maggie-aderin-pocock-dyslexia
“What I discovered is, I’m quite good at science…” – Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Maggie is a wonderful role model for where curiosity and passion can take a person.

” Aderin-Pocock’s interest in space began with The Clangers, the children’s show about those funny pink creatures who live on another planet. We sit in the dining room of her house in Guildford, Surrey, where she lives with her husband, an engineer, and their three-year-old daughter, and I notice a stuffed Clanger sitting on one of the chairs. “I was about three years old. I wanted to go and visit them,” she says. Born in 1968, she grew up with the excitement surrounding Neil Armstrong’s moon landing. “Going to space seemed the natural thing that everybody would be doing, which is why I wanted to visit the Clangers. I don’t know how aware I was that only a few people had been into space, but I thought if people could do it then that was definitely what I wanted to do.”

For a long time, that dream looked impossible. She has dyslexia, which meant her teachers thought she was a bit dim and put her in remedial classes. “I was frustrated and just felt stupid. I thought school wasn’t for me. But at the same time I was going home and my father – like many African immigrants, he thought education was the key – would be talking about which university I would be going to.” He never believed his daughter was anything other than intelligent, she says. “He also thought that if you work hard enough, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.”

Aderin-Pocock can pinpoint the day she discovered a talent and passion for science. She was about 10, and the teacher had asked the class to calculate the weight of a cubic centimetre of water. “I put my hand up, thinking this is an easy one. I looked around and saw that no one else had their hand up. So I thought I must have it horribly wrong and put my hand back down, and then thought, oh give it a try. I answered the question and I think the teacher was surprised. I think it’s that moment when you think, hey, I knew that – that enjoyment of getting something right, especially when nobody else had.”

Aderin-Pocock can pinpoint the day she discovered a talent and passion for science. She was about 10, and the teacher had asked the class to calculate the weight of a cubic centimetre of water. “I put my hand up, thinking this is an easy one. I looked around and saw that no one else had their hand up. So I thought I must have it horribly wrong and put my hand back down, and then thought, oh give it a try. I answered the question and I think the teacher was surprised. I think it’s that moment when you think, hey, I knew that – that enjoyment of getting something right, especially when nobody else had.”

Her older sister introduced her to science fiction, which she would devour. She became a Star Trek fan, and would visit the library with her father to borrow physics books. “It was like an adventure that we did together. When I started doing better in science the other subjects picked up as well, because I just had more of an interest in school. And I thought, ‘maybe I’m not stupid. What else can I do?'”

Bravo for Maggie’s dad for encouraging her and for her sister for sharing her discovery of science fiction. Maggie received her Bachelors of Science in Physics and PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. She also received an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth. How many untapped Maggie’s are there out in the world?

Resources: Guardian interview
Photo