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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 28, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 32
Top Engineering Honor to Go to Provost Kristina Johnson

Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

John Fritz Medal will be awarded at ceremony on May 5 in Washington

By Phil Sneiderman

Kristina M. Johnson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, has been selected to receive the John Fritz Medal, widely considered the highest award in the engineering profession. The honor, established more than a century ago and given to such innovators as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Westinghouse and Orville Wright, will be awarded to Johnson on May 5 by the American Association of Engineering Societies.

The medal will be presented during the association's 29th annual awards banquet and ceremony, to be held at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington, D.C.

"I am thrilled and extremely humbled to receive this award," Johnson said. "This is really special because it recognizes inventors, and I am happiest when inventing. It is made even more special by the fact that the 1906 recipient was George Westinghouse, who my grandfather, Charles Johnson, worked directly for as an engineer in the 1920s."

A master plaque for the John Fritz Medal states that the award was established by the professional associates and friends of John Fritz of Bethlehem, Pa., on August 21, 1902, "to perpetuate the memory of his achievements in industrial progress."

Since then, the medal has been presented almost every year for scientific or industrial achievement in any field of pure or applied science. The association said Johnson is being honored for "her internationally acknowledged expertise in optics, optoelectronic switching and display technology."

With more than 140 published articles, Johnson is known for pioneering work in "smart pixel arrays," a field that has applications in displays, pattern recognition and high-resolution sensors, including cameras. She holds 129 U.S. and international patents and patents pending and is a co- founder of several start-up companies. She also sits on the boards of directors of Mineral Technologies, Boston Scientific Corp., AES Corp. and Nortel Networks.

Throughout her career, Johnson has received a number of professional honors for her work. She was named a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator in 1985 and a Fulbright Faculty Exchange Scholar in 1991. She subsequently received the Dennis Gabor Prize for "creativity and innovation in modern optics," Colorado and North Carolina Technology Transfer Awards and the Society of Women Engineers Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.

In 2007, Johnson was elected a fellow of SPIE, an international society of scientists and engineers working in optics and photonics, the science of light. She also is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Optical Society of America.

Johnson graduated from Stanford University in 1981 with bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. She earned her doctorate at Stanford in 1984. From 1985 to 1999, she was on the faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder, ascending to the rank of professor. From 1993 to 1997, she directed a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Optoelectronic Computing Systems, run jointly by Colorado and Colorado State. From 1999 through 2007, she served as dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. Under her leadership, the Pratt School experienced significant growth in both size and quality.

On Sept. 1, 2007, Johnson became the 12th provost at Johns Hopkins and the first woman to hold the university's second-ranking position. In addition to her duties as chief academic officer, Johnson holds an appointment as a professor in the Whiting School's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.


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