Sky at Night scientist is unveiled as next University of Leicester Chancellor

Space scientist and presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, is to be installed as the new Chancellor of the University of Leicester.

The appointment is the latest chapter in Dr Aderin-Pocock’s inspiring rise from an unsettled early life, which saw her diagnosed with dyslexia and attend 13 different schools, to a nationally recognised science communicator. Committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers, and scientists, Dr Aderin-Pocock has spoken to around 25,000 children, many of them at inner-city schools, telling them how and why she became a scientist, busting myths about careers, class, and gender.

Best known for her television work, which sees her co-present The Sky at Night and children’s science shows, Dr Aderin-Pocock holds a degree in physics and a PhD in mechanical engineering. She has spent her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation in both the industrial and academic environments, ranging from hand held land mine detectors to an optical subsystem for the James Webb Space Telescope.

In 2009, Dr Aderin-Pocock was awarded an MBE 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.  A decade later she was awarded the Woman of the Year award for innovation. She is the first African woman to win a gold medal in the Physics News Award and is reaching the end of her presidency of the British Science Association. In 2018, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Leicester.

“I am both delighted, and truly honoured, to be appointed Chancellor of the University of Leicester,” said Dr Aderin-Pocock.

“I’m joining the University at an incredibly exciting time, as it embarks on its second century, with a well-deserved reputation as one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities. With our shared passion for space, I am particularly excited about the research that the University is conducting at its new Space Park.

“The University is a place where everyone can achieve the success they deserve and become real citizens of change. This is an inclusive institution with a fine track record in opening up access to Higher Education to students from all walks of life – something I am very keen to see us build on. I am extremely excited to join the University in this role, and I look forward to meeting students and staff in the years to come.

“The University was founded and funded by the people of Leicester, as a living memorial to honour those who made sacrifices during the Great War. One hundred years on, I am truly honoured to be Chancellor and looking forward to build on that legacy, ensuring a warm welcome and diverse community within the University that reflects the wonderful city that help start it.”

Dr Aderin-Pocock will succeed The Rt Hon. the Lord Willetts as the University’s eighth Chancellor on 1 February 2023.

University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “As we look forward to our second century, I am delighted we have secured such a forward-thinking scientist and role model as our incoming Chancellor.

“Dr Aderin-Pocock was the outstanding candidate when we were looking for somebody who could inspire the next generation of students and researchers here at the University of Leicester.

“Her proven academic track record aside, Dr Aderin-Pocock also possesses a talent for demystifying complex scientific concepts, to make them understandable to people from all walks of life.”

He added: “I would like to give my sincere thanks to our outgoing Chancellor, David Willetts, for his exceptional service with the University of Leicester.

“He has overseen a successful period in the University’s recent history, not least during our current centenary year, which is ending on a high after we clinched top 30 spots in the Research Excellence Framework, the Complete University Guide and the Guardian University Guide.”

Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, Gary Dixon, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming Dr Aderin-Pocock to the University of Leicester. This is an exciting appointment which reflects the University’s strategy, which includes a focus on space research, our aims to progress engagement with the wider public, plus our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The office of Chancellor is held by a distinguished individual, from academia or public life, who is not usually resident and does not hold any other University office. The five year role is largely ceremonial and sees the Chancellor presiding at major ceremonies – including the conferment of honorary degrees and degree ceremonies and serving as Chair of the annual meeting of the University’s Court.