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Kerri Johnson: Remarkable Researcher

Student Kerri Johnson in Talley Student Union

When you’re part of a Wolfpack family, why would you want to go anywhere else? Kerri Johnson grew up with alumni parents who instilled in their daughter a love for the university early on.

“I applied only to NC State, got in early and didn’t apply anywhere else because I knew I wanted to come here,” said Johnson. “I wanted a larger school but somewhere where I knew people, and it didn’t hurt that NC State is great for science majors.”

Johnson also held a passion for art and found a research home that combined her interests in the lab of Jennifer Landin, a teaching associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Landin uses biological illustrations to bring science to life for her students.

“The idea behind this research with biological illustrations is that textbook diagrams aren’t necessarily accurate and students don’t always understand what the illustrations teach very well,” said Johnson. “When students were asked to draw a picture of what they thought a cell looked like, there was a huge discrepancy between their illustration and what a cell actually looked like.”

Johnson studied college biology textbooks from 1930 through 2018, while another student surveyed 700 students taking college biology courses to find out what they were interpreting from their textbooks. They presented at the most recent Undergraduate Research Symposium at NC State and are working on a paper to submit to an academic journal.

With a solid background in undergraduate research, Johnson feels prepared to take on what comes next in her scientific journey. She starts studying for the MCAT in the spring and plans on gaining clinical experience before possibly applying to medical school.

“When you’re involved in the sciences, you must know how to conduct research to succeed,” said Johnson. “Being involved with research here [at NC state] has helped me become more motivated and independent, and I really loved being involved with professors who were passionate about teaching.”

Johnson also notes that undergraduate research serves as a great motivator to go beyond one’s comfort zone and find new interests and talents. The motivational factor involved cannot be understated.

“Research prepares you to focus on what’s there and what’s ahead and prepares you to push yourself into new places,” said Johnson. “Graduation symbolizes all of the previous work and learning coming together, but I can’t wait to see where research takes me next.”

Excerpted from the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost News site.