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Maggie Aderin-Pocock

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Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Aderin-Pocock in the Dark Matter Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, 2015
Margaret Ebunoluwa Aderin

(1968-03-09) 9 March 1968 (age 56)[1]
Islington, London, England
EducationLa Sainte Union Catholic School
Alma materImperial College London (BSc, PhD)
Known forThe Sky at Night
Martin Pocock
(m. 2002)
AwardsHonorary degree, Staffordshire University (2009)
Honorary Fellow, British Science Association (2010)
Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Bath (2014)
Scientific career
FieldsSpace science
InstitutionsUniversity College London
ThesisInterferometric Studies of Very Thin Lubricant Films in Concentrated Contacts (1995)
Doctoral advisorProf Philippa Cann

Dame Margaret Ebunoluwa Aderin-Pocock DBE (née Aderin; born 9 March 1968) is a British space scientist and science educator. She is an honorary research associate of University College London's Department of Physics and Astronomy, and has been the chancellor of the University of Leicester since 1 March 2023.[2] Since February 2014, she has co-presented the long-running astronomy television programme The Sky at Night with Chris Lintott. In 2020 she was awarded the Institute of Physics William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal[3] and Prize for her public engagement in physics. She is the first black woman to win a gold medal in the Physics News Award and she served as the president of the British Science Association from 2021 to 2022.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Margaret Ebunoluwa Aderin was born in London on 9 March 1968 to Nigerian parents, Caroline Philips and Justus Adebayo Aderin, and was raised in Camden, London.[5][6][1][7] Her middle name Ebunoluwa comes from the Yoruba words "ebun" meaning "gift" and Oluwa meaning "God", which is also a variant form of the word "Oluwabunmi" or "Olubunmi", meaning "gift of God" in Yoruba.[8] She attended La Sainte Union Convent School in North London. She is dyslexic. As a child, when she told a teacher she wanted to be an astronaut, it was suggested she try nursing, "because that's scientific, too".[9] She gained A-Levels in English, physics, chemistry, and biology.[9]

She studied at Imperial College London, graduated with a BSc in physics in 1990, and completed her PhD in mechanical engineering under the supervision of Hugh Spikes in 1994.[10] Her research investigated the development of an ultra-thin film measurement system using spectroscopy and interferometry to the 2.5 nm level.[11] This involved improving the optical performance and the mechanical design of the system, as well as the development of control and image processing software. Other techniques at the time could only operate to the micron level with much poorer resolution. This development work resulted in the instrument being sold by an Imperial College University spin-off company, PCS Instruments.[12]

Career and research[edit]

Aderin-Pocock has worked on many projects in private industry, academia, and government. From 1996-99 she worked at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, a branch of the Ministry of Defence. Initially, she was a systems scientist on aircraft missile warning systems; from 1997-99, she was a project manager developing hand-held instruments to detect landmines.[1][13] In 1999, Aderin-Pocock returned to Imperial College on a fellowship from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to work with the group developing[14] a high-resolution spectrograph[15] for the Gemini telescope in Chile. The high spectral resolution of the instrument allowed studies of stellar populations, interstellar medium, and some physical phenomena in stars with small masses.[16][17][18]

She worked on and managed the observation instruments for the Aeolus satellite, which measured wind speeds to help the investigation of climate change. She is a pioneering figure in communicating science to the public, specifically school children. Her company, Science Innovation Ltd, engages children and adults through its "Tours of the Universe" a programme that explains about the science of space.[19][20][21]

Aderin-Pocock is committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers, and scientists. She has spoken to approximately 25,000 children, many from inner-city schools, explaining how and why she became a scientist, challenging perceptions about careers, class, and gender.[22] She helps encourage scientific endeavours of young people by being a judge at the National Science + Engineering Competition. The finals of this competition are held at The Big Bang Fair in March each year, and reward young people who have achieved excellence in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics project.

