Lissah Johnson ’15

She found chemistry with the University of Redlands

Lissah Johnson ’15 arrived at the University of Redlands in Fall 2013 and fell in love with its small campus and friendly, supportive community.

“Some of my fondest memories include sitting outside of my chemistry professors’ offices doing homework with my classmates and interacting with the professors,” says Johnson, who now works as a chemist for the California Department of Public Health in Richmond.

At Redlands, Johnson learned the theory of chemistry, experienced its practical application in the lab, and broadened her knowledge and skill through hands-on research.

Senior year, she participated in an interdisciplinary research project that encompassed environmental science and chemistry. Working with Rebecca Lyons, assistant professor of chemistry, and Wendy McIntyre, professor of environmental studies, Johnson studied phosphorus levels in water samples taken from lakes in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. Phosphorus overload can contribute to algae bloom and other problems, she says.

The project allowed her to practice analytical and modeling skills, and to use GIS to help determine the source of the phosphorus—whether it arose from pesticide use or housing septic systems. Last December, she presented her research at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Johnson says. “At other schools you are lucky to get undergraduate research experience. At Redlands, it’s required.”

While her classes and research prepared her for her chemistry career, Johnson was also urged to think about her social responsibility and how she fit into the world.

“I found that Redlands develops the whole student—not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Students are encouraged to think beyond just themselves.”

Johnson took this philosophy to heart, combining her passion for science with her love of working with children. She volunteered at the Micah House after-school program, an experience she credits with cementing her belief in the importance of making science and education accessible to all children.

Overall, her experience at Redlands supplied her with the critical thinking, public speaking and collaboration skills needed for success. It also gave her the confidence to grow, tackle new things, and participate in the larger community.

“Redlands helped me to be a more informed citizen, a good teammate, and a valuable asset to a company,” Johnson says.  “It also equipped me to contribute to important discussions happening in society.”