Kristina M. Johnson Receives Society Of Women Engineers' Highest Honor

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) announced today that Kristina M. Johnson, dean of Duke University’s Edmund T. Pratt School of Engineering is the recipient of the 2004 SWE Achievement Award, the highest award given by the Society for her outstanding contributions to the field of engineering for more than 20 years. Johnson received the Achievement Award in recognition of her contributions to optoelectronic processing systems and liquid crystal devices.

"SWE has a 50-year tradition of honoring and recognizing outstanding female contributors to engineering through its highest honor, the Achievement Award,” says Vi Brown, president of the Society of Women Engineers. “Dr. Johnson’s career and accomplishments exemplify the impact women have had on the field of engineering. With this award, SWE celebrates Dr. Johnson’s lifetime of contributions to engineering and commends her successes.”

Before joining Duke University, Johnson served as professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she was a leader in interdisciplinary research on optoelectronics – a field that melds light with electronics. Her research and projects provided the University of Colorado approximately $42 million in grants and contracts. Her research and teaching included holography, which is the creation of three-dimensional images with light wave interference patterns, along with optical and signal processing, liquid crystal electro-optics and affixing a novel variety of liquid crystals to silicon to create new types of miniature displays and computer monitors.

In 1994 Johnson helped found the Colorado Advanced Technology Institute Center for Excellence in Optoelectronics. She also co-founded several companies including ColorLink Inc., KAJ, LLC, and Southeast Techinventures (STI). ColorLink makes color components for high definition television and other image projection devicesutilizing the polarization, or vibrational, states of light. KAJ, LLC is an intellectual property licensing company that assists new firms using technology pioneered at the Optoelectronics Computing Systems Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. STI is a technology acceleration company for commercializing intellectual property developed at Duke and other universities in the South East.

In 1999 Johnson joined Duke University to become the first woman dean of the Pratt School of Engineering in the school’s 60-year history. Under Johnson’s leadership, Pratt has hired 30 new faculty, tripling the number of women tenure-track faculty from five to 15. Research expenditures have quadrupled since 1999. Johnson has helped raise more than $210 million for the school, which assisted in tripling the research and teaching space for engineering through the completion of the 322,000 Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) facility in 2004. CIEMAS is a unique interdisciplinary partnership between engineering, medicine and applied sciences. Home to no single school or department, CIEMAS supports research initiatives in bioengineering, photonics, biologically inspired materials and integrated sensor systems, as well as the undergraduate innovations laboratory. Johnson also established the Pratt Undergraduate Research Fellows program to provide undergraduates with the opportunity to conduct intensive research side by side with engineering faculty. She believes that programs that give students “out of classroom” experiences such as independent research opportunities, study abroad and industrial internships are essential for revealing leadership in graduating engineers.

"I'm not surprised that Dean Johnson has been recognized by the Society of Women Engineers,” said Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University. “In addition to her pathbreaking research achievements in optoelectronics and photonics, she has been a teacher and academic leader of singular power. She has been a dynamic and visionary dean of our Pratt School of Engineering and a role model for women engineers not only at Duke, but across the nation. I am delighted by this latest recognition of our contributions to engineering and to society."

Johnson holds 44 patents and more than 140 refereed journal publications. She is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a winner of the 1993 International Denis Gabor Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Modern Optics. In 1994 she received the Photonics Spectra Circle of Excellence award for her invention of a new form of liquid crystal display. In 1995 she was given the Colorado Technology Transfer Award for her work with industry and in 2001, the North Carolina Award for Infrastructure development from the Center for Entrepreneurial Development. Most notably, in 2003 Johnson was inducted into the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame.

Johnson earned her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Additionally, she served as a NATO post-doctoral fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and as a Fulbright faculty scholar in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The SWE Achievement Award was formally presented Friday night, October 15 at the Society of Women Engineers’ National Conference Achievement Awards Banquet in Milwaukee, Wis. The National Conference, “Engineers Leading Change,” was held at Milwaukee’s Midwest Express Center October 14-16.