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Black History Month
2023 Honoree

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John H. Johnson Jr.

John H. Johnson Jr.

Assistant Professor

The Ohio State University

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Dallas, TX. My dad, who passed several years ago, was a lab technician at a medical school for many years. After retiring, he became a school bus driver for many more years! He was also a pastor and minister. My mom was a hospital nurse and a school nurse. Even though she is retired now, she is still very active.

My K-12 education was through the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas’s public school system), mainly through the magnet school program. I earned a BS in Applied Mathematics at Texas A&M University (Gig ’em Aggies!) and a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Howard University (the real HU!). I’m in my second year as an assistant professor at The Ohio State University. However, I’ve been at my current institution for ten years in various positions (postdoc, calculus design coordinator, faculty/staff hybrid) before that.


Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

I don’t know if I have a singular experience. Like many people, I view my journey to mathematics as an accumulation of many small (positive, negative, and neutral) experiences that contributed to the mathematician I am today. 

On the more positive side, when I was in elementary school (maybe 4th or 5th grade), I stumbled on a calculus book in my local public library. The symbols, graphs, and pictures all looked very mysterious and intriguing. Up to that point, I thought all of math was about arithmetic! Of course, at that stage, the calculus book didn’t make any sense, but it made me realize there was more to math than I knew.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

Just the diversity of roles and positions I have inhabited in the mathematical community. It gives me a unique perspective on how my particular institution/department operates and the broader mathematical community. This broader view is one of my “superpowers” and, I believe, makes me a more effective and empathic mentor and teacher.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

My dad telling me soon after my son was born, “Now you know what it is all about!”


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

I learned this point of view from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD): think of your career (and life) as a book with many chapters. With some planning and a community of folks that care about you, sustain you, support you, encourage you, and push you when needed, you’ll be surprised at where your story takes you.