About this site and Joanne Manaster

Science Talk
About Joanne and This Site
Science Books are a Girl's Best Friend!
The Science of Beauty
Gummi Bear Science
Fun Science Videos
Odd and Ends
Whimsical Science
Favorite Make-up Videos
Favorite Book Reviews
Joanne's Educational Garage Sale

2012still1.jpgThis site, born out of what I can best describe as a need to shift my attention to what I do well, is about my passion for science.  I have enjoyed nature and reading about science all of my life.  I started, as a very young girl, by wanting to be an astronomer and abruptly decided that I wanted to be a doctor in 5th grade

When I was 15 years old modeling chose me quite unexpectedly.  I never thought I was pretty or coordinated, but I am grateful to those people who saw a little something in a scrawny, shy girl and worked with it.  Modeling brought me out of my shyness and taught me some valuable lessons and rendered me with a little more poise and grace than I would've had without this experience.  I never became very interested in my looks as an obsession, but learned the rules of style and began to apply them.

As I entered my junior year of college, I realized the pre-med life was not for me.  I discovered that working in research labs was fun and I was quite good at it.I also happened to take a cell biology and histology course and with an incredible knowing, deep down, that this was the material I would focus on and branch out from.  I discovered that I loved teaching, so that became my priority....the fun of lab work combined with the satisfaction of sharing my passion with really bright students.

My research has ranged from working with sewage bacteria (Acinetobacter lwoffi) as a potential oil slick consumer to the effects of acid rain on pine trees in my undergraduate years to studying muscle development in the larvae of Manduca sexta (tobacco horn worm) for my master's degree. Now I work with mammalian cells in culture.  Apparently, I've climbed the evolutionary tree! I started a PhD and soon realized that what I really wanted to do, to teach, did not necessarily require it, so I eschewed the life of a grant-writing researcher for that of a full time educator. 

It's funny how life oscillates.  I began by wanting to view the heavens with a telescope and then ended up looking into the body with microscopes.  I Joanne Manaster Marina Militec with lovely campers from GAMES Bioengineering/Chemical Engineering Camp 2007.jpg started my life by focusing mainly on science and preferring NOT to be seen, to experiencing a world whose main emphasis is image and being larger than life, to withdrawing back into a studious scientific bent and now putting myself once again out in the world, trying to integrate all that I am in my goal of sharing science.  

I want to encourage young men and women to not be afraid of pursuing science for fear of stereotyping yourself as a nerd or geek. In my experience, most every student I meet is extremely well rounded and knows quite a bit about a lot of things, not just science, and some dress quite fashionably within the budget they can long as they don't mind the chance they could spill some hydrochloric acid on their designer jeans!  


The Younger Years




Shy, serious and sweet, at least back then (this is me and my little sister).
I was probably contemplating the fact that
I was limited by things like time, space and gravity and
able to feel pain and frustration.
Why would I be thinking that? 
Well, it turns out that my very first memory
is of climbing that wall behind me and falling
into a few cacti, leading to painful removal of the
cactus spines from my backside...ouch!
Me in 7th grade.  If I can recover from this, anyone can!
I look like I was built only for sitting around and reading science books
and making daisy chains........but don't let the fresh faced innocent enthusiasm fool you,
I hiked through the tropical boonies for hours a day, holding my own
against giant banana spiders, and running away from the occasional wild boar.

The Modeling Years
This is only one of quite a few hundred modeling pictures of me from a while ago.  I worked in Guam, Tokyo and very briefly in New York.  A great way to earn money, but I was so much more excited about science and couldn't wait to go to college!
Funny story: I was eliminated for a toothpaste commercial because I was missing a tooth, but didn't even know it because my teeth were so close together.

 This is not my favorite picture but it comes from the largest campaign I did for Hollywood Salon and Spa in Tokyo, Japan.  My personality at the time preferred that I be a bit incognito so the billboards, commercials, magazine ads and subway signs was a bit unnerving!  I learned that young Japanese girls will run up to you and say "Sign! Sign!" to request an autograph!
So here it is, my very first cover.  I think I did 5 or so for this tourist magazine, but by far, this is my favorite one. The magazine is about 11 X 14" so I could not scan the whole thing.  I DID drink that one told me it was a prop!
Next to it is the table of contents, with a slight variation of the image.

This is a picture from Cocos Island off the south coast of Guam. 

I really liked that you can usually take a glass bottomed boat

to this island and can view the ocean life. 


Two pictures from an outdoor fashion show on Guam.  I loved these clothes; they were so comfortable (100% cotton batik)
 pink_batik.jpg black_batik.jpg

 One more sarong.

This is one of my favorite photos simply because it has my

favorite photographer from Guam, Herman Crisostomo. 

(Great photography skill runs in the family; his brother Manny

is a Pulitzer prize winning photographer) 

Herman and I almost died together in a plane crash. 

OK, not really, but our plane caught fire upon take-off from New York to Dallas. 

Herman said "It's been nice knowing you, Jo!" 

I loved that the flight attendant came by calmly and said

"Oh, sometimes this happens." as if she had just spilled a drink or something!

Can you say "1980s"?  Big shoulder pads!  My bangs weren't scrunched up like a lot of fashion shows I was in, but I think the essence is there!
 jocompfront.jpgSpeaking of the 80s, that side ponytail thing was BIG!  This was the cover of one of several composites I have had made. A composite is a card with several photos on it that you leave when you go on "go-sees" (like an audition, although all you have to do is look pretty, show your pictures, and not talk!) The back has a swimsuit photo and I was thinking I was going to keep those off this website.
 This picture was saved from a fire, that's why it is all mottled.  I was 14 or 15 years old in this picture. I do recall my eyes being dry and irritated from teh fan used for blowing back my hair!  portrait_black.jpg

My Work at the University of Illinois

I currently work as an online course developer/lecturer of science courses for the School of Integrative Biology here at the University of Illinois. This website is my personal site and does not represent the University of Illinois. I am creating courses for the Online Master of Science in Teaching Biological Science. So if you are a teacher looking to expand upon your education, feel free to check out our program. I am in charge of a course on the Human Genome and Bioinformatics and also one on Evolution and Human Health. 

Before this new position as an online course developer, I worked as a laboratory teaching specialist and lecturer at the University of Illinois in Urbana, and did so for nearly 20 years.

Basically, if you want to learn how to do a cell or molecular biology technique, I am able to teach you how, and give you the background information you need to understand it. And I'll probably do it with more humor and enthusiasm than you might expect someone who seriously knows her stuff to do it!

I used to teach histology (studying tissues and organs using a microscope) for the department of Cell and Developmental Biology. This is my area of expertise, hands down.

I also used to teach mammalian cell culture techniques and the concepts of stem cells and tissue engineering in the Bioengineering Department.  Since histology is a fairly static subject, this is how I kept fresh and dynamic with respect to research on mammalian tissues! 

Who are You and Why have you visited this site?


  • You might be big fan of science and have chosen to use it in your current or future career.
  • You may also be a science enthusiast who knowsa lot about science and is always willing to learn more!
  • Deep inside you know science is interesting but somewhere along the way, you became confused by it or decided that science is just TOO hard.
  • You are possibly charmed or intrigued by my personality, style, or the fact that I don't fit the overarching and unfortunate stereotype of a woman in science, and came here to find out more!
  • Who's not visiting my website? People who have given up on science altogether or believe that science must be presented in a stuffy, intellectual manner!



What I know about science and learning 

The findings of science are fun, fascinating, and can ultimately be manipulated and harnessed for practical purposes to improve mankind and the world.

Science has many facts that are very helpful to know. You will be more successful with science if you take the time to learn some of them.
To perform science, there are a few elegant and simple rules to follow and these facts and rules can be easily learned,
  especially if they are transmitted in a fun and entertaining way.

Wanting to learn some science? Here are a few suggestions:

Ask yourself if you have a favorite area of science and read a book about it. I have several great recommendations if don't know where to start.

Feel free to seek out experts in any field you are interested in.

You don't have to learn science just from me or your teachers.

The more enthusiastic your role model, the more excited you will be about science.

Find websites and people that resonate with the way you like to learn new material!

Can you merge science with a topic you are interested in?

Do you like make-up? See if you can understand the chemistry of make-up.

Do you like history? Read about some scientists in the era that most intrigues you.

Do you appreciate the latest technologies? It's easy to find the scientific concepts behind those on geeky websites!

I won't kid you, science does require an element of concentration and studying. 

This may seem overwhelming sometimes, but one can break down bigger scientific tasks to more manageable segments.



Anyone can learn science, but don't expect to learn it all in 5 minutes or 5 days!

Here is the local production of a tour through my lab and a brief talk about stem cells from Parkland Community College and their show Surrounded by Science, click on episode 22

expert science video host, science writer, speaker, and public outreach enthusiast

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