Margaret Ebunoluwa “Maggie” Aderin-Pocock, MBE, is an English space scientist and science educator. She is an Honorary Research Associate in University College London’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Since February 2014, she has co-presented the long-running astronomy TV programme, The Sky at Night with Chris Lintott .
Personal life and education
Aderin-Pocock was born in London on 9 March 1968 to Caroline Philips and Justus Adebayo Aderin. Her name “Ebunoluwa” stems 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. She attended La Sainte Union Convent School in North London. She has dyslexia and, 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”.She gained four A-Levels in maths, physics, chemistry and biology.
She studied at Imperial College London, graduating with a BSc in physics in 1990 and completed her PhD in mechanical engineering in 1994. Her thesis titled “Interferometric Studies of Very Thin Lubricant films in Concentrated Contacts” was accepted in 1995. Her research involved the development of an ultra-thin film measurement system using spectroscopy and interferometry to the 2.5 nm level. 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 spin-off company.
She discussed her biography on BBC’s Desert Island Discs in March 2010, and has been the subject of numerous biographical articles on women in science.
She and Dr Martin Pocock were married in 2002. The couple has one daughter, Lauren, born in 2010. They live in Guildford, Surrey.
Aderin-Pocock has worked on many projects in private industry, academia and in government From 1996-1999 she worked at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, a branch of the UK Ministry of Defence . Initially, she worked as a systems scientist on aircraft missile warning systems, and from 1997-1999 she was a project manager developing hand-held instruments to detect landmines . In 1999, Aderin-Pocock returned to Imperial College on a fellowship from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to work with the group developing a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini telescope in Chile . The telescope examines and analyses starlight to determine help better understand distant stars.
Aderin was the lead scientist for the optical instrumentation group for Astrium. She is working on and managing the observation instruments for the Aeolus satellite , which will measure wind speeds to help the investigation of climate change. She is also a pioneering figure in communicating science to the public, specifically school children, and also runs her own company, Science Innovation Ltd, which engages children and adults all over the world with the wonders of space science.
Aderin-Pocock is committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers and scientists and she has spoken to about 25,000 children, many of them at inner-city schools telling them how and why she is a scientist, busting myths about careers, class and gender. Through this Aderin-Pocock conducts “Tours of the Universe”, a scheme she set up to engage school children and adults around the world in the wonders of space.  She also helps encourage scientific endeavours of young people by being a celebrity judge at the National Science + Engineering Competition. The finals of this competition are held at The Big Bang Fair in March each year to reward young people who have achieved excellence in a science, technology, engineering or maths project.
Aderin-Pocock was the scientific consultant for the 2009 mini-series Paradox, and also appeared on Doctor Who Confidential. In February 2011 she presented Do We Really Need the Moon? on BBC Two. She also presented In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World on BBC Two on 26 March 2012.
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 2010-2013 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). Also in 2006, she was one of six “Women of Outstanding Achievement” winners with GetSET Women.
In 2009, she was appointed an MBE for her services to science and education. She also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University in 2009 for contributions to the field of science education.
In 2015, she appeared on Series 5 of children’s television show Hacker Time. From its third series, she has appeared on Duck Quacks Don’t Echo as one of the verifiers.
2014 — Honorary Doctor of Science,
University of Bath
2013 — UK Power list, listed as one of the UK top 10 most influential black people
2013 — Yale University Centre for Dyslexia “Out of the box thinking award”
2012 — UK Power list, listed as one of the UK top 100 most influential black people
2011 — Winner of the “New Talent” award from the WFTV (Women in Film and Television)
2010 — Awarded Honorary fellowship from the British Science Association
2010 — Awarded third STFC Fellowship in Science in Society, held at UCL
2010 — Subject of a BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs episode
2009 — Winner of Red Magazine’s “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 — Honorary degree from Staffordshire University
2009 — MBE awarded in 2009 New Year’s Honours list for services to science education
2008 — Awarded second STFC Fellowship in Science in Society, held at UCL
2008 — Invited to give a “Friday Night Discourse” at the Royal Institution
2008 — The British Science Association Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award Lecture
2008 — Winner Arthur C Clark Outreach Award for Promotion of Space
2006 — UKRC (now WISE, UK) Woman of Outstanding Achievement
2006 — Awarded inaugural Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Fellowship in Science in Society, held at UCL
2005 — Awarded “Certificate of Excellence” by the Champions Club UK (in recognition of efforts at promoting the study of science among young girls, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds)