New management, changes planned

By Katherine Klingseis,

After searching the entire nation, the U.S. Department of Energy‘s Ames Laboratory has named Duane D. Johnson the chief research officer.

“I’m excited about the future [of Ames Laboratory],” Johnson said. “I think we have a great opportunity to build an even stronger Ames Laboratory, which will make an even stronger impact on Iowa State.”

Johnson was born on the Johnson Air Force Base in Japan. As a child, Johnson and his family moved around a lot. When he was in high school, the family settled down in Dayton, Ohio.

Johnson earned his doctorate in physics in 1985 from the University of Cincinnati. After graduating, Johnson did a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Bristol, England; and a National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Johnson began working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997, and worked there for 13 years. At UIUC, Johnson served as the Ivan Racheff Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

“My main research area is computational material science and theory,” Johnson said. “I basically develop new theories and computational techniques in order to predict material properties and/or to explain experimental characterization.”

Among his many research areas, Johnson is interested in developing new materials of hydrogen storage for vehicles. He is also interested in catalytic chemistry, and developing thermodynamic capabilities to explain how to design alloys.

“I’m a theorist, so I go into a computational lab instead of an experimental lab,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s research, coincidentally, overlaps with many projects the Ames Laboratory is currently working on. However, Ames Laboratory is very experimental, whereas Johnson is very theoretical.

“With the experimentalists, I speak their language, but I speak the language in several different areas, so that overlap with a number of groups is really a strength when coming in as the chief research officer,” Johnson said.

As the chief research officer, Johnson hopes to develop research programs with more national labs.

“By developing stronger ties with other national labs at other universities, it will certainly grow your research budget and become more prominent in the national scene,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be moving to Ames soon with his wife, Cindy; daughter, Francesca; and son, Connor.

“Iowa State has a great reputation,” Johnson said. “It’s just very quiet and in the middle of the United States, and what I would like to see happen is more and more people think about, ‘Hey, Ames and Iowa State is a great place to be,’ and I think that’s beginning to happen.”

(Originally posted on on July 19, 2010)

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