happy if we can reach fusion, the fusion projects, and to see in more countries, an economy where everyone can have a perfect balance of energy. There are still a lot of countries, like African countries or Asian countries, where they don’t have access to electricity or water. Those are essential services for having a quality of life. If we cannot have electricity, we cannot learn, you cannot use Internet, you cannot even have access to a smartphone.
For some people it is a big dream to have this opportunity. Of course, we have the privilege to have it in our daily life. At least everyone should have the available tools in the next 50 years to keep developing ourselves, and create this synergy and these projects to keep developing technologies of their own countries.