Siouxsie Wiles

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Siouxsie Wiles

Siouxsie Wiles MNZN (cropped).jpg
Wiles after her investiture as MNZM in 2019
Susanna Wiles

United Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
Known for
  • Director of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab
  • Author of Antibiotic Resistance: The End of Modern Medicine? Book
SpouseSteven Galbraith
Scientific career
Fieldsmicrobiology, science education
InstitutionsUniversity of Auckland
InfluencesRobert T. Wilkins, Richard Preston
WebsitePersonal website

Siouxsie Wiles MNZM (born Susanna Wiles)[1] is a British microbiologist and science communicator. Her specialist areas are infectious diseases and bioluminescence. She is based in New Zealand.

She is the head of University of Auckland's Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab.

Early life[edit]

Wiles was born in the United Kingdom, grew up in the UK and South Africa. Her mother is a retired social worker and her father is a business owner.[2]


Ebola was the microbe that started Wiles' interest in microbiology when she was a teenager. During her TEDxChristchurch talk in 2015 she said:

"This is the microbe that got me hooked on microbiology in the first place, because it’s both amazing and utterly terrifying. I was a teenager when I first read about Ebola and all I could think of was: How does this turn the human body into a virus producing factory?"[3]

The book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, which focuses on Ebola, was what made Wiles focus her education on medical microbiology.[4]

Wiles studied at the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 1997 with a BSc(Hons) in Medical Microbiology. While an undergraduate, she received a Nuffield Scholarship and worked in the university's School of Biological Sciences.[4] Wiles received her PhD from Edinburgh Napier University, conducting research at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (previously known as the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology), which is located in Oxford.[5][6]

During her PhD Wiles first used bioluminescence to create biosensors to monitor the health of environmentally beneficial microbes.[7]

Professional life[edit]

After completing her PhD, Wiles moved to Imperial College London for a post-doctoral research position on tuberculosis. In 2007 she became a lecturer at Imperial College's Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunity,[8] and in 2009 was awarded a Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and moved to the University of Auckland.[6] Wiles is the head of the university's Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab.[2][4]

In 2013 she won the Prime Minister's Prize for Science Media Communication which includes prize money of NZ$100,000.[2][5]

Wiles started the company Brightenz that sells kits with which one can create bioluminescent art at home.[9]

In 2018 Wiles became science ambassador for House of Science, a non-for-profit venture for raising science literacy in local communities.[10] She was also reelected as general Councillor of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2018.[11] Two years later she was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.[12]

Wiles is also working on finding new antibiotics by screening 10,000 New Zealand fungi for possible medical use.[13]

Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab[edit]

Wiles leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland which focuses on how glowing bacteria can advance the understanding of microbial infections such as food poisoning, tuberculosis and hospital superbugs.[5]

The bioluminescence is used to speed up the process of developing new antibiotics utilising the light emitted from the bacteria, because only living bacteria emit light.[7] About her work Wiles says "My career has been built on making nasty bacteria bioluminescent and using them for all sorts of things, including finding new medicines".[9] New Zealand has some of the highest rates of infectious diseases among developed countries. Globally 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant diseases.[14]

Science communication[edit]

Siousxie Wiles and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Wiles is passionate about demystifying science for the general public. She is an active blogger on, an online podcaster, a commentator on Radio New Zealand and appears on TV shows to discuss science stories in the news.[4] She was one of the eight scientists who fronted the "Great New Zealand Science Project", the New Zealand government's public engagement programme leading to the National Science Challenges in 2012.[5][8][7]

She commissioned, co-wrote, and appeared with her daughter in the TVNZ online children's science show Siouxsie & Eve Investigate.[15]

From 2010 until 2016 Wiles was co-host of the Completely Unnecessary Skeptical Podcast which focused on skepticism in New Zealand.[16]

She has also used art and film to communicate scientific ideas: in 2011 she collaborated with Australian graphic artist Luke Harris to produce a series of animated films featuring bioluminescent creatures and their uses in science. The animations on NASA's use of fireflies for the search of extraterrestrial life was selected for inclusion in the 6th Imagine Science Film Festival in New York in 2013, and the Goethe Institute's 2014 Science Film Festival. Wiles collaborated with artist Rebecca Klee on an installation at the Auckland Art in the Dark Festival in 2013, which featured Hawaiian bobtail squid and Aliivibrio fischeri.[2][4][5] Wiles thinks that relevant science education should start in primary school, for increasing science literacy and interest in the field more generally.[10]

