Space scientist Maggie will be in Newham, inspiring young and old
- Credit: Archant
Inspired to become a space scientist at a young age, Maggie talks about her life
She has a Physics degree and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, despite suffering with dyslexia as a child. She is also becoming a familiar face on TV with regular appearances on shows such as the BBC’s Newsnight.
Now, she will be sharing her love of space and science with anyone who will listen at The Crystal, One Siemens Brothers Way, tomorrow evening as part of the Ideas Olympiad.
Maggie, now 45, was born in Britain to Nigerian parents. Although they separated when she was four, Maggie’s father nurtured and fed her desire for information.
Even when she was a young child, he would ask her which her which university she planned to go to.
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She said: “I got the space bug as a young child, watching programs like the Clangers and later Star Trek really got me started, but also being born in the late 1960’s meant being immersed in the new space age.
“I wanted to get out in space but as a black, dyslexic kid it all seemed very unlikely. Early school did not appeal much as it was all about reading and writing at that stage but as we started learning science suddenly things got a lot better. I realised that I had an aptitude for the subject.
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“As a young child, when I told my teachers that I wanted to be an astronaut I was advised me to take up nursing instead.
“After this I said little to teachers about my future plans. However I got lots of support from my father who always told me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and work hard.”
At that time, without the internet, this meant there were many trips to the library with her father.
“We lived in a flat in London and I bought a telescope when I was about 14 or 15. It was useless. There was an evening course in Camden that showed you how to make your own telescope. It took many months to do it, all with my but I did it. I used the telescope and even in London where you can’t see much (in the night sky) I saw the moon with its craters. This was really my first instrument. In my career that’s what I do - make instruments.”
She is unsure if the career chose her or the other way round. What she is clear about is that she was bitten by the space bug at a young age.
She is hoping to inspire children and adults, not necessarily to follow in her footsteps into careers in science, but to have a dream and turn it into reality.
Her talk is called The Power of Dreams and in it she will encourage everyone in the audience to “reach for the stars because even if they don’t get there, they will get a lot higher than if they hadn’t aimed high
“I want children to find out what it is that excites them, to have a dream and to have the confidence to realise their dreams.”
Maggie’s won journey began with GCSEs and four A levels in the sciences. She decided to study Physics at Imperial College and enjoyed the course so much that she stayed to do a PhD in mechanical engineering.
Since then she has worked for the Ministry of Defence, made instruments for both the industrial and academic environments.
Some have included hand held mine detectors, missile warning systems for jet fighters but the most exciting has been working on the James Webb Space Telescope which will replace the Hubble Telescope in 2018.
She said: “Its a huge mainly NASA led project with 5,000 other scientists working on it. Working on the James Webb Space Telescope has been an amazing thing. The contribution of my teams have been small but it is wonderful to be part of something that will further change our understanding of the Universe.
In addition to her work, Maggie, who has a young daughter who travels everywhere with her, is busy engaging young and old about science at lectures, schools and on TV.
To further share her love of science, Maggie has also set up her own company in Guildford Science Innovation Ltd. Through this Maggie conducts “Tours of the Universe” and other public engagement activities, these show school children and adults the wonders of space.
To date she has given these talks to 120,000 people across the globe (100,000 of these have been school children in the UK) and recently produced a documentary through Science Innovation called “Space in the UK”, which features Maggie on a “Big Brother” spaceship on a journey to Mars. This is being distributed as a free DVD through schools and science festivals across the country.
The Power of Dreams will be at The Crystal, One Siemens Brothers Way, Royal Victoria Dock on June 27. Doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets are free at www.newham.gov.uk/ideasolympiad.