Space has fascinated Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock ever since she was six years old, when “I saw an astronaut on a beautiful book in my primary school library”, she recalls.
Over the years, her dream of blasting off and exploring the galaxy never faded and, after establishing herself as a prominent space scientist, she now uses her abiding enthusiasm to inspire youngsters around the UK.
Maggie splits her career between the world’s third largest space company Astrium, where she heads up the optical instruments group. With her team she makes optical systems for satellites. The rest of her time is spent travelling around the UK bringing science to life for school children.
Over the past four years, Maggie has given “Tours of the Universe” to over 35,000 pupils, delivering innovative simulated space journeys using celestial flyby projections. She started giving the presentations after setting up her company, Science Innovation Ltd (SIL), with her husband, Dr Martin Pocock.
“Standing up in front of 2000 15 year olds can be a real challenge, I’ve got to keep them engaged with a subject that many kids think is boring. When it works there’s a fantastic buzz,” said Maggie, who has also been bringing science to the masses through her involvement on a number of television programmes.
Her latest project, which is sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), working alongside the BBC, is to get “kids interested in space” using a satellite called “Blue Peter 1”. Youngsters will see the satellite being made, its launch into Earth’s orbit, and the images it takes, which will give an insight into how our planet is changing.
As a black, female space scientist, Maggie is in a small minority but she aims to tear down gender and racial barriers through her work.
Maggie has a Physics Degree and a PHD in Mechanical Engineering, both from Imperial College London. She also holds a Science in Society Fellowship awarded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and held at University College London.
The award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is being bestowed upon Maggie for her contributions to the field of science education and breaking down stereotype barriers while providing inspiration to youngsters.