The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Marian Johnson-Thompson

Molecular virologist, research director, and professor Marian Cecelia Johnson-Thompson was born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 9, 1946. She grew up in Rivera Beach, Florida. After graduating from high school in 1956, Johnson-Thompson enrolled at Howard University and graduated from there with her B.S. degree in microbiology in 1969 and her M.S. degree in microbiology in 1971. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in molecular virology from Georgetown University Medical School in 1978.

Upon graduation, Johnson-Thompson was hired by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) where she became a Professor of Biology in 1995. She also served as an adjunct professor of Pharmacology at Georgetown University, and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Botany at Howard University. In addition, Johnson-Thompson held appointments as a visiting scientist at the Lawrence Livermore Radiation Laboratory, and as a molecular virologist at the National Cancer Institute. In 1992, Johnson-Thompson was appointed as the Director of Education and Biomedical Research Development for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). While there, she developed K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs as well as minority training programs. Her major initiatives include the Bridging Education, Science and Technology (BEST) Program, Advanced Research Cooperation in Environmental Health (ARCH) program. Her publications include over forty-five articles, book chapters and abstracts that focus on training, mentoring, and developing public policy to advance underrepresented groups in STEM fields. In 2004, Johnson-Thompson was named Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Sciences at UDC and she began serving as an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of NC-Chapel Hill.

Johnson-Thompson served as chair of the NIEHS Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects. At the national level, she served as a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Subjects Research Advisory Committee and the Trans-NIH Human Microbiome Working Group. Johnson-Thomson is a life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the International Congress of Black Women. In 1978, she was a founding member of the National Network of Minority Women in Science.

Her awards and honors include the Alice C. Evans Award from the American Society for Microbiology in 2004 for her contributions to the advancement and full participation of women in microbiology. Johnson-Thompson was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology in 1998 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2001.

Marian Johnson-Thompson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 7, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.112

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/7/2013

Last Name

Johnson-Thompson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Cecilia

Schools

Georgetown University

University of Maryland

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Marian

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

JOH43

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

To whom much is given, much is required.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

12/9/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Durham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Molecular virologist Marian Johnson-Thompson (1946 - ) , Director of Education and Biomedical Research Development for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of the District of Columbia.

Employment

National Institute of Health (NIH)

