Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE appointed Chancellor of the University of Leicester

Award-winning space scientist, broadcaster and author, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, has joined the University of Leicester as its new Chancellor today (1 March).

Maggie is best known for her work on The Sky at Night, which she has presented since 2014.

Born in London to Nigerian parents, she attended 13 different schools before she turned 18 and had undiagnosed dyslexia.

Maggie has always had the desire to go to space. However, when she told a teacher that she wanted to be an astronaut, they suggested that she go into the caring professions as that was a more realistic aim.

She persevered with her love of science and obtained a physics degree and PhD in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, in 1994.

Maggie has worked for the UK Ministry of Defence helping to develop aircraft missile warning systems and hand-held instruments to detect landmines.

She worked at University College London from 1999 to 2005 develop a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini Observatory, in Chile.

Maggie worked on the Aeolus satellite, which measures wind speeds in the Earth’s atmosphere to help with our understanding of climate change. She also worked on instrumentation for the James Webb Space Telescope.

She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Leicester, in 2018.

On being appointed as Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Dr Maggie said: “When I was first approached, I must admit, I was taken aback. But it seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

“I have spent a lot of time in Leicester filming with The Sky at Night. I made a film a few years ago that featured Leicester greatly.

“Leicester is such a diverse and vibrant community so to become part of that is a real honour and I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Talking about her educational journey, Maggie said: “For me it is quite interesting because I know the power of education.

“As a child, I went to 13 different schools and people sometimes ask ‘How naughty were you?’.

“But it is because my parents split up when I was around four, and I moved around a lot, but also I have dyslexia and that meant that when I was at school I was put in a class for those with additional needs.

“I was just thought of as the unintelligent one at the back, but with education and inspiration and lots of fantastic teachers, I was able to go on to get GCSEs, A-levels and then a degree and a PhD.

“That transformed my life and to be part of the University of Leicester gives me the opportunity to share that with other people.”

University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, said: “As we embark on the University’s second century, I am delighted we have secured such a high profile scientist and role model as our incoming Chancellor.

“Maggie embodies the University’s three values. She is Inspiring, because she has overcome significant barriers to achieve great success. As an Inclusive institution, it is important for us to walk the walk, and having Maggie as our figurehead sends out the clear signal that Leicester is for everybody – diversity is our strength.

“Finally, Maggie is a truly Impactful Citizen of Change, having demystified science for thousands of school children. She challenges people to think differently, to get involved.”

Maggie’s appointment comes as The Rt Hon Lord David Willetts finishes his five-year term as Chancellor of the University of Leicester. 

As Chancellor, Maggie is the ceremonial head of the University. The Chancellor acts as an advocate for the University both nationally and internationally and chairs the annual meeting of University Court.

Day-to-day executive management of the University, is conducted by President and Vice-Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah.

Maggie’s tenure as Chancellor of the University of Leicester is five years.