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NIMBioS Postdoctoral Fellow Profile: Nels Johnson

Q&A with Dr. Johnson

N. Johnson photo. Hometown:  Virginia, USA
Field of Study: Statistical Ecology

What is your field and why does it inspire you? / Why did you choose this field?

I call myself a statistical ecologist or ecological statistician depending on my mood. My training and background is in statistics, which I entered because I loved mathematics and was very proficient at it, but I also wanted to be doing more practical work. In graduate school I enjoyed collaborating with researchers in the biological sciences to the point where I was flooded with novel modeling and statistical opportunities found in their data, but never had the opportunity. I thought, why not be more like them?

Describe your current research.

I research statistical models for communities of organisms. Questions I focus on are: Do the demographics of communities impact the output of a community? What kinds of redundancy exists in communities? Can we tell what demographics of a community we will attract based on other factors?

What is the biggest obstacle to achieving your objective(s)?

Data is the limiting factor.

What do you like best about your work?

I like thinking about it as a puzzle that no one else has figured out before. And even when others have, I get satisfaction out of challenge.

What is the best professional advice you ever received?

Make time for your health, physical and mental.

What is the most surprising aspect of your work?

It's wide application area beyond ecology.

Who is your #1 hero and why?

I don't like the idea of a #1 hero. I feel like if someone was your number #1 hero, they should exhibit the best qualities to emulate in life. But nobody is perfect, and the "best qualities" depend on context. Given this imperfection, the person I most want to emulate doesn't exist yet. Instead, I prefer the idea of a hero who is a mixture of the people who have contributed positively to my life. Some people I weight highly are my parents, my 7th grade history teacher, my Scoutmaster from Boy Scouts, my euphonium tutor, and a few of my friends from college, grad school, etc.

What do you do when you're not in the lab or out in the field?

I rotate through a lot of hobbies, as I'm interested in a lot of things. I seem to never get bored of swimming, yoga, video/board games, film, and music.

Nels Johnson's Postdoc page

Main NIMBioS Postdoc page

1122 Volunteer Blvd., Suite 106
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-9334
FAX: (865) 974-9300
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NSF logo. NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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