Johnson’s goal is to attend medical school and become a primary care physician in a rural area.
A native of Detroit, he chose Michigan Tech because the small size of the university and community appealed to him. He found the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences so helpful. He visited Tech many times and participated in a Summer Youth Program. “I could see myself being part of the Michigan Tech community,” he says.
He worked with Greg Miodonski, a graduate student in Qinghui Chen’s lab. They studied the effect of exercise training on cardiovascular function in animals. Chen is a professor of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology and an affiliated professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering.
The research investigated how exercise impacts the function of small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) of rodents. It aimed to assess whether exercise could augment SK channel function in normotensive and hypertensive rats and, consequently, sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure.
“Christian was an invaluable assistant, and his Cool Hand Luke demeanor will be missed,” said Miodonski. “Working with rodents is challenging and can be intimidating, but Christian took to the rodents immediately. Unlike exercising humans, exercising rodents poses several challenges. Mainly, rodents are poor listeners and don’t follow instructions too well. This means that exercising them requires diligence, focus, and lots of patience. Christian exhibited all of these qualities. Some undergraduate assistants require a lot of mentoring and instruction before gaining autonomy, but not Christian. A quick study, he handled obstacles exactly how I would have and impressed me at every turn. Christian also aided me with recording blood pressures in conscious rodents. This is challenging and requires constant attention for many hours. Here again, Christian exceeded expectations.”
In addition to research, Johnson immersed himself in many activities at Michigan Tech, including the Blue Key National Honor Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta—the National Health Pre-Professional Honor Society, the Pavlis Honors College, the Pre-Health Association, and Sexual Assault and Violence Education. He also worked as a writing coach in the Michigan Tech Writing Center, served as a resident assistant, and worked in various other mentoring roles. Christian found time to serve as an active volunteer for Dial Help. He also recently had a piece of his creative writing published.
This summer, he studied at the University of Stirling in Scotland, where he took courses to fulfill major requirements for his English degree.
“When I heard that I received the Provost’s Award, I was shocked,” Johnson says. “Hearing all of the work I have been putting in and my accomplishments being read aloud; picking up the plaque; and shaking Dean Kampe’s, Dean Southerland’s, and President Koubek’s hands is a moment I will never forget.”
Johnson is currently applying to medical schools. Being from Detroit and living in Houghton, he has had the opportunity to see medical care in both urban and rural settings. Working with Dial Help particularly opened his eyes to the struggles that rural area residents face in accessing resources and being able to see a physician. “That experience made me want to serve rural areas and help with the primary care physician shortages in those areas,” he says.
This blog post initially appeared in the Fall 2022 Biological Sciences Newsletter. Read this article and others like it today.