Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE
Space Scientist and Science Communicator
We have a society split between girls’ toys and boys’ toys. However, people should do what their heart desires, not what society tells them.
I have had the space bug since before I can remember. When I was five or six, my crazy idea was to go up into space, then I wanted to travel to the moon. I had these crazy dreams, but they inspired me to think big.
Inspiring more female space scientists
I’ve spoken to around half a million people about STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) throughout my career. The challenge is many girls think ‘that’s not for me.’ I like to show them how varied my career in STEM has been and why we need more diversity. But it is a general problem, with research indicating that less than 15% of 12 to 14-year-olds are considering STEM careers.
I also like writing books. It’s challenging for me with my dyslexia, but I see the benefits. It is another way of getting information out there about the wonders of space.
Working on something so groundbreaking,
which will change our understanding of
the universe, gives me such a thrill.
Breaking stereotypes about space scientists
My work is very diverse. I work on TV programmes such as BBC Sky at Night, children’s programmes and, sometimes, even comedy. People don’t see many Black, female scientists so, through my appearances, I try to break those stereotypical images of what a scientist looks like and does.
I’ve also worked on missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope — the largest space telescope ever built. This is definitely one of the highlights of my space science career. About 10,000 scientists across the world worked on it — I’m proud to have been one of them. Working on something so groundbreaking, which will change our understanding of the universe, gives me such a thrill.
Role models, flexibility and dreams
As a Black, female, dyslexic scientist, I have faced some challenges but usually found ways around them. I’ve also been encouraged by many people — family, friends and colleagues.
One of the driving forces in my life has been a desire to get out into space. The only time I wobbled on this idea was when my daughter was born because I needed to stay on Earth to look after her. Now, we talk about going to space together. That’s one of my crazy dreams — and we need them. I encourage everybody — especially girls — to have big, crazy dreams. By aiming high, we can achieve far more than we realise.