2015 ACS Fellow Award – John J. Johnston

Contribution to the science/profession:
Recognized for the development of probabilistic risk assessment models to estimate the impact of environmental contaminants on humans and wildlife.

Contribution to the ACS community: Served as Chair of the Division of Agrochemicals (2008) and currently serving as Chair of the Committee on Chemists with Disabilities.

Dr. John Johnston is the Scientific Liaison for USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), where he identifies the chemical and FSIS microbial food safety data priorities, develops research approaches to generate the required data, and facilitates collaborations to effect the desired research.

John earned his BS in Food Science from Rutgers University, PhD in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida, and an MBA from Colorado State University. After earning his PhD, he was a postdoctoral research toxicologist at the Pesticide Chemistry and Toxicology Laboratory, University of California – Berkeley (1986 – 1988). His research addressed the in vivo and in vitro metabolism of prototype insecticides by rats, rat hepatocytes, rat liver microsomes, and house flies.

In 1988, he became Residue Chemistry, Metabolism, and Environmental Fate Study Director for Ortho Agricultural Chemicals Division, Chevron Chemical Company. There he developed new/improved analytical methods and designed/supervised studies for US EPA agrochemical registration studies. In 1990, John was a research scientist for the California Public Health Foundation, Department of Health Services where he developed LC/MS and GC/MS methods to isolate and identify metabolites of toxic chemicals in human urine. These methods were used to develop non-intrusive methods to quantify human exposure to toxic substances. His research was recognized by the ACS Young Scientist Research Award.

John moved to FSIS in 1991 where he honed his analytical skills by developing and validating methods for the detection and confirmation of drug and pesticide residues in meat and poultry. In 1994, John became Chemistry Research Project Leader, USDA National Wildlife Research Center. He led the metabolism and environmental fate, wildlife genetics (molecular biology), research and method development, exploratory chemistry, formulations chemistry, laboratory safety, analytical services, and QA/QC units. In addition to conducting research, his group provided analytical support for pesticide residue data which conformed to EPA and FDA GLP Standards.

From 2008 – 2010, John served as a FSIS Senior Risk Analyst, where he designed and conducted risk assessments to estimate public health risk for chemical hazards in foods. These risk assessments provided emergency response recommendations for chemical hazards in foods as well as a foundation for the development of USDA food safety policy. He routinely provided guidance and recommendations on chemical toxicology issues to FSIS and USDA senior management.

Over his career, John has authored 126 peer-reviewed journal articles and served as PI on $6.7M in outside research funding. He has been appointed to adjunct faculty positions at Colorado State University, University of Wyoming, Colorado School of the Mines, and University of Colorado-Denver and has mentored 4 post-docs and co-directed 7 grad students. He has served as an expert reviewer for numerous program and granting agencies.

John has been active in ACS for nearly 25 years. He has organized and chaired 27 symposia at national ACS meetings. He has also held numerous positions in AGRO including Chair, Vice-Chair, Program Chair, Treasurer, Chair of the Education Committee, Student Poster Competition Judge, Co-Organizer Peru Distinguished Lecturer Series, ACS Symposium Series Editor, and Member of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Editorial Advisory Board.

This year, John became the Chair of the ACS Committee on Chemists with Disabilities. As Chair, he hopes to apply the leadership skills developed during his tenure in AGRO to this important ACS committee and cause.

Upon reflecting on his involvement in ACS, John is most fond of the relationships that are afforded by active involvement in the Society – both professional relationships and long-time friendships. Being active in the ACS has given him numerous opportunities to apply chemistry skills to agriculture, environmental science and food science – facilitating an enjoyable and rewarding career as a scientist.