A second-grade science fair project on how
people prefer to have their teeth pulled offered senior Destinee Johnson '14 a
glimpse of her future. The new graduate is currently working on her master's degree at Stanford University in California. She was just awarded a 2015 Teaching Fellowship from the Knowles Foundation, joining a 5-year cohort of other STEM teachers.
“I love going to the science fairs
and winning,” Johnson said with a grin.
The Anderson, S.C.,
native’s projects have of course evolved over the years, from a project on
plants to her current research, in which she has spent the last two years
studying cellular copper regeneration. In addition to being a biochemistry major graduate, Johnson was also a McNair scholar,
service learning coordinator in the Honors Association, president of Omicron Delta Kappa, an Emerging
Leader and a West Center fitness instructor. She also completed a WISE
internship, where, as a summer intern, she assisted science teachers in local
schools and worked on a research project.
But it was
Johnson’s dedication to her field that earned her an invitation to
the competitive DOW-MIT Access program, where she spent her October 2012 Fall Break learning about graduate school opportunities in science, the
admissions process and funding education, applying for fellowships, exploring
career paths, looking into the Cambridge/Boston area and networking with other
students from across the nation.
Johnson’s adviser and
professors encouraged her to apply for the program. Days before, while waiting
for news on if she had been accepted, Johnson said she had told a room mate how
she needed to buckle down this year, in terms of study habits and course
“To get this just helped me realize I am on the right
track,” she said, adding that she plans to work even harder.
As much as she loves science, Johnson actually intended to pursue a
dance degree at Winthrop. However, after talking to professors during
Orientation, she switched to science.
“I took general
chemistry [with Dr. Nick Grossoehme], and I loved the class,” she said. “He
encouraged me to look at chemistry. It was a good fit and it all worked
In the summer of 2013, Johnson was doing double-duty: studying abroad in Italy for an international teaching experience and then participating in undergraduate research in chemical education at Miami University in Ohio. She will blog about both experiences.
Johnson knows she will eventually pursue a doctorate
degree and plans to apply after graduation, but is also open to the many paths
in which science can take her. She is considering teaching, researching or
becoming an patent lawyer, although it seems as if teaching will win
“There’s so much you can do in this field,” she said.
“I’ve always had a passion for research. I’ve always had a passion for teaching.
I tutor on campus. …That way, I can combine both my passions.”
Last updated 6/10/15