Aderin-Pocock was the scientific consultant for the 2009 mini-series Paradox, and also appeared on Doctor Who Confidential.[23] In February 2011, she presented Do We Really Need the Moon? on BBC Two.[24] She presented In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World on BBC Two on 26 March 2012.[25]

As well as presenting The Sky at Night with Chris Lintott,[26] Aderin-Pocock has presented Stargazing on CBeebies with Chris Jarvis, and Out of This World on CBBC with her daughter Lauren. She has also appeared on Would I Lie to You?, Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit, Richard Osman's House of Games, and QI.

Since 2006, Aderin-Pocock has served as a research fellow at UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies, supported by a Science in Society fellowship 2010–13 funded by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). She previously held two other fellowships related to science communication, including science and society fellowships 2006–08 Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) and 2008–10 (STFC).[11] In 2006, she was one of six "Women of Outstanding Achievement" winners with GetSET Women.

Baroness Shirley Williams and Maggie Aderin-Pocock discuss Women and Power at the WOW Festival in London in 2014

In 2014, the pseudonymously written Ephraim Hardcastle diary column in the Daily Mail claimed that Aderin-Pocock (along with Hiranya Peiris) had been selected to discuss results from the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 (BICEP-2) experiment on Newsnight because of her gender and ethnicity. The comments were condemned by mainstream media, the Royal Astronomical Society and Aderin-Pocock and Pereis's university, University College London.[27][28][29] The Daily Mail withdrew its claim within days, acknowledging that the women were chosen because they are highly qualified in their fields.[27][28]

She is an honorary research associate of University College London's Department of Physics and Astronomy.[30]

In 2020–21 she served as a commissioner on the UK Government's Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED).[31][32][33][34][35] The commission's controversial report concluded that the "claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence", but experts complained that the report misrepresented evidence, and that recommendations from business leaders were ignored.[36] After the report was published, Aderin-Pocock stated that it "was not denying institutional racism existed but said the commission had not discovered evidence of it in the areas it had looked".[37]

Since December 2021, Aderin-Pocock has been a question-setter for the Channel 4 game show I Literally Just Told You.[38]

Honours and awards[edit]

Aderin-Pocock was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2009 New Year Honours for services to science education,[39] and was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2024 New Year Honours for services to science education and diversity.[40][41]

She was appointed as a vice-president of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2022.[53]

In 2023, Mattel created a Barbie doll of Aderin-Pocock to celebrate International Women's Day.[54]

Personal life[edit]

Aderin-Pocock discussed her life on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in March 2010,[55] and has been the subject of numerous biographical articles on women in science.[9]

She married Martin Pocock in 2002. They have one daughter, Lauren, born in 2010, and live in Guildford, Surrey.[1][56]


