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Kurt Johnson, PhD

Kurt Johnson becomes emeritus, continues research

Kurt Johnson, PhD, will assume the title of Professor Emeritus starting May 1. While he may be stepping back from full duties, he will continue to direct the UW Employment Program, the NW ADA Center, and the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program. He will also see some patients on a limited consultation basis.

Johnson’s connection to UW stretches back to his undergraduate days. He received a BS in psychology from UW in 1978, followed by a master of education in counseling psychology in 1979. After attaining his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984, and six years at Florida State University, Johnson returned to UW in 1990.

Since then, Johnson says his work at UW, “has been a mix of extraordinary opportunity and great collaboration. I’ve been able to start the Disability Studies program first with grant money and then with other key faculty members. Mark Harniss now directs that program. A highlight was the exhilarating work with Dr. Dagmar Amtmann when she got the NIH PROMIS grant and we worked together on that pioneering effort! And Dr. George Kraft guided me in establishing a focus on multiple sclerosis and I was able to take over leadership of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on MS as he began to retire.” 

As part of his work with MS, Johnson held the title of Nancy and Buster Endowed Professor in Multiple Sclerosis Research from 2015-2019.

Mark Harniss, PhD, notes that Johnson has been a incredibly productive grant writer and researcher, and has been the PI on $80-90M in grants over the course of his career. Harniss says that Johnson’s work “has been interdisciplinary and cross cutting including assistive technology, accessible communication and information technology knowledge translation, measurement, multiple sclerosis, etc.”        

Johnson was also one of a core group of faculty members who proposed starting the PhD program, and became a member of the PhD Cure faculty, where he brought his expertise in assistive technology and disability studies to the program. Of his work with students, Johnson says, “And students – ranging from undergraduate disability studies students to our own doctoral students and doctoral students in other fields – teaching and mentoring have been so important to me as part of my career.”

Harniss adds, “He’s been an amazing mentor and friend to me and many other graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty. He’s opened doors, provided connections, guided proposal development, hired people on his projects, and offered career advice.”

In the future, Johnston says that he’s going to, “keep doing a little of what I’m already doing as an emeritus professor.  And I expect that my wife and I will keep hanging out with our kids and grandkids, wandering around, exploring and traveling, and chilling at our island place.”

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