STEMM PROFILE: Michelle Wheeler | Freelance Science Journalist, Professional Writer | Perth | WA

2010 WAN STAFF CADET JOURNALISTS Michelle Ridley
Michelle Wheeler

“Share your research with the world! PhD students and early career researchers often have the best and quirkiest science stories…”

Michelle Wheeler is a former science and environment reporter for The West Australian newspaper and has been published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Science, the Countryman, WA Today, suburban newspapers and more. These days she is a freelance journalist, writing for both science publications and the mainstream media. Michelle also helps science organisations communicate their research to the world and runs media training workshops for scientists.

Michelle’s work has seen her drive to the remote Square Kilometre Array site in a 2WD Hyundai, stand on a boat following a great white shark attack to check shark detectors are working and spend a day on a tiger snake-infested island dubbed the most dangerous in the world by Sir David Attenborough. She has been in a boat crash while meeting isolated tribes in the Malaysian jungle and has interviewed Nobel Laureates, Buzz Aldrin, Richard Branson and Ewan McGregor.

Michelle previously spent several years performing shows and teaching lab classes at Scitech, and connecting high school teachers with researchers at The University of Western Australia. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, Marine Biology and Science Communication, and a Postgraduate Diploma of Journalism.

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful scientist?

Curiosity and passion. I’ve lost count of the number of very successful scientists I’ve interviewed who start talking about their research with “I really wanted to know what would happen if…”. And passion for your work will show and will make other people want to get on board.

What advice would you give early career researchers in science today?

Share your research with the world! PhD students and early career researchers often have the best and quirkiest science stories of interest to the media. If you’re not sure where to start, chat to the media or communications officer in your organisation.

What is your ideal holiday – and do you work on your holiday?

An exotic adventure. I recently travelled around the world in 88 days and I’d love to track down the Lysepsep people in the jungles of Vanuatu. I usually try to keep my work and home life very separate but I almost always do some work on holiday writing travel stories.

What inspired you to science? Have you always liked science? What do you love most about science?

I love that every day I get to speak to really smart, interesting people and ask them lots of questions about how the world works. I’ve never come across an area of research I didn’t find fascinating.

How do you cope with self-doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

Very poorly. All suggestions welcome!

Follow Michelle on Twitter: @sci_journo


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