What themes does Maggie Aderin-Pocock draw on to talk about the transitional moments in her life?
Beating all odds, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a 51 year old black woman combines educational role (majorly focused on kids) with her scientific career, rises to be one of the world’s leading scientists and engineer, along with being a presenter at the Sky at Night, fields that have often been made synonymous to men and whites. Born in 1968, Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s childhood was divided between thirteen schools, besides having dyslexia. This report critically explores the themes that Maggie Aderin-Pocock draws on to talk about the transitional moments in her life. To realize the objective of the report, a structured individual interview technique was used to gather relevant information from Aderin-Pocock. The Code of Human Research Ethics (CHRE) published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) was strictly observed during the interview. The report finds that the three main themes that Aderin-Pocock draws on are: how people come to understand periods of fixity and moments of transition across the lifespan, racism and gender inequality, and determination and ambition are the greatest ingredients to a successful life and achievement.
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Thematic Analysis of Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s Interview
Born in 1968, Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s childhood was divided between thirteen schools, besides having dyslexia. However, she has since then designed a number of space instruments, in addition to currently being a presenter at the Sky at Night. In an interview, Maggie Aderin-Pocock said that she studied as well as worked in very male dominated settings, in which she met an initial shock of people who were not used to seeing black female engineers or scientists. To work wit of this challenge, Aderin-Pocock said, “I always tried to show them straight away I was competent and get their respect. That’s when colour and gender disappear” (Davis 2014, n.p). Not only did she experience these challenges in schools and at work places, but she also suffered some social challenges when her parents divorced four years after her birth. Despite social, economic, and all manner of challenges, Aderin-Pocock’s ultimate goal still remained that she still had a dream; a dream of travelling into space and spend the rest of life in Mars. It is against this backdrop that this paper critically analyzes the themes that Maggie Aderin-Pocock draws on to talk about the transitional moments in her life in an interview that was conducted on her.
The research design for this study was qualitative research technique. According to Nutov (2019), qualitative research method is largely an exploratory research, used to gather an understanding of underlying opinions, motivations, and reasons. The technique was, therefore, employed to provide insights into the issues that surrounded Aderin-Pocock’s transitional moments. The design was equally employed to help uncover trends in opinions and thoughts, taking into consideration challenges that Aderin-Pocock faced during her rising of the ladder of academics and employment successes, especially in fields primarily considered as only for males and whites. The qualitative research technique that was employed was individual interview technique.
The main researcher in this study was myself. However, to ensure the validity and reliability of the information that was gathered, I recruited some two more research assistants. According to Wiles et al. (2016), involving more than one researcher helps in gathering sufficient information that can better the value of a report ultimately.
We used various materials to gather relevant information for this study. These were a note book and a pen to jot down main points that were gathered from the interview. We also used other secondary sources of information that could inform my coding and interpretations of the findings of the study. We used tools that could help me in transcribing and coding the findings from the tape recorded audio.
Before starting the survey, we ensured that my ability to listen carefully was sharpened so that we could gather information that was carried in the audio tape record. We also did seek permission to be allowed to use the interview and audio record of the interview with Maggie Aderin-Pocock. After reading the vignette of interview and also listening to the audio clip of the same, we proceeded to code the main findings about themes and transcribe audio/tape recordings for analysis. The coded and transcribed findings were then analyzed using content analysis, narrative analysis, and discourse analysis (Nutov 2019). To effectively and efficiently use these analysis techniques, we began by developing and applying codes, then identifying patterns, relationships and themes, and finally summarizing the findings or data
When conducting any research, there is need to uphold certain acceptable codes and ethics. During this survey, we ensured that the CHRE as published by the BPS was strictly adhered to. We ensured that we did not copy past other researchers’ findings and interpretations of the interview and also ensured that we never plagiarised any work on the topic. When borrowing views and findings from other researchers, we ensured that we fully acknowledged the authors of such secondary sources. We made sure there was respect for confidentiality and anonymity whenever there was need both from the vignette of the interview and from other works. These ensured that the participant’s privacy in the secondary sources were upheld (Wiles et al. 2016). The principles of autonomy, respect for human dignity, and decision-making of the participants in the secondary studies that were used in this study were also considered.