Flatten the Curve: How simple public health measures save lives from Coronavirus disease 2019

Her 2015 science communication projects include the Biolumination II exhibition.[17]

Wiles is active in the skeptical movement having received the Skeptic of the Year Award from the New Zealand Skeptics in 2016 and attended several NZ Skeptic Conferences. She has also spoken out against anti-vaxxers and other public health related issues.[18][19]

In 2018, Wiles was named as a finalist for New Zealander of the Year Awards for her work on antibiotic-resistant superbugs and infectious diseases.[20] She won the award in 2021 for her leadership in the public communication of New Zealand's COVID-19 response.[21][22]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Wiles has been at the forefront of science communication in New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic.[23] With cartoonist Toby Morris Wiles created "Flatten the Curve", an animated GIF comic, for The Spinoff to describe how simple citizen actions could vastly reduce the death toll.[24] The comic went viral and was seen worldwide. Called "the defining chart of the coronavirus", it was based on earlier graphics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rosamund Pearce of The Economist, and Thomas Jefferson University professor Drew Harris.[25][26]

In 2020 Wiles was the subject of a documentary short entitled "Siouxsie and the Virus".[27]

In mid-September 2021, Wiles criticised the New Zealand Government's decision to abandon its COVID-19 elimination strategy, asserting that this would put the unvaccinated and vulnerable at risk.[28] During the launch of the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system) in December 2021, Wiles urged Aucklanders to put aside their summer holiday plans in order to contain the spread of the Delta variant within the community.[29]

In mid September 2022, Wiles criticised the Government's decision to drop the "traffic light system" as a "big, long term expensive, mistake." She argued that the COVID-19 Protection Framework was needed to protect the country from newer COVID-19 strains, infection waves, and the problem of "Long COVID" among vulnerable patients. Wiles also argued that facemasks and RAT tests were still needed to curb the spread of COVID-19 within the community.[30]

Listener Seven controversy[edit]

In late July 2021, ​Wiles and physicist Professor Shaun Hendy wrote an open counter-letter dissenting with seven fellow University of Auckland academics (Kendall Clements, Elizabeth Rata, Doug Elliffe, Garth Cooper, Robert Nola, John Werry, and Michael Corballis), who had penned a letter in the New Zealand Listener current affairs magazine arguing that Mātauranga Māori (Māori indigenous knowledge) was incompatible with science. In their response, Wiles and Hendy argued that Mātauranga Māori complemented Western knowledge systems. They also claimed that the diminishing role of indigenous knowledge in science was "simply another tool for exclusion and exploitation" and that mistrust in science was fuelled by scientific racism, colonialism, and injustice.[31] By 30 July, Hendry and Wiles' counter-letter had attracted more than 2,000 signatures.[32]

In late December 2021, Wiles and Hendy lodged a complaint with the Employment Relations Authority against the University of Auckland for allegedly not protecting them from abuse by anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination elements. According to the Authority, the pair had been harassed at home and work, and also endured personal attacks. Wiles and Hendy had been raising concerns about their personal safety to the University since April 2020. In August 2021, the University had advised them to reduce their public commentary and social media interaction, which Hendy and Wiles regarded as insufficient. The Employment Relations Authority also expedited their complaint, allowing it to proceed to the Employment Court, and ordered the University of Auckland to pay their legal fees.[33]

In March 2022 the New Zealand Media Council upheld a complaint that a column by Wiles published by Stuff on 20 December 2021 about the Listener Seven had breached press standards. The Media Council took particular issue with Wiles' claim that the seven professors had intimidated junior colleagues with lawyers' letters was inaccurate and should not have been made.[34]

Books and publications[edit]

Antibiotic Resistance[edit]

Wiles' book Antibiotic Resistance: The End of Modern Medicine? was published in 2017 and examined the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance.[8][35] Commenting on the book, University of Otago infectious diseases expert Professor Kurt Krause described it as "a clear call to action for New Zealanders on one of the most critical issues we face".[35] Sarah-Jane O'Connor from the Science Media Centre writes that the book "[…]Antibiotic Resistance will provide an excellent tutorial for those who know there’s cause for concern but need some extra background to understand why".[36]

