Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dialogue with the "Science Goddess"

It was my pleasure to speak with Joanne Manaster (A.K.A. the "Science Goddess") about her passion- Science. 

Do you have a favorite video you have done? 

I have several that I am glad I have done, but my "Blood Cell Bakery" series is one of my favorites for the material shared and the deliciousness of the cookies! I also had great fun filming "Cats in Sinks" as an exercise in describing basic concepts that scientists use, primarily that of using models in science to get to information somewhere between theory and direct experimentation. Involving my kids and one of the family cats at the time was also enjoyable.

Why does Joanne love science?  Why should others love science?  

My site was developed in a time when there were many challenges in my life and during a period of self-examination, I basically asked myself what would NEVER change, no matter the circumstances, and that was "Joanne Loves Science", because I always had, since I was young, found myself fascinated by the wonders of the world and universe. 

As far as others loving science, it certainly would be ideal, but others might contend that people should love "accounting" or "history" or just about any other topic. Even if you are not in a place to love a particular topic, you should have enough appreciation for how the topic works to make it useful to your life. 

What are your thoughts on the new Cosmos?  How does it compare with Sagan's version?

I watched Sagan's Cosmos in high school and really enjoyed it. There was a depth to Carl Sagan that was palpable, and something about him was worthy of looking up to and emulating. He really brought something smart to TV.

I've only seen the first two episodes of the new Cosmos. It is certainly beautiful and full of information. I've heard from science teachers about the enthusiasm it is stirring up among their students, so that is a positive sign!

What is the biggest (or at least one of the biggest misconceptions) misconception about science?

The biggest misconception I encounter is that "Only smart people can do science" or "Only smart people like science". Many people who hold this perception perhaps were surrounded by others (teachers, parents, friends) who didn't like science or felt they 'weren't good at science' when they were young. Kids pick up on reticence like that, especially from their elementary school teachers, many of whom have humanities leanings. These exposures color their view of science and leave them too intimidated to even attempt to engage in science, assuming they won't understand it. Very often, it takes the influence of someone who is interested in science and passionate about it to reverse other input from a person's early years. I think that is what most science communicators are trying to do.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would hope that I can continue traveling the world to do more science outreach. I am beginning to turn my eye towards promoting science as a force for good, much as The Gates Foundation is doing, and may even work on a video series showcasing how science is improving the lives of so many in the world, especially in the developing world, and the special challenges faced to implement scientifically sound ideas and technologies in those areas.

What projects are you currently working on?  Are you modeling any these days?

Modeling is way in the past. It is definitely a young person's field and I don't have time amidst my job and outreach to be hunting after modeling gigs. However, if I were offered an appropriately science themed commercial or PSA, I would consider it.

In addition to my position at the University of Illinois as a faculty lecturer for the Online Master of Science Teaching Biology program for high school and middle school teachers, writing for SciAm, and sharing very cool science with the public on social media, my latest project is one called "Read Science!" where my cohost Jeff and I interview authors of popular science books. Some of our notable guests include Mary Roach, Buzz Aldrin, E.O. Wilson, Temple Grandin and Chris Hadfield. It is such a pleasure to speak to these articulate and intelligent folks who reveal a lot not only about the topic they wrote about, but how to go about communicating to the general public the concepts of science that can be tricky to grasp at times. I am thrilled they will take time out to speak to us!

To learn more about Joanee check out her site Joanne Loves Science