Research Activity

I am currently an advanced-level Assistant Professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida. My work covers three key areas: behavioral health, health disparities, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in research. My qualifications include A) community-based research, B) scholarly productivity, C) high-quality grantsmanship, and D) commitment to teaching and research education.

A. My work leverages interdisciplinary approaches to improve behavioral health in underserved and minoritized communities. I am specifically interested in the relationship between social stress and addiction. My work draws from sociology and community sciences as well as epidemiological theory, methodology, and professional practices. The blend of sociology, epidemiology, and community sciences supports the development of effective community-driven interventions to improve health and reduce disparities. I have extensive experience with community-based research and have built strong relationships with diverse cultures and communities. I have led several community-based interventions, including Youth Participatory Action Research. This interdisciplinary and community-based research agenda aligns with the funding priorities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other funding agencies. Consequently, I have been able to publish and secure funding to advance this work.

B. I have a record of scholarly productivity. In the past four years, I have published over 20 peer-review scientific articles as the first or senior author. My work has been published in several academic journals and has also appeared in ESPN and the New York Times. I have multiple manuscripts and projects in progress at different stages, including a project that explores arts-based research and dissemination as a method to implement and enhance community-based interventions.

C. My academic record demonstrates a strong commitment to grantsmanship. My Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, Doctorate Degree, and postdoctoral traineeship were all externally funded through successful applications and proposals: including the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, and the NIH NIDA T32 mechanism. I have firsthand knowledge of the complete NIH funding process, from reading funding announcements to drafting post-award reports. In August of 2018, I led a field study entitled the Study of Non-Oral Administration of Prescription Stimulants, which collected original data on 1,800 10-17-year-olds across six cities in three of the most populous states in the U.S. My duties included: writing and revising the initial grant proposal and all other documents in the field manual; obtaining IRB; negotiating with the funding agency and the University of Florida; hiring and training 40 raters; supervising the distribution of $54,000 in remuneration; supervising the collection, transport, and analysis of 1,800 written surveys; and leading the authorship and dissemination efforts. During my first year as an Assistant Professor, I secured a $50,000 grant to conduct a pilot study. The next year, in early 2021, I secured an NIH NIDA K01 grant for over $900,000 to quantitatively and qualitatively investigate and disseminate the mechanisms underlying potential racial/ethnic and sex disparities in substance use disorder treatment services among justice-involved adolescents. This K01 proposal was ranked in the top 1% of all proposals that were scored.

A month later, I secured a $1.1 million NIH NIDA R25 research grant to implement the Substance Misuse and Addiction Research Traineeship, which is a trans-disciplinary substance misuse research education program for undergraduate students dedicated to enhancing diversity in the next generation of substance misuse and addiction scientists (PI: Johnson).

A few months later, that same year, I secured a U01 sub-award to pilot the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study’s (ABCD) Scientific Training in Addiction Research Techniques program. The pilot program exceeded expectations and received national recognition. The pilot ends in 2023, and a $1.7M R25 proposal is currently under review –the earliest start date is July 2023 (PI: Johnson). All of these grants are are stepping stones and serve to enhance public health. These activities and accomplishments reflect my commitment to high-quality grantsmanship. For these efforts, I was selected to receive the 2022-2023 Outstanding Research Achievement Award, a university-wide competitive honor.

D. I have nearly twenty years of professional experience with teaching and instructional design. My commitment to teaching and mentoring was inspired by the devoted teachers, mentors, and role models who helped me persevere through difficult circumstances in my adolescent years. I have served as a licensed public school teacher, graduate student teacher, faculty teacher, and teacher trainer. Across diverse courses, my course evaluations consistently reflect excellence in teaching. My student evaluations remained above the departmental average despite teaching courses on race and research methods, which are known to have poor student evaluations. I particularly enjoy teaching Epidemiology, Research Methods, and Community Health Sciences. My teaching philosophy is rooted in evidence and experience. I studied teaching and curriculum design at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. I served as a licensed professional educator for five years in Osceola County, Florida, before entering graduate school. I taught over a dozen courses at the collegiate level. This robust teaching record has allowed me to develop a comprehensive pedagogical toolkit and a finetuned teaching philosophy. In addition to teaching, I am also very passionate about research training and mentorship. I founded four research education programs: the Honors Research Team (2015), the Study of Teen Opioid Misuse and Prevention (2018), the Substance Misuse and Addiction Research Traineeship (2019), and the Scientific Training in Addiction Research Techniques (2021) program. These curricula include cutting-edge teaching and mentoring practices to prepare students and early-career investigators to be successful in research-related careers. These projects help to create a pipeline of highly trained professionals and improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the field. I have received several awards and honors acknowledging my accomplishments in teaching and research education, including the Rollo Award, the Favor Teacher Award, and the 2023 McKnight Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

My record, credentials, and scholarly activities indicate a strong commitment to research, education, and social justice.


Click an image to review select scientific WORKS by Dr. Johnson.

Optimism and Opioid Misuse

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Academics and trauma

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trauma, race, and felony arrest

the paradox of black patriotism

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trauma and suicide ideation

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somatic complaints and opioid misuse

antisocial peers and opioid misuse

substance misuse treatment completion

Police Youth Dialogue

family structure and opioid misuse