BBC’s Mishal Husain talks to pioneering Malaysian scientist Mazlan Othman in new series

I always wanted to do something different. I couldn’t do anything that everybody else was doing."Dr Mazlan Othman
Date: 07.08.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.03
Category: BBC World News
A new six-part series on BBC World News, Mishal Husain Meets profiles six well-known Asian personalities.

Fronted by BBC presenter Mishal Husain and filmed at the NYU Tisch School of The Arts in Singapore, the series goes in depth with leaders from the arts, science and sports from across Asia Pacific to find out what it takes to launch a successful career.

The fourth episode of the series is scheduled to air on 18 August, and features Malaysian astrophysicist and the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Dr Mazlan Othman.

Born in Malaysia in 1951 as one of 13 children, Dr Othman was educated in a Malaysian boarding school, where she was encouraged to pursue a career in science after showing a strong aptitude for it. She soon found her calling in the traditionally male-dominated field of astrophysics. This set her down a path of many firsts. She became the first woman to complete a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, and she returned to Malaysia as the country’s first astrophysicist. It wasn’t long before she was handpicked by the then Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help set up the government’s Space Science Studies Division.

The international stage came calling when the United Nations approached her to run the Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Dr Othman spent three years in Vienna, but was summoned back to Malaysia in 2002 by Dr Mahathir to head the Malaysian National Space Agency. Her work with the agency culminated with her sending the first Malaysian into space in 2007. She returned to her old post at UNOOS later that year.

On being a trailblazer, Othman said: “I was conscious that I was doing something different. I was not at that time thinking that I would blaze a trail. I always wanted to do something different. I couldn’t do anything that everybody else was doing.”

She is matter of fact about her role in putting Malaysia’s first astronaut into space: “It was a job. I had to do it.”

On making sacrifices as a successful working woman, she said: “You have to make sacrifices. I always tell the women you have to be aware that there are sacrifices.”

Mishal Husain Meets, broadcast in association with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, will air weekly on BBC World News from 28 July on Saturdays at 01.30 and 08.30, and again on Sundays at 14.30 and 20.30 (all times GMT).

For more information contact:

Shivani Sundralingam: +65 6507 4234 /

Shammi Anand: +44 (0) 7718 120 065 /