Personal life[edit]

Wiles is married to Steven Galbraith, a professor of mathematics at the University of Auckland,[37] and together they have a daughter. She met her husband, a New Zealander, in London and left her position at Imperial College London to move to New Zealand in 2009.[2][4] Wiles was granted New Zealand citizenship in 2014.[38]

She is a fan of Lego and likes to play with it while being a critic of what she describes as gender bias in the Lego minifigures.[39] She has dyed her hair since she was a teenager, and is known as the "pink-haired science lady".[6] In a 2013 blog post, Wiles says that the name "Siouxsie" comes from singer Siouxsie Sioux, lead singer of the band Siouxsie and the Banshees.[40]

On 10 September 2021, Wiles attracted media attention after right-wing blogger Cameron Slater posted a video of her socialising with a friend at an Auckland beach during an Alert Level 4 lockdown in the Auckland Region in response to the August 2021 Delta variant community outbreak. Slater alleged that Wiles and her friend flouted lockdown restrictions with the story being circulated on several right-wing blogs. In response, Wiles clarified that her friend was part of the same bubble as her and that the pair had cycled 5km from her house to the beach. She also accused Slater of spreading disinformation in order to discredit her and the country's collective response to COVID-19.[41][42][43] National Party leader Judith Collins drew controversy when she described Wiles as a "big, fat hypocrite" during a virtual conversation with a Pasifika group aligned with the party.[41][43] In response to Collins' criticism of Wiles, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield defended Wiles from allegations that she breached lockdown restrictions.[44] Wiles agreed her friend broke the Level 4 "do not go swimming" rule, and said she should have stopped her.[41][42][45][46]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Siouxsie Wiles at the New Zealander of the Year ceremony, bracketed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Jennifer Ward-Lealand, the previous year's winner.


