Meet Professor Bruce Johnson: renowned neuroscientist and lead CrawFly instructor

"Follow a passion. Work hard following that passion while keeping aware of family and other social responsibilities that enrich our lives and those around us."

ADInstruments has a long and rewarding history with renowned neuroscientist Bruce Johnson. He helped create our Classroom of Excellence series of CrawFly workshops as well as the new SnailFest workshop, and remains one of the lead instructors at these events. Our own Wes Colgan, Education Product Manager, described Bruce as “a passionate and creative educator.  His commitment to undergraduate neuroscience education is widely recognized and respected in the community. Working with Bruce is always a pleasure, his enthusiasm for neuroscience education is infectious.”

Bruce is Senior Research Associate and Lecturer in Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University where he teaches an undergraduate laboratory course in Principles of Neurophysiology. He earned a B.A. at Florida State University, an M.S. at Florida Atlantic University, and a Ph.D. at Boston University/Marine Biological Laboratory. He is also past president of the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, and chairs the editorial board for the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.

Bruce’s current research examines the neural mechanisms of motor network organization and plasticity that generate different forms of motor activity, using the mouse spinal cord preparation as a model system. His teaching activities focus on neuroscience education, including the development, implementation and dissemination of new tools and techniques for improving undergraduate neurobiology teaching. We spoke to Bruce about how he started out in Neuroscience and what advice he'd give to others considering this career.

Did you always want to work in this field?
I was interested in Biology as far back as elementary school. My “aha” moment for neuroscience came in college when I didn’t have to study hard to remember nervous system physiology - or other aspects of nervous systems – as compared to topics like organic chemistry where I worked very hard for little reward!

What is the best part of your job?
I actually consider a few things the best part of my job - the discovery of new knowledge, appreciating good ideas and good critical thinking, and exciting intellectual interactions with colleagues and students.

Who are your science heroes? Who has inspired you?
My heroes are world-class neuroscientists I have met like Ted Bullock and Eve Marder. But I am also continually inspired by my colleagues and friends, and my children.

What keeps you awake at night?
Aside from anxiety and problem solving? Often considering a new scientific finding of my own, or of a colleague’s -  what it might mean and how to present it to peers and students.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in this career?
Follow a passion. Work hard following that passion while keeping aware of family and other social responsibilities that enrich our lives and those around us.

For you, is your work about the journey or the destination? Do you enjoy the process or the outcome?
I think it’s about both. The journey is the main part of life as a process, sweetened by the positive outcomes now and then.

We'd like to thank Bruce for chatting to us about what motivates him - and you can still sign up for the next CrawFly course to be held in Florida in January to learn great neurophysiology education techniques first hand!