Sheila Kanani

A photograph of Dr Sheila Kanani smiling at the camera with a blurred room in the background
Sheila Kanani
Credit: Royal Astronomical Society

Occupation: Planetary Physicist and Communicator

Year born: 1983

Research Areas: Saturn, Planetary Science, Education, Cassini mission


"Science isn't just about learning the bones of the body or the names of the elements: science teaches you how to enquire, how to investigate ideas, teamwork, report writing, practical skills, time management and problem-solving."

Source: Astronomy & Geophysics


Early Life

Sheila was born in London. Her parents were scientists, but they did not study physics. Sheila was first interested in physics because she wanted to be an astronaut! She graduated in physics with astrophysics at the University of Manchester in 2006. In 2012 she received a doctorate (PhD) in planetary physics from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. Her research focussed on analysing the magnetic fields of Saturn using data from the Cassini spacecraft

Career Highlights

Sheila stayed in research for a few years but soon realised that she enjoyed talking to people about space more than doing research, so she moved roles. She has been the education and outreach officer for the Royal Astronomical Society in the UK since 2014. She also achieve her teaching qualifications and taught in a school in Lancashire in the UK.

Sheila regularly speaks in video media about different topics in space and is an expert on communicating physics research. She also writes regularly, and this culminated in authoring several books for children. In 2019 she published “How to be an astronaut and other space jobs” which was shortlisted do a Blue Peter Book Award. She has many other published books for children promoting the lives of Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and Michelle Obama. She also uses her background in planetary science to write books like “Can you get songs on Saturn?” and “Can you get rainbows in space?”.


In 2022 Sheila was named on the UK New Years Honors list where she was given an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to astronomy and diversity in physics.

Other Interests

Shelia loves to make people laugh and has done science-based stand-up comedy in the past. She also plays the saxophone and loves hockey.