2020 SciCon keynotes and speakers








Robin Millar:

Robin Millar is Emeritus Professor of Science Education at the University of York.  Following a BA in Natural Sciences (Cambridge) and a PhD in medical physics (Edinburgh), he trained as a teacher.  He taught physics and general science for 8 years in comprehensive schools in Edinburgh before moving to a lectureship at York in 1982.  He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1990 and to Professor in 1996.

He taught for over 30 years on the science initial teacher education programme and the undergraduate and masters’ programmes in education, and supervised over 50 masters and PhD projects in science education.  His main research interests are in teaching and learning science (especially physics) at secondary school level, science curriculum design and development, the role of practical work, and the assessment of science learning.

He has directed several large research projects, including the Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge in Science (PACKS), and Evidence-Based Practice in Science Education (EPSE) projects, both funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council).  He has published over 100 articles and chapters in academic and professional journals and edited collections in science education.  He also played a leading role in several major curriculum development projects in England, including Salters’ GCSE Science, AS-level Science for Public Understanding, A-level Science and Society and Twenty First Century Science GCSE.

Robin Millar was President of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) from 1999-2003, and of the UK Association for Science Education in 2012.  He was a member of the Science Expert Group (SEG) for the OECD PISA studies in 2006 and 2015.  In 2008, he was awarded the Bragg Medal of the Institute of Physics, and in 2017 was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute.  In 2015 he was made an OBE for services to science education.


Siouxsie Wiles:

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles studied medical microbiology at the University of Edinburgh, UK and then did a PhD in microbiology at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxford. She spent several years working at Imperial College London where her research won the inaugural UK award for the humane use of animals in scientific research. In 2009, Siouxsie was awarded a Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and relocated to the University of Auckland, where she heads up the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab.

Siouxsie also has a keen interest in demystifying science for the public; she is a tweeter, blogger, podcaster, In 2017 she published her first book, ‘Antibiotic resistance: the end of modern medicine?’, and recently collaborated with her daughter to make a kid’s show about microbiology.

Siouxsie has won numerous awards for her science communication efforts, including the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize, and Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Callaghan Medal. She was one of three finalists for the 2018 Kiwibank New Zealander of Year award and this year was appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to microbiology and science communication.


Dr Cather Simpson: 

Cather Simpson is a Professor of Physics and Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland.  There, she founded the Photon Factory, a multi-user laser and microfabrication facility that provides advanced laser technology to all NZ researchers – academics, CRIs, industry and school students. Cather’s research explores how molecules and materials convert light into more useful forms of energy. Agriculture is a recent focus, where her work has led to two international award winning companies. Recent accolades include the 2019 Pickering Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand, a Silicon Valley Forum 1st-place AgTech medal, and in 2016 Simpson was named Primary Industries Champion, Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur and the BNZ Supreme Research Commercialisation winner. She is an Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence award winner, a Fellow of both the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, and is the former President of the New Zealand Institute of Physics.  Currently, she splits her time between a position as Engender’s Chief Science Officer and her Professorial appointment at the University of Auckland.


Professor Juliet A. Gerrard, FRSNZ, HonFRSC

Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor

Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua ki te Pirimia

Professor Juliet Gerrard trained at Oxford University, where she completed a First Class Honours degree in Chemistry and a DPhil in Biological Chemistry.

In 1993, she moved to Aotearoa New Zealand, as a research scientist at Crop & Food Research. She was appointed as a Lecturer in Biochemistry at the University of Canterbury in 1998, where she became Professor and Co-Director of the Biomolecular Interaction Centre.

In 2014, she moved to the University of Auckland as a Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Chemical Sciences and later the Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Science.

Juliet’s research covers a broad base and is interdisciplinary, cutting across biochemistry, chemistry, health, agricultural and food science and biomaterial design. It also incorporates a full spectrum of fundamental and applied research.  She has held an Industry and Outreach Fellowship with Callaghan Innovation and founded a start-up company.

Juliet has over 150 publications, as well as three books. She won a National Teaching Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching in 2004 and played an increasingly governance role in the research sector, including as Chair of the Marsden Council and a Director for Plant & Food Research, prior to her appointment in 2018 as the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.