  1. ^ Siouxsie Wiles [@SiouxsieW] (16 April 2020). "He introduced me to Siouxsie & the Banshees & started spelling my name that way. And it stuck. Even my grandmother used it. She almost never spelt it right. But she always gave it a go. Eventually I changed it officially" (Tweet). Retrieved 1 September 2020 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Laxon, Andrew (23 November 2013). "Michele Hewitson interview: Siouxsie Wiles". The New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  3. ^ "How Glowing Bacteria Can Save The World | Siouxsie Wiles | TEDxChristchurch". YouTube. TEDx Talks. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Siouxsie Wiles". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Prime Minister's Science Media Communication Prize 2013". Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles". Auckland University. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Siouxsie Wiles". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e "New Year honours list 2019". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow". Signal to Noise Magazine. 6 September 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles announced as House of Science ambassador". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  11. ^ "2018 Council Election – Results". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  12. ^ a b "BBC 100 Women 2020: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. 23 November 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  13. ^ "Siouxsie Wiles on the end of antibiotics". RNZ. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  14. ^ Morton, Jamie (15 December 2019). "Could superbug 'Kryptonite' be in NZ forests?". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  15. ^ "Siouxsie & Eve Investigate". Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  16. ^ "About The CUSP". Web Archive. The CUSP. 15 December 2019. Archived from the original on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  17. ^ "thinkScience at the Auckland Arts Festival – Biolumination II". Sciblogs. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  18. ^ Gerbic, Susan (10 February 2020). "NZ Skeptic Conference – Christchurch – 2019". Skeptical Inquirer. CSICOP. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Denis Dutton Award for New Zealand Skeptic of the Year". NZ Skeptics. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  20. ^ "New Zealander of the Year Finalists Announced". Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Siouxsie Wiles 'proud' and 'privileged' to be crowned 2021 New Zealander of the year". 1 News. 1 April 2021. Archived from the original on 1 April 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  22. ^ a b Hunt, Elle (1 April 2021). "Siouxsie Wiles named New Zealander of the Year". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Macdonald, Nikki (21 March 2020). "Scientist Siouxsie Wiles has dropped everything to tell Kiwis about coronavirus". Stuff. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  24. ^ Toby Manhire (14 March 2020). "Covid-19: All arrivals to NZ must self-isolate for 14 days. Here's what you need to know". The Spinoff. (NZ Prime Minister) Jacinda Ardern with a print-out of the Spinoff 'Flatten the Curve' visual by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)
  25. ^ Chow, Denise; Abbruzzese, Jason (12 March 2020). "What is 'flatten the curve'? The chart that shows how critical it is for everyone to fight coronavirus spread". NBC News.
  26. ^ Wilson, Mark (13 March 2020). "The story behind 'flatten the curve,' the defining chart of the coronavirus". Fast Company. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Covid-19 scientist Siouxsie Wiles reveals appalling social media abuse". The New Zealand Herald. 3 July 2020. ISSN 1170-0777. Archived from the original on 29 November 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  28. ^ Wiles, Siouxsie (22 September 2021). "Siouxsie Wiles: Why we need to stay the course on elimination". The Spinoff. Archived from the original on 14 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  29. ^ Martin, Robin (4 December 2021). "Covid-19: Expert implores Aucklanders to 'staycation' to avoid potential spike in infections". Radio New Zealand. Archived from the original on 4 December 2021. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  30. ^ Wiles, Siouxsie (12 September 2022). "Ditching Covid restrictions now could be a big and expensive mistake". The Spinoff. Archived from the original on 12 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  31. ^ Wiggins, Amy (29 July 2021). "Experts Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles among those rejecting claim Māori knowledge isn't science as 'scientific racism'". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 7 November 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  32. ^ Sowmand-Lund, Stewart (30 July 2021). "Live updates, July 30: 2,000 sign open letter response on mātauranga Māori and science". The Spinoff. Archived from the original on 7 December 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  33. ^ Kapitan, Craig (3 January 2022). "Shaun Hendy, Siouxsie Wiles file complaint against University of Auckland". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 3 January 2022. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  34. ^ "Media Council upholds professors' complaint". Stuff. 7 March 2022. Archived from the original on 20 May 2022. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  35. ^ a b "Antibiotic Resistance – The End of Modern Medicine?". BWB Bridget Williams Books. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  36. ^ "Book review: Antibiotic Resistance – the end of modern medicine?". SciBlogs. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  37. ^ "Steven Galbraith". University of Auckland. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  38. ^ "Dr Siouxsie Wiles: Blake Leader 2016". Blake NZ. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  39. ^ "Building blocks of bias: Lego and gender | Siouxsie Wiles | TEDxAuckland". YouTube. TEDx Talks. 19 May 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  40. ^ Siouxsie, Wiles (4 February 2013). "So just how did I get my name?". Sciblogs. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  41. ^ a b c Neilson, Michael (10 September 2021). "Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Dr Siouxsie Wiles hits back at accusations she broke lockdown rules". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 10 August 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  42. ^ a b Franks, Josephine (10 September 2021). "Covid-19: Dr Siouxsie Wiles warns of 'disinformation' after claims she was caught breaking lockdown rules". Stuff. Stuff. Archived from the original on 10 September 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  43. ^ a b "Collins calls Dr Siouxsie Wiles 'a big, fat hypocrite'". Otago Daily Times. 10 September 2021. Archived from the original on 10 September 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  44. ^ Small, Zane (10 September 2021). "Ashley Bloomfield defends Siouxsie Wiles' maskless beach visit as Judith Collins labels her 'hypocrite'". Newshub. Retrieved 10 September 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. ^ "Status". Twitter. Retrieved 10 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  46. ^ "Sports and recreation". Unite against COVID-19. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  47. ^ a b "Microbiologist 'blogs way' to communicators award". Health Research Council of New Zealand. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  48. ^ "2018 New Zealander of the Year finalist – Dr Siouxsie Wiles". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  49. ^ "Sir Peter Blake Trust honours leaders at black-tie awards". Newshub. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  50. ^ "Siouxsie Wiles". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  51. ^ "Dr Siouxsie Wiles supreme winner at Stuff-Westpac 2020 Women of Influence Awards". Stuff. 17 November 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  52. ^ "Waikato professor wins $50,000 prize for being 'critic and conscience of society'". Waikato Times. Stuff. 7 July 2021. Archived from the original on 7 July 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2021.

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