Maggie Aderin Pocock: Biography highlights

Maggie Aderin-Pocock is best known as an English space scientist and co-presenter of the programme The Sky at Night.

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Full biography of Maggie Aderin Pocock

Maggie Aderin Pocock’s background

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist whose passion is presenting science to a general audience and demonstrating that you ‘don’t need a brain the size of a small planet’ to understand, participate in and enjoy science. Her programme “Do We Really Need the Moon?” (BBC 2), which explored our intimate relationship with the moon, showed just that. The programme earned Maggie the talkback Thames new talent award at the prestigious Women in Film and TV Awards in December 2011.

She went on to present a follow up “Do We Really Need Satellites?” (also BBC 2) and was one of the Scientists on Channel 4’s Brave New World as well as regular stints on The One Show. She is currently presenting the new series of Sky At Night on BBC 4 and Mini Stargazing for CBeebies.

Maggie had an unsettled upbringing, attending 13 different schools. She was diagnosed with dyslexia and shunted into a remedial class. As she says ‘a government statistician would have forecast a pretty bleak future for me’. She was saved by the Clangers and the idea of ‘space travel’ entered her young brain. A few years later she became hooked on Star Trek and her ambition took hold. Her father nurtured her hopes and dreams and that, coupled with hard work, enabled ‘a black girl with learning difficulties to travel from inner London to outer space!’

She studied at Imperial College where she obtained her degree in Physics and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Since then she has spent her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation in both the industrial and academic environments. Managing multidisciplinary teams, these instruments have ranged from handheld landmine detectors to an optical subsystem for the James Webb Space Telescope. (The JWST is a joint ESA/NASA venture).

TV and radio appearances include regular pieces on BBC Breakfast, Doctor Who Confidential, BBC Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour: Technology Review for 2009, Big Bang Day, Girls in Physics), BBC 2: The Cosmos – A Beginner’s Guide (2007), Channel 5: Big, Bigger, Biggest Telescopes (2009) among many others. She was invited on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (aired 7th March 2010) and won Red magazine’s “Red Hot Women” award in the pioneering category (Dec 2009). She was awarded an MBE in 2009.

Maggie also works at Astrium Ltd in Portsmouth where she leads the optical instrumentation group. Here she manages a range of projects making satellite sub-systems designed to monitor wind speeds and other variables in the Earth’s atmosphere. These systems are made under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Living Planet Programme and are designed to improve our current knowledge of climate change. Maggie also has a Science in Society Fellowship from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) which enables her to engage the public with the science work that she loves. The Fellowship is held at the University College London (UCL).

To further share her love of science, Maggie has set up her own company Science Innovation Ltd (www.science–innovation.com). Through this Maggie conducts “Tours of the Universe” and other public engagement activities, showing school children and adults the wonders of space. She has given these talks to over 50,000 people across the globe (30,000 of these have been school children in the UK) and has just produced a film through Science Innovation called “Space in the UK”, which features Maggie on a “Big Brother” spaceship on a journey to Mars. This is being distributed for free through schools and science festivals across the country. Maggie was voted one of Britain’s top 10 most influential black people in the UK Power List.

Awards include

  • 2010 – Awarded Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association
  • 2010 – Awarded a third STFC Fellowship in Science in Society, held at UCL
  • 2010 – Invited on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs aired 7th March
  • 2009 – Winner of Red Magazines “Red’s Hot Women” Award in the pioneering category
  • 2009 – UK Power List, Listed as one of the UK top 100 most influential black people
  • 2009 – Awarded Honorary PhD from Staffordshire University
  • 2009 – Awarded MBE in 2009 New Years Honours list
  • 2008 – Awarded a second STFC Fellowship in Science in Society, also held at UCL
  • 2008 – Invited to give “Friday Night Discourse” at the Royal Institution
  • 2008 – Invited member of Royal Society’s Diversity committee
  • 2008 – Invited to become a trustee for the “Young Engineers”
  • 2008 – The BA Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award Lecture
  • 2008 – The Royal Society Summer Exhibition Interactive Lecture
  • 2008 – Winner Arthur C Clark Outreach Award for Promotion of Space
  • 2007 – Invited member of Institute of Physics Diversity committee
  • 2006 – UKRC Woman of Outstanding Achievement
  • 2006 – Awarded inaugural STFC Fellowship in Science in Society, held at UCL
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Available for:

TV and Media

Watch Maggie in action

Playlist
1/4 videos
1
The Dawn of a New Space Era: Maggie Aderin-Pocock at TEDxHousesofParliament
The Dawn of a New Space Era: Maggie Aderin-Pocock at TEDxHousesofParliament
11:42
2
The power of dreams: Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock at TEDxBrixton
The power of dreams: Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock at TEDxBrixton
17:52
3
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
03:13
4
Beautiful equations: E=mc² explained in two minutes
Beautiful equations: E=mc² explained in two minutes
01:52
Redmaids' High School

The audience were utterly hooked on the material and I don't think I've met anyone quite so warm and engaging in an age. The passion she has for the subject matter is utterly infectious. Please pass on our thanks for a truly fantastic talk.'

Property Care Association

'A different type of speaker for us - and the feedback was very enthusiastic'

The Police ICT Company

'She did very well indeed - we wanted a speaker who would enthuse and inspire and Maggie's natural enthusiasm is infectious and although her work is more focused on 'space' her more general message about reaching high and being bold was equally strong'

Guildford College Group

'Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock met and exceeded all of our objectives. She was able to use tales of her own life and career to inspire the audience to pursue their dreams. The audience were very pleased with the speaker and came out of the ceremony feeling motivated. The audience were also very interested to hear that Dr. Aderin- Pocock had been working on the Rosetta Mission the week before, as this was another exciting story which she was able to share. Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock was extremely personable as she added humor to her speech to engage the audience.'

Chartered College of Teaching

'She received a great response and we had lots of teachers in the audience saying that if only she had taught them science, they would be astronauts by now!! Our event went down very well and her positive and funny presentation was a joy to listen to. More importantly, it pushed a love of STEM subjects and called for more females to take the lead in science which was a positive message that many of our delegates strongly agree with. Please do pass on my personal thanks to her - she was a highlight of the day.'

Maggie's speaking topics

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