The choice of quotes for this survey was informed with how relevant the quotes were to particular themes that were noted from the vignette of interview with Aderin-Pocock. Observance of ethics and codes during the study was important to this study because they served to ensure that the study was not unethical. By following the ethics and codes, then study would be used to inform quantitative studies that could be conducted later. The codes of ethics also ensured that the researcher remained in track during the survey, not veering off from the study’s main goal. To keep check the transparency of my interpretations, we compared various views and opinions regarding various themes and how they are depicted so that we could eloquently spell out such themes.
There are a number of themes that Maggie Aderin-Pocock draws on to talk about the transitional moments in her life. First is how people come to understand periods of fixity and moments of transition across the lifespan. Aderin-Pocock is brought up in conditions that could not clearly allow her bring out her abilities, especially in science. As a young lady, she held the desire of exploring the space. However, her greatest challenge was that she was dyslexic, finding writing and reading quite difficult, and “from a broken home in London” (Line 2). Having watched Clangers and stars on children’s television programs, she had harboured the desire to go visit them. She says, “I fell in love with the Clangers when I was probably about three years old and they live actually in space, so I wanted to go and visit them” (Lines 3-5). The motivations behind her desire was all that happened around her and about the time she was born. In the interview, Aderin-Pocock says, “And also at the time I was growing up, people had just landed on the moon and a space race was going on, so it was in the news all the time. So there was like an attraction there” (Lines 5-7). This is reminiscent of Lerner et al. (2018) finding that contemporary studies on human psychology have stressed that the process of human development entails mutually influential associations between growing up individuals and the features of their complex along with their changing contexts. Molenaar et al. (2014) add that such associations are mostly framed by models that are derived from a relational developmental systems metatheory.
Nonetheless, Aderin-Pocock realized that being a black and female significantly hindered her rising to the top of her achievements. Aderin-Pocock says, “But looking further as I was growing up, I think being a black kid in London …But when I went to school, if I said I was British or English they’d say, ‘You’re not British. You’re black.’ And so I felt I didn’t really fit into either camps” (Lines 7-13).
Not giving in to the feeling of disappointment and discrimination, she moved against the odds. According to her, space would be a wonderful thing since it would transcend all the discriminations and disappointments that she had to go through, especially because of her colour and sex. She says, “When you look at the planet earth from space, there are no countries, there are no boundaries, we’re just one people” (Lines 13-15). Besides self-motivation and ambition to go to the space and her father’s motivations, another factor that helped Aderin-Pocock understand periods of fixity and moments of transition across the lifespan are the wonderful programmes, like Star Trek, where people from several different countries were fighting the aliens, programmes that she really fancied. To understand more about the aliens and space, she had cherished being a scientist. This spurred her up to get a degree in physics and a PhD in Mechanical engineering, fields that she really enjoys working in. From these, it is evident that while the challenges identified by Aderin-Pocock could easily derail, demoralize, and discourage her from pursuing her dream, she remained determined, ambitious, and focused that she had but one goal, to become a scientists and to travel the space. Through her experiences, it can be seen that determination, ambition, and education are the keys to life dreams. Similarly, it can be deduced that while having a chunk of talent can help one go far, there is a need for something that propels their ambitions.
The second theme is racism and gender inequality. For a long time, according to Aderin-Pocock, there has been stereotype of science and engineering careers being for the white and male. The interview begins with Aderin-Pocock saying that “People often ask me, ‘You’re a black dyslexic kid from a broken home in London. How come you’re so interested in space?’” (Lines 1 -2). This clearly insinuates that it was stereotyped that science and engineering (anything that would suggest an interest in space) would only be typical of the whites and males. Borrowing from another interview, Aderin-Pocock said, “I thought I’ve studied, I’ve got a degree, a PhD, I have been working in the field for a number of years and yet I am still not qualified because I am black?!” (Lacey 2017, n.p). She also alludes to how frustrated she felt because of her colour. She says, “In the past it [science] has been sort of quite male dominated, and it still is… at first they [males] think, oh, she’s not one of us, but when you start doing the science it sort of transcends those barriers. We’re working together to solve a problem, to discover something, to do some good. And then you forget about all the rest and you focus on the science (Lines 50-54).
