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Juliet Gerrard

Juliet is a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Auckland, a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi, a mother of two, and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

Portrait of Juliet Gerrard. Photo credit: simonyoungphotographer.com/WomanKindWhat do you do on an average work day? He aha tō mahi ia rā, ia rā?

There is no average work day! Since I started this job [as Chief Science Advisor] in July, every day has been different. 

I might be speaking at an event, or writing papers for a meeting with the Prime Minister or a Minister, chatting to school kids involved in initiatives such as the Participatory Science Platform, hanging out in the Beehive, convening the Forum of Chief Science Advisors, visiting Antarctica, watching a kākāpo get released, or who knows what might be next...

What did you study at school? And after high school? I ako koe i te aha i te kura? I aha koe whai muri i te kura tuarua?

By the end of school, just chemistry, physics, biology and maths – but before that some French, history, English and economics. 

Then I read Chemistry at University and did a PhD in Biological Chemistry.

I also completed a couple of papers in feminist studies later on.

Was your study directly related to what you do now? He ōrite tāu mahi i taua wā ki tāu mahi o ināianei?

Yes.  Pretty much everything I have ever done is useful to what I do now – because it is so broad and so varied.

Juliet in the rain

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now? He aha āu kupu hei āwhina i ngā rangatahi wahine e whakaaro ana ki tā rātou mahi mō te wā kei mua i te aroaro?

Do the things that you love, that give you a sense of purpose, and that don’t feel like work.

Let your passions drive you and then find a career that harnesses that energy and lets you be yourself.

Juliet in AntarcticaWhat are some of your career highlights so far? He aha ngā painga o te umanga e whāia ana e koe?

Becoming a Professor, getting a tattoo, getting a National Teaching Excellence Award, becoming a FRSNZ [Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi], my students' achievements - especially a particular PhD student who graduated against all odds - and definitely my current role.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?  He aha a STEM (pūtaiao, hangarau, pūkaha, pāngarau) e whai take ana ki Aotearoa?

It’s fun. It helps us understand the world around us. It helps us solve problems. It helps us seize new opportunities. What’s not to like?!

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? He aha te take me whai wāhi ngā wāhine ki STEM?

It is important to have all sorts of different people working in STEM.  The more different the people are, the richer the pool of experience and ideas to draw on, and the more likely it is that a new idea will be born or an innovative new solution found.  Why would anyone think restricting the ideas to those from half the population was a good idea?

Juliet with her husbandJuliet with her children

Juliet is a Professor of Biochemistry at Auckland, a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, a mother of two, and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua ki te Pirimia.

Photo credits: simonyoungphotographer.com/WomanKind (top portrait), David Doak (Juliet in the rain), Fiona Shanhun (Juliet in Antarctica).

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

Scientists and locals collaborating around a table

Participatory Science Platform

The Participatory Science Platform supports collaborative projects that bring together communities and scientists or technologists on research investigating a locally-important question or problem.

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