University of the District of Columbia

Pharmacology Dept., Georgetown University

Lab of Bio Chemistry, National Cancer Institute, NIH

Howard University Department of Botany

Space Sciences Div, General Electric

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:470,4:850,10:2275,31:2750,40:18225,245:18615,252:19005,259:22060,333:26980,368:27980,380:31020,413:33100,459:35540,470:36618,488:37080,495:39005,532:41353,544:42973,553:43459,560:43864,566:44998,591:45727,602:46051,607:46699,616:47185,624:47833,634:54210,675:54735,681:57400,706:62520,761:62800,781:66020,860:67070,878:67840,891:68820,912:69450,924:77804,974:78124,980:84210,1027:85762,1047:86150,1052:86829,1060:92802,1161:93146,1166:93748,1175:96338,1216:96586,1221:98074,1265:102574,1338:104988,1362:106878,1413:111288,1441:111792,1448:112296,1455:114410,1476:117091,1518:118968,1541:119298,1547:120882,1570:123279,1604:123849,1617:131788,1697:132508,1714:132868,1730:135028,1780:135532,1789:136108,1800:138556,1852:139132,1861:145058,1905:145642,1914:147912,1947:151775,2009:152150,2015:154250,2065:155000,2077:156575,2103:156950,2109:157400,2116:158525,2131:159425,2144:161900,2150:162280,2157:163572,2180:165548,2212:167810,2247:168614,2261:172100,2312:173822,2341:182144,2439:184394,2454:185014,2466:192610,2606:193170,2615:194690,2646:195170,2654:195810,2663:199650,2701$0,0:1308,14:2228,20:2964,29:6828,75:15155,169:16208,181:18270,190:19103,210:19740,225:23102,261:24134,274:24564,280:25338,291:28262,342:31358,450:31702,455:38325,509:39297,522:40269,536:41079,547:42375,565:43185,577:44076,591:49517,618:50750,629:55580,673:58053,682:69129,827:70407,854:71330,864:71756,871:77830,936:79530,945:80330,958:81290,980:81690,986:82010,991:83210,1007:85806,1021:86358,1026:89045,1045:89505,1050:91680,1060:92344,1069:93423,1075:94336,1093:95996,1127:99688,1150:100072,1158:103208,1227:104232,1254:104488,1259:104872,1267:107958,1279:108456,1286:108788,1291:110282,1324:110697,1330:112772,1364:113104,1369:115096,1400:115511,1406:124170,1503:126291,1538:127402,1550:127806,1555:131994,1577:134505,1639:135900,1656:136830,1669:137667,1680:140550,1731:140922,1736:141573,1744:145324,1767:147235,1772:148816,1822:149374,1829:156694,1903:157318,1912:158254,1926:158566,1931:162856,2017:163324,2024:163870,2035:164806,2050:165118,2055:168150,2060:170620,2088:172710,2150:179862,2245:180454,2255:181046,2265:181638,2271:182156,2279:182526,2285:183858,2313:184450,2323:185412,2337:185930,2345:186226,2350:186522,2355:187262,2366:187780,2374:192842,2411:195194,2442:195782,2451:201174,2537:201795,2558:202071,2563:202554,2572:205176,2638:206418,2662:211116,2694:216662,2764:217047,2770:217509,2779:218279,2792:224750,2896:225362,2909:226382,2934:226722,2940:228354,2973:229238,2990:229986,2999:235645,3052:236880,3065:237450,3077:237830,3082:241440,3103:242105,3111:249220,3177:249628,3184:250036,3191:254226,3246:254636,3252:255374,3262:258654,3307:260622,3347:261360,3357:261852,3365:262590,3377:268567,3486:268955,3491:270022,3504:273662,3540:273934,3545:275575,3551:276335,3560:277475,3574:277855,3579:279090,3591:282370,3615:283618,3712:284866,3730:285958,3748:288500,3758:289095,3767:289775,3776:291748,3788:299063,3851:299647,3860:300450,3875:301837,3891:307604,3979:319265,4075:322100,4131:325099,4146:327578,4206:328449,4225:328717,4230:330660,4268:330928,4273:332880,4279
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marian Johnson-Thompson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her mother's family background - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her mother's family background - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her mother's growing up in Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her father's education and his employment at the USO in Galveston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her father's medical training

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her father's medical practice, his death and the help that she received from his friend

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her siblings, and living with her father in Clewiston, Florida, in the first grade

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about spending her childhood in Boston and Florida, and her parents' complicated relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about starting school in Boston, Massachusetts and Clewiston, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about being aware of her parents' complicated relationship as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her experience in the fourth grade in Miami, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her experience in grade school in Clewiston, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about living with her stepmother, and her father's death in 1961

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her experience in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her father's microscope, and her extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about applying to Howard University, and her stepmother's denial of her family's inheritance

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her experience at Howard University and talks about her godparents

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her teachers and scholars at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about HistoryMakers LaSalle Leffall, Georgia Dunston and Agnes Day at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about HistoryMaker LaSalle Leffall at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about anthropologist Montague Cobb, the rise of Black Power in America and the civil rights era in the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about pledging Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and how it helped her to improve her academic performance at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the political activism at Howard University in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her decision to pursue a master's degree in microbiology at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her master's thesis research on the ultrastructure of the fungus, Neurospora crassa

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about being appointed as an instructor of biology at the University of District of Columbia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Georgetown University - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Georgetown University - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her doctoral dissertation work on the effect of 5-azacytidine on Simian Virus 40 DNA replication and conformation

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson discusses the eradication of smallpox in 1979

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) as the place where she advanced scientifically

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about meeting her husband

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her involvement in teaching and administration at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC)

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her involvement with the National Network of Minority Women in Science

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about teaching part-time at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the etiology of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about becoming a full professor at the University of the District of Columbia and her research and teaching roles

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her appointment as Director of Institutional Diversity at the NIEHS

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes the NIEHS Advanced Research Collaboration for Environmental Health (ARCH) Program

