Ground-breaking microbiologist

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles makes nasty bugs glow in the dark to help reveal what new drugs might kill them.

It's fair to say the inspirational microbiologist has done just as much to illuminate science itself.
With her signature pink hair - something of a statement that scientists aren't all old men in white coats - Wiles has been a force of science communication across blogs, books, podcasts, radio, TV and print.

She has also brought her work at her Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab to animations co-created with Australian graphic artist Luke Harris.

A finalist for Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2018, Wiles grew up in the UK and South Africa, before moving to New Zealand in 2009.


Her fascination with glow-in-the-dark creatures has its roots in being awed by them as a child - but in her University of Auckland-based lab, these bugs have much greater meaning.

"I've always been fascinated by how microbes cause disease, but never one particular microbe, so have worked on all sorts of different bacteria over my career, from food-poisoning bacteria like E. coli to the bacteria that causes the lung disease TB," she told the Herald in 2016.

She has also collaborated on two Cure Kids-supported studies aims to develop a cream for treating Staphylococcus aureus skin infections, which are becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotic in the first-line cream treatment.

The global threat of antimicrobial resistance - which could be killing 10 million people every year by 2050 - is a topic to which she recently dedicated a book.

Wiles remains just as passionate about encouraging more diversity in STEM subjects, remarking in a recent interview that even her appearance had sometimes proven baffling to senior men in science.

"The real question is, what has the colour of my hair got to do with my ability to do science?" she said.

"Absolutely nothing, of course."