I’m a Malaysian freelance science journalist based in Kuala Lumpur.
You can call me Yao Hua, or just Yao if you find the vowels too sticky. My PhD supervisor who can’t speak Chinese went with ‘Yao Wa’ for a while before he nailed it at ‘Yao Hoo-a’.
My last name/surname is ‘Law’.
You likely don’t care, but know this: I love to eat durians and to watch insects.
I have been a science journalist since 2014. Most of my stories concern the environment and/or human health. I write for print and online publications – find my stories here.
I have also produced and presented radio shows for BFM89.9, an English radio station in Malaysia.
Before 2014, I got my PhD (insect cannibalism, anyone?) from UC Davis and taught and researched in Universiti Putra Malaysia for three years (I miss teaching in classrooms!).
I’ve been lucky enough to have won several awards for my stories.
In 2019, I won first prize in a pitch competition organized by Swiss health organization SantéPerSo to report on precision medicine in Southeast Asia.
And in 2020, I won the One World Media Award (Print) for my story on snakebites in Indonesia. The same year, Macaranga was awarded a Pulitzer Center Rainforest Jounalism Fund grant to produce my stories investigating forest-use in Peninsular Malaysia.
For 2021, I will be neck-deep investigating forest-use in Peninsular Malaysia as a fellow of the Rainforest Investigations Network with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
In July 2019, I partnered with veteran environmental writer Wong Siew Lyn to start and run Macaranga, a journalism portal that provides in-depth, analytical features on environmental issues in Malaysia.
Within its first year, Macaranga has won recognition and support by conservationists, policy-makers and the general public in Malaysia and beyond. Story grants from the Pulitzer Center and the Earth Journalism Network also helped!
Writing’s really fun and gratifying. My first and foremost passion though, is teaching. I have been teaching in schools since 2001, then in lecture halls and biology labs, and now mostly through workshops and seminars.
I have gone from teaching mathematics and Chinese to 9-year olds, to behavioral ecology to college kids and to sharing my experience on freelance science journalism with aspiring writers in Southeast Asia (serious imposter syndrome for me!).
I wish I can go on learning, practicing, and teaching forever.