UMBC’s Anthony Johnson, pulse laser innovator, elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Published: Apr 22, 2021
(Anthony Johnson, right, in his lab. Photo by Marlayna Demond 11 for UMBC.)

Anthony Johnson, professor of physics and computer science and electrical engineering, and director of UMBC’s Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research (CASPR), has received the prestigious honor of election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Academy, founded during the American Revolution, honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and”—in the words of its original founders—“work together ‘to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.’”

Being elected as a member is one of the highest honors a scholar can receive. The Academy has elected approximately 13,500 members since its founding in 1780.

The Optical Society also recently recognized Johnson’s more than 40-year career in photonics and his commitment to mentorship with the Stephen D. Fantone Distinguished Service Award.

Anthony Johnson. Photo courtesy Anthony Johnson.

High-impact research

Johnson joined the UMBC faculty in 2003 after launching his career at Bell Labs and then spending eight years at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In his research, he works on creative applications for ultrashort pulse lasers. These have included shrinking cancerous tumors, optimizing long-distance communications, preventing viruses in seafood from causing food-borne illness, and developing new nanoscale materials. 

Mentoring emerging researchers has also been a key priority throughout Johnson’s life and career, and he is well known for his dedication to students and colleagues. “Anthony understands the role of nurturing students, helping them to find their inner spring and to fulfill their potential and their own personal dreams,” says long-time colleague and friend Stephen Fantone.

Commitment to the next generation

At the same time that Johnson received the Optical Society recognition, he was also named to the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion on the Technical Advisory Board of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Having benefited as an undergraduate from an internship focused on opportunities for people from underrepresented groups in physics, Johnson has always prioritized diversifying his field.

“There’s still a lot to be done in our professional societies to build up and attract both women and minorities,” Johnson told UMBC News for a story on the Optical Society award. “We still have work to do to expand the opportunities to a broader set of people and bring in new ideas.”  

President Freeman Hrabowski is the only other person at UMBC who has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Anthony Johnson is a true pioneer, and he has had a profound impact on the world through his research and teaching,” Hrabowski says. “What’s especially significant is his deep commitment to guiding, supporting, and inspiring the next generation of scientists. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”

Banner image: Anthony Johnson, right, with students in his laboratory. Photo by UMBC.

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