UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alan Johnson, former Walther H. Ott Professor in Avian Biology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association.
Recognized nationally and internationally for his four decades of studies on avian female reproduction, Johnson’s pioneering research explored the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie ovarian follicular maturation and selection in birds.
“As a result of his distinguished research career, we now understand the differentiation and maturation of ovarian granulosa cells that are critical to synchronized ovulation and egg-laying,” said Ramesh Ramachandran, Penn State professor of reproductive biology, who nominated Johnson for the fellowship.
Receiving the highest honor the Poultry Science Association can bestow, Johnson noted that his long career has been a pleasure. “The motto, ‘if you love your profession, you will never work a day,’ is one that describes my career,” Johnson said. “Looking at the list of PSA fellows and thinking about their contributions to the field —many of whom I have known and been inspired by over the years — I am honored to be among such esteemed colleagues.”
Author or co-author of 142 peer-reviewed journal articles and 12 book chapters — including a chapter in the four most recent editions of “Sturkie’s Avian Physiology” textbook starting in 1986 — Johnson’s publications are highly impactful and often cited.
Delivering invited lectures at 15 conferences held in North America and Europe, Johnson was exceptionally successful in securing competitive grants continuously over the last 38 years (15 as principal investigator and three as co-principal investigator) from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.
Johnson has mentored seven master’s degree students, seven doctoral degree candidates and 10 post-doctoral associates.
Recognizing Johnson’s outstanding contributions to poultry science, the Poultry Science Association awarded him the Zoetis Fundamental Science Award in 2015.
Johnson, who grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, received a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1972 and a master’s degree in zoology in 1975, both from the University of Vermont, and a doctorate in physiology from Cornell University in 1979.
He conducted post-doctoral research at Cornell before joining the faculty of the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University as an assistant professor in 1981 and rose through the ranks to associate professor and professor there. While at Rutgers, Johnson served as a director of the animal science graduate program for seven years.
He joined the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame in 1993 as a full professor of physiology and a member of the Walther Cancer Research Center. A prestigious Walther H. Ott Professorship in Avian Biology was offered to Johnson at Penn State in 2009, a position that he held until his retirement in December 2018.
–Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State University