James Johnson

PhD Student (co-advised with Nathan Price)

I am a Bioengineering PhD student at the University of Washington, co-advised by Sean Gibbons and Nathan Price at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB).


Raised in Texas, I earned my BS in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University, where I engaged in biochemical engineering research projects such as working to develop convective PCR mobile healthcare diagnostics and tuning bioreactors for carotenoid hyper-producing yeast under Victor Ugaz and Katy Kao. The great mentorship and experience I received while in the lab fueled my interest in engineering research. Soon after, I was offered a full-time position as a R&D Associate Engineer in Global R&D at PepsiCo. I seized this opportunity to learn more about research and working in global teams at a large Fortune 50 Company, where I developed a career in managing technical projects and scaling-up various processes for billion-dollar food brands like Lay’s and Doritos. Leaving “the chips on the table,” after three years of growing, learning, and a promotion, I decided to leave PepsiCo and begin the journey back to school with the Bioengineering PhD program at the UW in Seattle so that I could return to clinically impactful research. During my search for programs and labs, I explored the most interesting bioengineering topics I could find, and I became fascinated with systems biology and looking at human health as a system of inputs and outputs–a framework taught to me during my chemical engineering studies.


Now as a graduate student in the Price-Hood Lab and Gibbons Lab, my interests have led me to exploring computational systems biology in topics spanning the human gut microbiome, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, I am interested in learning more about bile acid metabolism and associations between Alzheimer’s disease, age, and the gut microbiome. I want to combine computer science, biochemistry, and engineering to answer questions at the nexus of microbial ecology, human health, scientific wellness, and age-related disease.


When I am not researching and studying, I enjoy drawing and painting, cooking, trying new food and music, traveling outside the country, walking around beautiful Seattle, and spending time with my family and friends.