Dr. Phyllis E. Johnson, University of North Dakota vice president for research and
economic development, has been named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Johnson is now one of only six North Dakota University System people so honored, including UNDâ€™s Dr. William Sheridan, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Biology.
In his appointment letter to Johnson, Alan Leshner, CEO and executive publisher of Science, the AAASâ€™s international journal, says, in part, â€œYou are being honored for distinguished contributions to leadership of agricultural research, particularly for national and international leadership on policy issues related to scientific collections as critical research infrastructure.â€
Johnson will be in Washington next month to receive her Fellowship certificate and rosette during the AAAS Fellows Forum, a part of the Associationâ€™s annual meeting.
Fellows are elected by the AAAS Council annually from its membership for scientifically or socially distinguished efforts on behalf of the advancement of science.
Johnson was named the VP for research and economic development by UND President Robert Kelley in mid-2009; she started at UND August 1 of that year.
Johnson, a Grafton, N.D., native who grew up in Grand Forks and earned degrees from UND, came to the University from her position as a research associate with the Smithsonian Institute, where she worked with scientific policy. She also was adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland College Park.
Until 2008, Johnson served as director of the Beltsville Area for the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ€™s (USDAâ€™s) Agricultural Research Service, a post that included responsibility for the flagship Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), the largest and most comprehensive agricultural research center in the world.
There, Johnson managed a broad range of research, from entomology to genomics to remote sensing. She was responsible for a $135 million budget and staff of 1,200, including more than 300 doctoral-level scientists.
Johnson led USDA in biofuel and biobased product utilization since 1999 and received three White House awards for these activities. Under her leadership, BARC won multiple awards.
Johnson was co-chair of a federal interagency working group developing science policy related to scientific collections as critical national research infrastructure.
Under Johnsonâ€™s leadership, in 2009 the interagency working group released a report titled â€œScientific Collections: Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Federal Science Agencies.â€
Recently, Dr. John Holdren, the Presidentâ€™s Science Advisor, directed federal agencies to implement the recommendations in the report during the next twelve months.
Johnson also participated in the creation of a new international organization, Sci-Coll International, made up of governments and research institutions that hold scientific collections. Sci-Coll will facilitate the international sharing and use of scientific collections, share best practices, and advocate for improved collection management. She still represents the U.S. government on this topic internationally.
Johnson earlier served as acting area director and associate director, Pacific West Area, USDA, ARS; research leader for nutrition, biochemistry and metabolism, USDA ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center; clinical instructor in internal medicine at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences; research chemist and research leader, Grand Forks HNRC; and a lab instructor at the University of Mary, Bismarck.
Johnson earned her bachelorâ€™s degree in chemistry from UND in 1971, her doctorate in physical chemistry from UND in 1976, and did postdoctoral work at the Grand Forks HNRC.
Johnson is active in community and national organizations and was the first woman to be named president of a Sons of Norway district.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, founded in 1848 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.