As a tribute to black history month, every blog post will acknowledge the work and contributions of black scientists to academia but also to community at large. Why so specific? Well…because I’m black and I LOVE science/medicine. Whilst researching for this post, I discovered a lot of new info…some shocking and some pretty damn awesome! I hope by the end of the month your mind is amazed and your eyes are opened to the contributions black people are making to the scientific community and the world at large.
Besides this post, many events are happening this month to encourage diversity within science but more importantly spur on the next generation of BME students. It is to show young people that regardless of their skin colour/social class/country of origin – their mind is key to unlocking an array of scientific problems.
After a quick browse of the Guardian website I discovered that:
“Out of 14,000 British professors – only 50 are black (HESA 2011) and Higher Education Statistics Agency reveals number of black professors in UK universities has barely changed in eight years (HESA 2018) ”
“This is despite the fact that 2.8% of the population of England and Wales is Black African or Black Caribbean, according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 10 of the 50 black British professors are women.”
Moving on swiftly…
SO… we’ve all watched “Hidden Figures” the story of the awesome women who were the brains behind sending the astronaut John Glenn to space. We have black scientists who are making great contributions in a similar capacity. An example is Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, who is a space scientist.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE – Space Scientist
Maggie was born to Nigerian parents but grew up in London and she had the lifelong ambition of becoming an astronaut despite having dyslexia. This was not an easy goal to attain especially with teachers discouraging her from pursuing this career path. However it was her dream of space travel that motivated her in those difficult years and, she is adamant that NO ONE should write themselves off for want of a little inspiration. With this determined mind-set, she went on to gain a BSc in Physics and a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London (STEM, Newcastle).
Maggie is now a space scientist and science education. She is an Honorary Research Associate in University College London’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. She has worked for the Ministry of Defence on projects ranging from missile warning systems to landmine detectors, before returning to her first love: building instruments to explore the wonders of space (pretty cool stuff!). Since February 2014, she has co-presented the long-running astronomy TV programme ‘The Sky at Night’.
Alongside her academic work, Dr Aderin-Pocock has relentlessly pursued a schedule of school visits – setting up her own company in the process – to give children a whistle stop tour of the universe as well as offering a glimpse of the excitement, the wonder, the sheer joy of prodding away at some of the biggest questions we humans struggle with. She also supports scientific endeavours of young people by being a celebrity judge at the National Science + Engineering Competition. The finals of this competition are held at The Big Bang Fair in March each year to reward young people who have achieved excellence in a science, technology, engineering or maths project. In doing this she inspires future astronauts, engineers and scientists (blackhistorymonth).