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Meet Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the woman whose career is quite literally out of this world

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Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist and co-presenter of BBC Four’s The Sky At Night. She lives in Guildford with her husband and their eight-year-old daughter.    

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

At around 7.30am if I’m at home and not filming, but I’m often woken earlier by my daughter Lauren. I work from home, so I get her ready for school, then I review my emails and check what’s happening that day.

I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Co-presenting The Sky At Night.

I also run my own company called Science Innovation Limited, which aims to bring science to as many people as possible, as well as doing space-science consultancy. I’m also working on two books, which is a big challenge as I suffer from dyslexia. My first book, The Sky At Night Book Of The Moon, was almost a love letter to the moon, which made it easier for me.

I GOT THE JOB…

After years working in science. I have a degree in physics and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London. I’ve worked on space-instrumentation projects, with telescopes and at the Ministry of Defence.

When the BBC asked me to host The Sky At Night following Patrick Moore’s death, I was blown away. It was the show I had special permission to stay up late to watch as a child. Stepping into the shoes of such an icon as Patrick for such a well-loved programme was daunting, but we keep getting recommissioned so it seems to be going well.

careers in science

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock balances her presenting role with running her own company, consulting and teaching children about space 

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Could see me reviewing scripts for the TV shows I’m working on, including a kids’ programme called Dr Maggie’s Space Adventures and a Sky One drama about women who travel to another galaxy. Or I could be preparing to chair a meeting for organisations such as NASA and the European Space Agency, or speaking to school children. Every day is different – I love that about my work.

For lunch I often have a slab of roast salmon with vegetables or a salad. After giving birth, I developed a dairy allergy so I tend to cook for myself – eating out can be a game of Russian roulette.

MY MOST MEMORABLE WORK MOMENT…

Was working on one of the world’s biggest telescopes – the Gemini telescope in Chile. I spent nine months there. It was one of the most amazing experiences – the project was so engaging that I wanted to stay out there forever.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is the paperwork involved with running my own company. Because of my dyslexia, the written word has never been my friend.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is going to a classroom where the kids are thinking, ‘This is going to be boring,’ but then I see the wonder on their faces as I talk to them about space. We live in an amazing universe and if I can engage people in it then that is definitely job satisfaction for me.

work life

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is currently working on a TV show called Dr Maggie’s Space Adventures

AFTER WORK…

I love going to the cinema with my daughter – I’m looking forward to seeing The Lego Movie 2. Working at home means that I can have a snooze in the day, then work into the wee hours – I focus more at night when there are fewer emails and calls. If it’s clear, I’ll get up and look out at the stars and the moon.

My Plan B: Actor

I loved acting at school – I’d go for main parts in school plays. But it always seemed like a challenging career and science was a much safer bet. I still love science fiction, though, and would love to appear in the next Star Trek film – that would be a dream come true.

Images: Holly McGlynn

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