Virologist Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto from Keele University has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the inaugural King’s Birthday Honours list for services to public communication during the Covid-19 pandemic.


She become a key national voice on radio and television, offering expert advice on Covid-19 and answering questions from people across the UK.  

Dr Forrester-Soto spoke extensively to the media throughout the pandemic, conducting more than 500 interviews with local, national and international media, sharing her expertise on virology and the latest news concerning Covid-19, reaching over 60 million people, as well as answering questions from the public while working closely with the University’s communications team. 

Reassuring the public

As well as regular appearances on national outlets including Sky News, BBC News, and BBC 5 Live, she also held a weekly phone-in on BBC Radio Stoke, answering listeners’ questions about the pandemic and the science behind the Covid-19 virus, testing, and vaccines, to help reassure the public and help them make sense of the complicated science dominating their lives and the news cycle.  

Dr Forrester-Soto earned praise from across the media throughout the pandemic, with many esteemed broadcasters describing her as a ’friend of the show’ and commending her for providing a reassuring voice throughout a turbulent period in our shared history.  

Dr Forrester-Soto said: “Speaking in the media was a privilege and I hope that in some small way I reduced people’s concerns and enabled them to weather the ups and downs of the pandemic better.”  

Huge contribution

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Keele University, said, “I am absolutely delighted that Naomi’s huge media contribution during the Covid pandemic has been recognised by this award.  Naomi unstintingly devoted a huge amount of time to media engagement work during the pandemic.  

“She excelled in communicating often complex science to millions of people in a clear and balanced way that really engaged and resonated with the public at what was a very challenging, uncertain and unsettling time for so many people in society.”     

Stuart George, presenter on BBC Radio Stoke, whose show featured Dr Forrester-Soto’s weekly segment, added: “Naomi dedicated more than 50 hours to talking to listeners on the radio, and spent time beyond that finding answers to listeners’ questions.  She was not paid by the BBC for her time. Listeners were full of praise for her insight.   

“Her commitment to the listeners is unparalleled. Without Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto speaking to them each week I feel many people in Staffordshire and Cheshire would have felt more concerned and less informed about Covid and its impact.”