  • Aderin-Pocock, Maggie. "Dr. Maggie's Grand Tour of the Solar System" Publisher: Buster Books, Sept 2019, ISBN 178055575X, ISBN 978-1780555751 [57]
  • Aderin-Pocock, Maggie. "The Knowledge: Stargazing" Publisher: Quadrille Publishing Ltd, 10 September 2015, ISBN 1849496218, ISBN 978-1849496216
  • Aderin, M. "Space Instrumentation: Physics and Astronomy in Harmony?" Paper presented at the Engineering and Physics – Synergy for Success, 5 October 2006, UK.
  • Aderin, Maggie (2007). "A Different Sort of School Run". Astronomy & Geophysics. 48 (5): 10–11. Bibcode:2007A&G....48e..10.. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4004.2007.48510.x.
  • Barlow, M. J., A. S. Hales, P. J. Storey, X. W. Liu, Y. G. Tsamis, and M. E. Aderin. "Bhros High Spectral Resolution Observations of Pn Forbidden and Recombination Line Profiles." Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 2, no. Symposium S234 (2006): 367–68.
  • Aderin, M. E. "Bhros Installation and System Performance." Paper presented at the Ground-based Instrumentation for Astronomy, 21–25 June 2004, USA.
  • Aderin, M., I. Crawford, P. D'Arrigo, and A. Charalambous. "High Resolution Optical Spectrograph (Hros): A Summary of Progress." Paper presented at the Conference on Optical and IR Telescope Instrumentation and Detectors, 27–31 March 2000, Munich, Germany.
  • Aderin, M. E., and I. A. Burch. "Countermine: Hand Held and Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection." Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Detection of Abandoned Land Mines, 12–14 October 1998, London, UK. doi:10.1049/cp:19980719
  • Aderin, Margaret Ebunoluwa. "Interferometric Studies of Very Thin Lubricant Films in Concentrated Contacts."[10]
  • Gunsel, S.; H. A. Spikes; M. Aderin (1993). "In-Situ Measurement of Zddp Films in Concentrated Contacts". Tribology Transactions. 36 (2): 276–82. doi:10.1080/10402009308983159.
  • Aderin, M. E.; G. J. Johnston; H. A. Spikes; T. G. Balson; M. G. Emery (1993). "Film-Forming Properties of Polyalkylene Glycols". Journal of Synthetic Lubrication. 10 (1): 23–45. doi:10.1002/jsl.3000100103.
  • Cann, P. M., M. Aderin, G. J. Johnston, and H. A. Spikes. "An Investigation into the Orientation of Lubricant Molecules in EHD Contacts." In Wear Particles: From the Cradle to the Grave, edited by D. Dowson, G. Dalmaz, T. H. C. Childs, C. M. Taylor and M. Godet. 209–18: Elsevier Science Publishers, 1992.
  • Aderin, M.; G. J. Johnston; H. A. Spikes; G. Caporiccio (1992). "The Elastohydrodynamic Properties of Some Advanced Hydrocarbon-Based Lubricants". Lubrication Engineering. 48 (8): 633–38.


