ABU DHABI // Amani Al Hosani is just months away from entering the history books.
When the 26-year-old mother of two completes her master's degree at Khalifa University in August, she will be the nation's first female nuclear scientist.
"You do not have to be a superwoman to be a mother and nuclear scientist," she said. "It is a job and all you need is to love science and be passionate about it."
Mrs Al Hosani matriculated from Hunain Girls' School in Abu Dhabi in 2003, and studied chemical engineering at UAE University.
"I graduated in 2009 and started work on onshore oilfields with Adco [Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations]," she said.
"I used to ask my science teachers to teach us about nuclear science at school, but they always said it was not in the curriculum."
Once she graduates, she hopes to work in the safety department of the Braka nuclear sites.
"I want to be a nuclear engineer in the simulation field where I can simulate the safety scenarios to see how I can enhance the safety of our power plants," she said.
Mrs Al Hosani is one of several Emiratis who benefited from the "Energy Pioneers" programme run by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec). The programme awards scholarships and advancement courses to those wishing to work in the nuclear energy field.
Azza Al Sharhan, the human resources director at Enec, said: "Amani is one of the first generation of Emirati nuclear scientists and there are lots more to follow."
The programme is designed to encourage the most talented science students to pursue a career in the nuclear energy sector.
"The UAE's need for energy is growing by 9 per cent each year, and the Government has identified nuclear energy as a safe, clean, efficient and reliable way to power the nation's growth. By 2020, nuclear energy could provide up to a quarter of the nation's energy needs," said Ms Al Sharhan.
More than 170 Emiratis are studying as a result of Enec's scholarship programmes. But the corporation expects it will require more than 2,000 employees by 2020, with a target of 60 per cent Emiratisation.
"Emirati students want to play a role in the development of their nation. This desire to make a difference is what drove people to join the oil and gas industries in the 1960s as pioneers of a new sector. Today's generation of energy pioneers are turning to nuclear," Ms Al Sharhan said.
Her patriotic reasoning is not just rhetoric: a recent study by Enec polled 76 current and 151 potential students about their attitudes towards the nuclear energy. Eighty-three per cent of current students said they chose nuclear energy because they want to be part of the energy industry of the future.
"The research shows that Emirati students now favour science in higher education because they believe it gives them the skills to excel in work," Ms Al Sharhan said.
Of prospective engineering students polled, 85 per cent said they were pursuing that line of study because it offered good career opportunities.
The Energy Pioneers programme sponsors Emiratis interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemical, nuclear, mechanical and electrical engineering. It also sponsors those seeking a master's degree in nuclear engineering through a fellowship at the Khalifa University's School of Science, Technology and Research.
Although Mrs Al Hosani will soon become one of the first to complete the course, it might easily have been a very different story.
She says her first application to enter the programme was turned down. "I applied a second time and when I was accepted I felt like my dream was becoming a reality," she said.