Not Entirely Alone

Does this description seem familiar?

Black scientist, born in 1968. Born in London to immigrant parents. Spent a fair amount of time in their school years convincing teachers to not assume that they are supposed to be in the “B” group in all their subjects by default. Did a physics degree at Imperial College, London University. Now a successful practicing scientist. Doing a lot of science/education outreach as well (was on the radio twice in the last week or so, for example).

All familiar so far, right? Ok, a bit more…

Was on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island discs last week talking about their life and selecting eight favourite pieces of music, a book, and a luxury item they’d like to have on said island (chose telescope).

About to have a daughter.


No, I was not on the radio. No, I am not pregnant (not biologically, anyway). Nor have I engaged in such a project with anyone.

Here’s the thing: It’s not me!

Nor is it a clone of me, or another version of me from another universe. For a moment there, listening to some of what was coming from the radio, I did wonder for a moment whether I’d fallen out of my own life and was now listening to an alternative version of it on the radio, or if I’d done a radio interview the week before and had just forgotten, or if it was an elaborate practical joke on me, or… Then the obvious explanation kicked in sharply. It is simply someone else. The person in question is Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I’m just as (pleasantly) surprised as you are (or might be). As far as I know, I’d no idea she existed, nor that she or anyone of the relative few of us in physical science of African decent had quite so many interconnected similarities in their biography (the brief version) to my own. There’s lots of differences too, of course, from what I gathered on the radio program (and this Sunday’s Broadcasting House, one of my favourite Radio 4 programs). She’s a space scientist designing systems for satellites and so forth (taking her into areas like observations of the earth’s climate), while I work on developing theories and computational tools for the various areas of physics you’ve (perhaps) read about here in numerous posts. She went to 13 schools, while I only went to 2 (or 3 depending upon how you count). She apparently spent a lot of her childhood working on her science subjects with her dad, while I was (and remain to some extent) a loner – I just lock myself away and hack away at it. (I don’t know whether she spent a lot of her childhood play time taking things apart, building things, fixing things, and so forth. That would be interesting to know.) After physics at Imperial (I’m pretty sure she was not in the same year as me, but I could be wrong… there were about 180 of us!), she went on to so engineering for her PhD. work, while I went off to delve more into theoretical physics. The list goes on. Ultimately, this shows that it does not matter how you get there, as long as you get there.

Sounds like she’s got quite a lot of enthusiasm for outreach and getting science “out there” to the general public. This is really good news. As I said, I’ve not ever heard of her before (have you, my UK readers?) but I’m very glad I have now, since I can add her to the list of people I send people to when they’re looking for UK-based contributors to films and programs on various aspects of science, etc. For all I know she’s already super-busy with this sort of thing (perhaps she’s all over TV and so forth and I just missed it), and of course she is likely to get a bit busier in any case, due to her new arrival. I wish her luck.

Funny old world, isn’t it…?

Anyway, this is a link to her talking about her career that you might consider showing to people who might be making career choices, and here’s a video clip I found of her talking about getting kids interested in learning, science, and more:


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