“I want to retire to Mars”

 “I want to retire to Mars”

 New Presenter of Sky at Night on BBC 

Professor Maggie Aderin Pocock

Who do you think you are?

I define myself as a Scientist, first and foremost.   Also as a Communicator, but that came much later.   As a Scientist I have a brilliant job, I travel the world. Science can change peoples’ lives – we can save peoples’ lives! That’s one of my lifelong aspirations; to communicate my passion to others.

The Science Communicator

The Science Communicator

 I like going into Inner City schools.  I live for that.

The child who did not speak


The best thing that happened to me was at a mixed ability school which included some deaf children, one of whom was a voluntary mute.   In the middle of my talk he suddenly started asking his teacher questions, “What happens if two universes collide?”   To think the universe can inspire so much!

My two role models  are a bit odd! First is Dr. Spock (sic), from Star Trek, and second is Sherlock Holmes. But they have things in common; both are analytical and very unemotional. Because my parents split up when I was four, I think the idea of being in total control of your emotions was quite appealing to me because so much was going on and I couldn’t control it.   So to be reserved, to analyze things and get a result, was very appealing to me.

Next, Yuri Gagarin: and the more I found out about him, the more passionate I got about him. We share a birthday, and he died the year I was born, and (of course) he was the first person into Space.

At a very early age  I was aware that my father  wanted a boy. He had 4 daughters in the end, I was the third.   I was determined to prove to him that I was as good as any boy.  I remember saying that I wanted to be a Doctor. He said I should marry a Doctor, and I replied, “No, no, I’ll be a Doctor.”

He wanted boys because he thought that girls were vulnerable. He especially felt that about black girls growing up in a white society.   As a result he brought up four very strong, very independent women

 One thing he really wanted was someone to carry on his name. So, I use my maiden name; in that way I’ve fulfilled that dream as well. It’s funny, it’s something I was aware of from a very small child and, even now, I still want to fulfill those dreams he had. I find it strange that I was so driven by it. I think I gained from it; like doing Science, when people say, “That’s a boy’s subject”. So? I’m a girl.

My father actually came to the UK to study medicine. When he came to the UK he was quite horrified by what he saw; signs saying “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. He came over late 50s / early 60s – he was in that environment.  On his grave I put the words, “father, teacher, philosopher, friend.”

I grew up in a very white society so was very lonely.    I preferred to say I was Nigerian; if I said I was British they’d say, “No you’re not. You can’t be, you’re black.”     I was a lost Nigerian. I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere. Which is why space was so appealing; I didn’t need to fit in anywhere.

 I’d say be an opportunist,    I think you make your own luck to a certain extent. Being open to things creates opportunities.

It really is a state of mind, that’s what I love to tell the kids. So many opportunities come along, “I don’t know about this, but I’m going to give it a go.”   I don’t think you should risk everything to do it, but you should risk a certain amount. Try things.   At the same time, grab things with both hands when they come along.

That’s what I like to give kids if I can; give them the confidence because they can do so much more than they realize. I wish I’d realized that when I was younger, because I was scared of everything. I’m glad I grew into it. Women especially need to have self-confidence because we are self-deprecating. It’s instilled into you.   So it’s nice to try and break that barrier, say “Yes I can.    Push yourself because, most of the time, we can achieve far more than we realize if we only get out there, and also have confidence.


©2012 ionthecity.com


One Response

  1. […] student who discovered Pulsars, her professors were awarded the Nobel. Our women in Science, are Dr. Maggie Aderin Pocock, Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield and the discover of Pulsars, whose tutors accepted her […]

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