It can be gleaned from the interview that Aderin-Pocock underscores that it is significantly challenging and tiring for women to work in male-dominated fields like engineering and science. According to the Royal Society a lack of miscellany across the engineering and science fields represents a significant loss of potential talent to the United Kingdom (U.K.). Despite Aderin-Pocock’s expertise being acknowledged in 2009 with an MBE for her role and services to education and science, she still constitutes only 13% of all science, engineering and mathematical (STEM) jobs within the U.K. that are occupied by women (Molenaar et al. 2014). Statistics has it that in physical sciences fields, there is approximately a 70:30 between men and women and 90:10 in engineering (Molenaar & Nesselroade 2015). She adds, “Sometimes people are surprised when I say I’m a black female scientist, ‘cause they don’t think black people or people from ethnic minorities or females go into science (Lines 45-47). However, she feels that this is a misinformed perception, saying, “But they’re so wrong. To me what makes a scientist is being inquisitive; it’s wanting to know things and understand things” (Lines 47-48). According to her, being a scientist is all about having an inquisitive mind.
The third theme among the various themes that Aderin-Pocock draws upon to talk about the transitional moments in her life is that determination and ambition are the greatest ingredients to a successful life and achievement. Aderin-Pocock was born in 1968 and a year later, people landed on the moon (Lacey 2017, n.p). She adds that she was born during the bubble of excitement that surrounded the going and landing of people in the moon, and these sparked the question in her mind and she kept asking herself: “when am I going out?”(Davis 2014, n.p).
Despite not going to this moment, she states, “I still want to go, it’s my dream” (Lacey 2017, n.p). Further, from the interview, it can be gleaned that Aderin-Pocock is brought up in a family that is not well off and dysfunctional family. Despite the academic challenges, in addition to the divorce of her parents, Aderin-Pocock remained determined and focused on realizing her goal, of travelling to space. Motivated by her Nigerian farther, Aderin-Pocock’s academics improved and she merited for degree and PhD in her career development (Molenaar 2014). She is currently one of the best scientists globally. Additionally, despite being a female, a black female for that matter, she has faced several insults that should have killed her morale to scale high and higher.
This report has critically explored the themes that Maggie Aderin-Pocock draws on to talk about the transitional moments in her life: how people come to understand periods of fixity and moments of transition across the lifespan, racism and gender inequality, and determination and ambition are the greatest ingredients to a successful life and achievement. Motivated by her success, Aderin-Pocock talks to young people, telling them it is okay to dream and that it is okay to fail. She proves that failing is not a problem. Despite not becoming an astronaut already, she hopes of becoming one with time. She also proves that people should remain determined for them to realize their dreams. Lastly, she proves that people’s development is significantly influenced by those things that happen within or around their environments.
Davis, N 2014, ‘Maggie Aderin-Pocock: how a space-obsessed schoolgirl battled the odds to become a top scientist, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/sep/21/maggie-aderin-pocock-interview-bbc-nasa-space on 21/05/2019.
Lacey, H 2017, ‘Q&A with space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/2331728e-8d0c-11e7-a352-e46f43c5825d on 21/05/2019.
Lerner, RM, Brindis, CD, Batanova, M, Blum, RW 2018, ‘Adolescent Health Development: A Relational Developmental Systems Perspective’, In: Halfon, N, Forrest, C, Lerner, R, Faustman, E (eds) Handbook of Life Course Health Development. Springer, Cham.
Molenaar, PC 2014, ‘Dynamic models of biological pattern formation have surprising implications for understanding the epigenetics of development’, Research in Human Development, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 50–62.