Johnson has received international attention for his applications of scientific computing to problems in medicine. He heads the University's Scientific Computing and Imaging Research Group.
Through the Presidential Faculty Fellow awards, the President annually recognizes young faculty members who demonstrate excellence and promise both in scientific or engineering research and in teaching at the college or university level. Each award carries a National Science Foundation grant of $100,000 per year for up to five years.
The fellowships rank among the most prestigious awards in the American scientific community. Fellows receive the NSF grants through their nominating institutions, but may be called upon periodically to contribute advice and service to the U.S. government and otherwise to represent the diversity of talent among college and university faculty.
Johnson's research team specializes in geometrical modeling, numerical analysis, large-scale computing, and scientific visualization. The team is developing computer models to interactively investigate bioelectric fields with the goal of allowing scientists and engineers to develop bioelectric devices more easily and efficiently.
A University of Utah faculty member since 1990, Johnson is the first Utah professor honored as a Presidential Faculty Fellow. He previously received awards from the National Institutes of Health, IBM, the Whitaker Foundation and Siemens Corporation. In 1994, he was named an NSF Young Investigator. He is currently co-director of the University's Computational Engineering and Science Program, director of the Access program, and associate director of the Medical Physics Program.