Megan Johnson is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate with a concentration in air quality engineering. Johnson, who grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., is advised by Dr. Fernando Garcia Menendez. She’s researching how smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires impacts air quality and human health. This year, she received a Graduate Research Innovation award from the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and was awarded a Science to Action fellowship through the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Adaptation Science Center.
What influenced you to go into engineering?
Megan Johnson: I have always found it fun to solve problems and thought that engineering would be the best way to pursue my interests in environmental issues. When it came down to choosing a major, I realized that I wanted to use my academic strengths in a way that could have a tangible, positive impact on the environment.
What problem(s) are you trying to solve? Why were NC State and CCEE a good fit for you?
MJ: CCEE and NC State are highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environments, which I find to be ideal for doing this type of research. The CCEE department is one of the friendliest and most intellectually stimulating places I have ever worked. The professors are open and approachable, and that makes all the difference to me as a graduate student.
Where did your passion for this particular focus come from?
MJ: I have been interested in air quality since I was an undergraduate student — I had a great summer research experience and things just took off from there — and wildfire and climate change issues were, and continue to be, at the forefront of daily life in my home state of Colorado. Looking back at my previous academic and working careers, I realize I was always finding ways to incorporate these topics into my work.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
MJ: I hope to continue working in the space between air quality, land management and wildland fire. I
enjoy working on management-related science, communicating my research to broad audiences, and I am also interested in science policy. I hope that I will be doing something that can bring all of these interests together.