Kennita Johnson – Faculty Diversity Award
Research Assistant Professor, Director of Diversity and Equity,
UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering
Kennita Johnson, PhD, received her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar. She performed her graduate work at the University of Florida. There, she earned a Master’s degree in medical physics and a PhD in biomedical engineering. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC, she came to UNC to start her research career path in the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME).
Dr. Johnson began as a research associate, moved to laboratory manager, and eventually became a research assistant professor. At the same time, she explored teaching as an adjunct assistant professor in the North Carolina A&T State University’s Chemical, Biological, and Bioengineering Department, by teaching a course each spring. She is currently transitioning to a tenure-track faculty position in the UNC-NCSU BME department to expand her research on biomedical imaging of chronic kidney disease, which disproportionately affects Black and Brown people. In 2020, Dr. Johnson became the first Director of Diversity and Equity in the UNC-NCSU BME Department. This unique but complex department combines the College of Engineering at NCSU with the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. As the director, she chairs the department’s active diversity committee and has developed internal initiatives to bring undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, faculty, and staff together.
She is involved with several diversity organizations on both campuses, including serving as diversity liaison to the School of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences at UNC. At NCSU, Dr. Johnson serves on the Graduate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, and the Dean appointed her to the College of Engineering’s Broadening Participation Strategic Planning Committee. Her favorite part of her research, teaching, and diversity work is interacting with students through mentoring student research projects, teaching students complex concepts, and talking to potential students about joining her department.