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Kennita JohnsonDr. Johnson earned her BS in physics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar. She completed her MS in medical physics and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. Dr. Johnson conducted postdoctoral research at the NIEHS before joining the UNC-NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. She started as a research associate and laboratory manager, then a research assistant professor, before moving to her current position on the tenure track.

She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the North Carolina A&T State University’s Chemical, Biological and Bioengineering Department, where she teaches a class each spring. Dr. Johnson’s laboratory focuses on using biomedical imaging to investigate diabetic kidney disease and maternal health issues, which disproportionately affect the black population. She correlates various ultrasound techniques with microscopy to quantify abnormalities in physiology caused by disease or loss of organ function.

How do you identify yourself?

I am a Black woman scientist, engineer and teacher. I am smart, creative and innovative. I am funny, nurturing and inspiring. I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend and mentor.

List three things that people would be most surprised to learn about you.

1. I went to Sidwell Friends for elementary and middle school: it’s the same school that Chelsea Clinton and the Obama children attended (clearly, not at the same time as me).
2. How much I cry: I cry at the usual things: when I’m upset, angry or frustrated. I am pretty empathetic so I cry when others are sad. But, I also cry when I’m happy, proud, inspired, and grateful.
3. All my allergies: I took an environmental allergy test and was allergic to everything on the list. There are a bunch of foods I can’t eat: red meat, white meat, mushrooms and eggs. I’m sure I’ll be adding to the food list.

Whom do you admire and why?

Drs. Condoleezza Rice and Mae Jemison. Dr. Rice is not only extremely intelligent but is magnificent at any job she does in such a male-dominated field. I also admire that she is accomplished outside her field of work as a concert pianist and figure skater. I got a chance to see Dr. Jemison speak as a freshman in college. It changed my worldview. She talked about how the world and its resources do not have to be a zero-sum game. One country does not have to lose so that another can win. She was talking about how African countries are often stripped of their natural resources by more industrialized countries who then turn those resources into wealth. There is enough wealth for all. I have adopted this philosophy for all things.