Nigerian-British scientist Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock won the 2020 William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal and Prize for her “exceptional services to science education and physics communication” this October, according to the Institute of Physics. This made her the first Black woman to win a gold medal in the award’s history. Aderin-Pocock was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of eight but she never let go of her dream to be a scientist and worked to see it to fruition.
“Imagine a dyslexic from London meeting the queen of England. It’s mind-boggling stuff, but that shows how much potential you have.” These were the words of the renowned physics scientist when she was honored as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2009 for her work as a science communicator, breaking down complex scientific issues into simple information that everyone can understand, and for her outreach to young people.
According to BOTWC, the celebrated scientist was also awarded a Science and Technology Facilities Council Science in Society Fellowship and also earned the title of president-elect of the British Science Association.
She is an author of two popular science books called “Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System” and “The Sky at Night: book of the Moon – A Guide to Our Closest Neighbour.”
Her outstanding work to get more children and women into the sciences cannot go unnoticed. Aderin-Pocock has interacted with over 100,000 young people from diverse backgrounds teaching them the simplest ways to understand physics space research and physics engagement in general.
She did not always have it easy in school because of her dyslexia. She moved between 13 different schools before age 18. It was her passion for science that opened doors for her.
“I was lucky because I got inspired by science, and I had an aptitude for it,” she told The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.
“Because science was an interest and a passion, I started reading about the subject. I was reading about it in school and I was reading about it at home. Suddenly my marks kept going up and up and up and I was at the top of the class.”
Her father wanted her to be a doctor, but Aderin-Pocock gravitated towards physics. To her, “physics is the study of everything.” She is a more “hands-on” scientist and as a teenager, she made her first telescope to help her get closer to the stars she has loved since she was little.
“For me this was the first instrument I made, and it was fantastic because I made it with my own hands, and it got me closer to the stars I loved.”
Aderin-Pocock graduated from the Imperial College of London with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and in 1994, she graduated from the same school with a PhD in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The kind of support she received from her father is the same kind of energy and support Aderin-Pocock gives to her mentees. She is particular about getting more women and people from ethnic minorities into science.
The STEM advocate has worked on several documentaries and has been presenting a documentary on autonomy for BBC, The Sky at Night, since 2013. She has made it her life’s mission to teach young people about the importance of scientific research by making her work comprehensible and entertaining.