Microbiologist and science communicator Siouxsie Wiles was named the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year last night in Auckland.
Associate Professor Wiles, of the University of Auckland, won the award for her work responding to the Covid-19 pandemic by “sharing her knowledge with Aotearoa and the world.”
The Spinoff’s Duncan Grieve wrote that the honour was the culmination of a “dizzying 12 months” for Wiles.
“It came for her achievements in science communication, and the way she has shrugged off gendered critiques of her style and substance to become synonymous with calm, clear, compassionate communication which has achieved huge resonance with the New Zealand public.”
Grieve wrote that Wiles’ work made an impact beyond Aotearoa through her collaboration with The Spinoff’s own creative director Toby Morris.
The freely-available animated infographics the pair created were seen by millions of people around the world, and even used by governments and organisations as part of their official pandemic communications.
Associate Professor Wiles told Breakfast’s John Campbell this morning that “as a scientist who really admires the WHO, it does feel a little weird that the things I wrote for The Spinoff are now appearing on the World Health’s website. Like wow.”
Despite this, she told RNZ’s Morning Report that it hadn’t always been a smooth ride, especially on the internet.
“The interesting and horrible parts of the pandemic is people questioning my expertise all the time. That is a very gendered thing. It’s quite sad.”
Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings wrote that before the pandemic, Wiles spent “most of her time in a laboratory, trying to find new antibiotics to treat infectious diseases that are now resistant to the current crop of drugs.”
Before she knew she won, Wiles told Jennings she accepted the nomination “because it matters to others.”
“Other scientists who are thinking about how they communicate the science, and younger people who thought ‘that’s not what I thought a scientist would look like’. Maybe I want to be one too.”
Here are some of today’s highlights:
New Zealand Herald: Passionate microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles named as New Zealander of the Year