Science and Engineering Staff Key to School’s Success

Winter 2014 | Article by Christina Carr

Michael Johnson

Tulane University School of Science and Engineering is riding high on the momentum of the Physics and Engineering Physics Department, especially the growth of its materials science and engineering program. Meaningful investments in facilities and equipment at the forefront of technology have laid the foundation for advancements in research and discovery.

At the heart of this success is the dedication of Tulane staff members like Michael Johnson.

A New Orleans-native with a PhD in Chemistry from Tulane, Michael Johnson is an instrument specialist/laboratory technician/jack of all trades in the impressive new cleanroom facility in Stanley Thomas Hall.

Chair of Tulane’s Chemistry Department Brent Koplitz has known Michael for almost two decades. Professor Koplitz was his graduate and postdoctoral advisor. From 2005 to 2008, Michael was a postdoctoral research associate at Tulane. He became a technical staff member in 2009.

Michael met Professor Koplitz after graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans with a double major in chemistry and biology. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree, so my professor at Loyola, Dr. Lynn Vogel Koplitz, suggested I talk to her husband at Tulane,” he says.

And Professor Brent Koplitz has made it a priority to keep him at Tulane. “Michael is very adept and his talents are multi-faceted. It’s difficult, but important, to keep such skilled people around,” he says.

Michael revels in his work. He is tasked with repairing and maintaining highly specialized tools and devices of all kinds, such as atomic force microscopy, nanosecond and femtosecond lasers, high and ultra high vacuum systems, and diffraction grating- and interferometer-based spectrometers, among many others. Michael helps Tulane students and faculty learn how to use this vast array of “toys.”

“He is a master at understanding instruments and making sure they work for people,” says Koplitz.

Dean Nicholas Altiero says the Department of Energy funded cleanroom is essential to maintaining Tulane’s competitive edge.

“Turning this facility from a vision into reality has been a team effort. Brent helped bring it to life, and Michael has gone above and beyond to ensure that it’s not only operational, but successful,” says Altiero.

School of Science and Engineering, 201 Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5764