  1. ^ a b c d Anon (2017). "Aderin-Pocock, Dr Margaret Ebunoluwa". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U256280. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Chancellor". University of Leicester. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  3. ^ "Meet Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, The First Black Woman To Win A Gold Medal In The Physics News Awards". BOTWC. 8 November 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Meet Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, The First Black Woman To Win A Gold Medal In The Physics News Awards". BOTWC. 8 November 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Weekend Birthdays". The Guardian. 8 March 2014. p. 45.
  6. ^ GRO Register of Births: Margaret Efumoluwa Aderin, mmn = Wey, Mar 1968 5c 905 ISLINGTON
  7. ^ Wintle, Interview: Angela (25 January 2016). "BBC Sky at Night presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock on space, science and Guildford life". Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  8. ^ "OLUBUNMI". Behind the Name. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Aderin-Peacock, Maggie (13 March 2009). "Let's inspire the next generation of scientists". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  10. ^ a b Aderin, Margaret Ebunoluwa (1995). Interferometric Studies of Very Thin Lubricant Films in Concentrated Contacts. london.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of London. OCLC 940348526. Copac 29536860.
  11. ^ a b Maggie Aderin-Pocock Archived 24 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Maggie Aderin, Research Fellow UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies
  12. ^ "Are we alone? The search for life on uranus" (PDF). Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  13. ^ c0c6844f-85f4-450d-935ca27a00bdf347. "Maggie Aderin-Peacock". Vitae: realising the potential of researchers. Careers Research and Advisory Centre Limited. Retrieved 9 January 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ bHROS References High Resolution Optical Spectrograph for Gemini South
  15. ^ bHROS High Resolution Optical Spectrograph for Gemini South
  16. ^ bHROS Components High Resolution Optical Spectrograph for Gemini South
  17. ^ Instruments | Gemini Observatory : bHROS, a high-resolution optical spectrograph, has been retired
  18. ^ bHROS A bench-mounted High Resolution Optical Spectrograph for Gemini South
  19. ^ "Dr Maggie Aderin-Peacock" Archived 15 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Battle of Ideas.
  20. ^ "Dr Maggie Aderin-Peacock: 'Science and your career' | Imperial News | Imperial College London". 3 March 2015.
  21. ^ Royal Institution profile. Archived 25 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Dr Maggie Aderin-Peacock MBE Archived 7 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine Staffordshire University
  23. ^ Maggie Aderin-Pocock IMDB
  24. ^ "Do We Really Need the Moon? - BBC Two". Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  25. ^ "The Trick is to Keep Moving ..., In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World – BBC Two". .bbc.co.uk. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  26. ^ Emine Saner (19 January 2014). "The Sky at Night presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock: 'In space, race doesn't matter'". The Guardian.
  27. ^ a b "Scientist (PhD in astrophysics) shocked by reference to her ethnicity". The Independent. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2017. A Mail spokesman said the paper fully accepted that the women were highly qualified in their field and that that was the reason they were chosen for interview. Yesterday's Ephraim Hardcastle column stated: "I accept without questions that both ladies are highly qualified."
  28. ^ a b Meikle, James (21 March 2014). "Daily Mail accused of insulting top female scientists". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 December 2017. A Mail spokesman made it clear that the paper fully accepts that the women were highly qualified in their field and that was the reason they were chosen for interview. The Mail is in contact with Professor Price.
  29. ^ Smith, Keith. "RAS statement on Hiranya Peiris and Maggie Aderin-Pocock". www.ras.org.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  30. ^ "Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock recognised at Suffrage Science event" Archived 24 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, UCL, 27 February 2013.
  31. ^ "Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities". 28 April 2021.
  32. ^ "Windrush campaigners alarmed by omissions of No 10 race report". The Guardian. 2 April 2021.
  33. ^ "Editorial: The government's race report is an exercise in gaslighting". The Independent. 1 April 2021.
  34. ^ "Race report: 'UK not deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities'". BBC News. 31 March 2021.
  35. ^ Neilan, Catherine; Diver, Tony (31 March 2021). "Race report 'reluctant to accept structural issues', says Sir Keir Starmer". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  36. ^ Savage, Michael; Iqbal, Nosheen (4 April 2021). "Race report boss wanted schools to teach 'the truth' about modern Britain". The Observer. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  37. ^ "Campaigners criticise government race report". BBC News. 31 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Who sets the questions on Channel 4's I Literally Just Told You?". Radio Times. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  39. ^ "No. 58929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2008. p. 21.
  40. ^ "No. 64269". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2023. p. N9.
  41. ^ "Awards for New Year 2024" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  42. ^ "Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock: oration". University of Bath website. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  43. ^ University, Staffordshire. "Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE". staffs.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  44. ^ "Modern perspectives: Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock | Royal Society". royalsociety.org. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
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  46. ^ Cross, Gilly (8 February 2018). "Inspiring Woman: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, MBE". Runneth London. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  47. ^ Walker (Dr), Alison (2014). "Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock: oration". University of Bath. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  48. ^ "The 10 most influential black people in Britain". indy100. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  49. ^ "Do we really need black-only 'power lists' in the UK?". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  50. ^ "Renowned space scientist receives Honorary Doctorate from Loughborough University". www.lboro.ac.uk. Loughborough University. 19 December 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  51. ^ "Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE". www.le.ac.uk. University of Leicester. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  52. ^ "Institute of Physics Awards 2020". Institute of Physics Awards 2020 | Institute of Physics. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  53. ^ "Central announces its new Vice Presidents". The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. 28 November 2022. Archived from the original on 28 November 2022. Retrieved 21 June 2024.
  54. ^ "Space scientist honored by Barbie for International Women's Day, more STEM women on list". USA Today. 8 March 2023. Retrieved 14 March 2023.
  55. ^ "Maggie Aderin-Pocock". Desert Island Discs. BBC Radio 4. March 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  56. ^ Baker, Tamzin (19 October 2012). "At home: Maggie Aderin-Pocock". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  57. ^ "Dr Maggie's Grand Tour of the Solar System". School Reading List. 23 August 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2021.

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