2019 Faculty Initiative Grant Spotlight: Dr. Joanna C. Hillman

Name and Credentials:

Joanna C. Hillman, Ph.D.


Course Grant is Being Developed in:

BIO 130 (Anatomy & Physiology I)


Other Courses Taught:

BIO 105 (Human Biology), BIO 130 Lab (Anatomy & Physiology I Laboratory)


Faculty Initiative Grant project:

My grant proposal is based on integrating basic pathophysiology into BIO130 in an effort to make the subject matter more clinically relevant and therefore more interesting to Trocaire students. I plan to introduce a pathological condition/disease that relates to the particular unit we are studying and explain how the disease or condition breaks down the normal anatomy and physiology and disrupts homeostasis. Students will also present on a pathology of their choosing following the examples I provide as a template.


How will this project benefit Student Success?

As the student population taking BIO130 are either in, or planning to enter the health professions, I believe providing this clinical connection will make the content less abstract and therefore, more interesting.  It is well documented that we learn better when we are interested in something, and I hope this extra piece will help to increase students’ attention and improve their grades and retention of the subject matter.



I received my associate’s degree in Science from Herkimer County Community College. I went on to earn my BS in Biology from State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, and finally my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from SUNY at Buffalo – Roswell Park Division.  During my bachelor’s degree, I spent a semester abroad at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.


Time at Trocaire:

Since August 2018 (6 months)


Teaching Philosophy:

It is my number one goal as a teacher to instill self-motivation and self-confidence in my students. When my students leave my classroom at the end of the semester I want them to be better equipped for what’s to come next, both academically and in life.  I strive to provide my students the tools that ensure that they are in charge of their own successes and failures. When students take ownership of their own work they can be proud of their successes and improve themselves when they don’t meet their own expectations.


Research/Academic Interests:

I am a molecular biologist by training; my doctoral research project focused on how a particular gene that is normally only expressed in the germline (reproductive cells) can be activated in, and potentially contribute to ovarian cancer.  In addition to my dissertation work I was intimately involved in another project focusing on epigenetics and genomic imprinting, which is an extremely fascinating phenomenon in which genes are expressed differently depending on which parent you inherit them from.  I have co-authored 3 peer-reviewed publications and am in the process of writing a first author manuscript detailing the results of my dissertation work.



  • Received the University at Buffalo Presidential Fellowship
  • Received the Teal Predoctoral Scholarship, funded by the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program, which funded 2 years of my doctoral research.


Hobbies/Interests outside of work:

Spending time with my husband and raising my 2 beautiful children. We have 2 big dogs and 3 cats, so there is never a dull moment in the Hillman household.