Dr. Kennita Johnson, who started working at NIEHS just 18 months
ago, was selected for the Young Investigator Award at the recent
annual meeting of the Society of Toxicologic Pathology.
|Dr. Kennita Johnson
Her poster, "The Evaluation of Cardiac and Other Soft Tissue Abnormalities
in Rat Teratology Studies Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)," looked
at birth defects using non-invasive imaging techniques. The poster
also resulted in a travel award and platform presentation at the
June Teratology Society meeting. She is equally enthusiastic about
her other poster, "Ultrasonic Analysis, A Tool for Early Detection
of Cardiotoxic Lesions: Preliminary Findings."
Johnson's arrival at NIEHS and the Laboratory of Experimental
Pathology coincided with a major emphasis on imaging. Until coming
to NIEHS, she had no experience in animal research; lab chief Dr.
Robert Maronpot said he wasn't sure how it would work to add a
postdoc with a physics background to a group of pathologists. Maronpot
heads the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology. He said it quickly
became apparent that Johnson has a knack for communicating with
scientists from different disciplines. Johnson became an integral
part of the team, reviewing and modifying study protocols, participating
in study management meetings, identifying unique ways to analyze
and present imaging data and taking a leadership role in all of
the lab's imaging efforts.
"She has been extremely productive, working on cutting-edge rodent-imaging
protocols where no two studies are the same," Maronpot said. "She
has shown the potential for micro-x-ray, micro-CT, ultrasound and
MRI imaging modalities as tools for NIEHS researchers — all
this in only 18 months."
Johnson was a Meyerhoff scholar at the University of Maryland,
Baltimore County. The Meyerhoff Program is designed to encourage
minority students to pursue post-graduate science degrees.
Johnson completed her undergrad work at UMBC, and then went to
the University of Florida, where she earned a master's degree in
medical physics and a doctorate in biomedical engineering. As she
neared completion of her doctoral program, Johnson was invited
to present at NIEHS. It was during that visit, she said, that she
first learned that the institute conducts small-animal imaging.
Johnson said LEP staff have been very patient and helpful, tutoring
her in toxicology and pathology. She enjoys the intellectual freedom
afforded at NIEHS, which allows her to develop her own style. Meanwhile,
Maronpot says he is eagerly looking forward to Johnson's continued
work in multimodality imaging.