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the Environmental Justice Program, and the importance of standard guidelines for research on human subjects

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about research on the Epstein-Barr virus in Uganda

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about the awards and recognition received for her career's work

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about microbiologist William Hinton and the controversy surrounding his will - part one

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about microbiologist William Hinton and the controversy surrounding his will - part two

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Marian Johnson-Thompson reflects upon her life's choices

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about Henrietta Lacks, HeLa cells, and author, Rebecca Skloot

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her involvement with mentoring

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$8

DATitle
Marian Johnson-Thompson describes her decision to pursue a master's degree in microbiology at Howard University
Marian Johnson-Thompson talks about her involvement with the National Network of Minority Women in Science
Transcript
So, well, back to--now, in the world of microbiology. Now, were you poised to go to graduate school when you were a senior [at Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia]?$$No, I was not, at all. Sad to say, I was like the rest of my fellow female students at the time. I was going to get married. That was all that was important. And of course, several friends had already identified their wedding dates. And I was going to be in a wedding in July. So, this guy, the law school graduate who was graduating from law school, you know, he really cared about me. And I kind of forced him into agreeing that we would get married. But he kept telling me that he would probably be drafted, and which he was. And so, we got engaged. He bought me a ring before I left, before he left. But I wanted to get married right then, you know. I couldn't understand why we couldn't get married, and then he would go to Vietnam. And so, I was probably very, very upset about that, that I couldn't get married. And he was trying to, he was a very logical person, you know. "We'll get married, we'll come back." So I said, "What am I supposed to do, just stay here and wait?" He said, "No, you can go out and have friends." I said, "I can go out with other people?" Well, he was kind of stupid, too, because he said, "Yes." So, that's what I did. And when I did that, I realized I was not ready to get married. And so, being the honest person that I was, I had to write and tell him. Of course, he was in Vietnam. So, I got my phone call to say, "Just put that ring back on, and forget you ever told me this." So, anyway he came home, and so it was a real big breakup. No--but, so when he decided, when he--when I realized I wasn't going to get married and he was going to Vietnam, I decided I was going to stay at Howard and work on a master's degree. So, that's how I ended up going to graduate school.$$Okay. So did they, was cost a factor? Were you, did you get a scholarship?$$I got a small scholarship. But, and I should say--I had, I had several job offers. I often tell the young people today, being a microbiology major with a B.S. degree--I had two government job offers--Food and Drug [Administration, FDA], [U.S.] Department of Agriculture [DOA]. I had a job offer with Bristol Laboratories.$$This was just with a B.S.?$$Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. They had actually flown me and my girlfriend up there for an interview. My girlfriend, Brenda, the one who has Alzheimers, she was a microbiology major, too. We did the same thing. We were really close friends. She ended up going to work for Food and Drug. And I went to graduate school.$$Okay.$$To work on a master's.$Well, tell us about Minority Women in Science. And what--now, when was it founded and who--$$So, it was founded in, I think it was 1978. And it really came out of the work of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS. The Directorate for Education in Human Resources, which was and is still headed--Do you know Shirley Malcolm [also a HistoryMaker; science education advocate]? Did you do Shirley--$$Yes.$$Okay, okay. So, at that time it was headed by Shirley Malcolm. And Shirley's division was interested in increasing opportunities for minorities, women and the disabled. And so, she put together a group of women--she and Yolanda George--put together women to look at the participation of minority women. She, she wrote 'Double Bind.' I don't know if you, do you remember that? She wrote 'The Double Bind', okay.$$Just, just tell anyone watching. What is the "Double Bind?"$$So, the Double Bind was a document that Shirley Malcolm put together, along with some assistance from AAAS, to talk about the barriers that prevented minority women from excelling in science. And so, that it was not just the gender issue, being a female, but it was also--well, it's--works both ways. It's not just being a minority, but it's also being a woman. And before that time it was like well, you know, women have these issues, and minorities have these issues. And so, for the first time, it was really focused on the fact that minority women are in a double bind. They have the race and the gender issue. And an interesting side note to that, is that working with Shirley and being president of Minority Women in Science, I got a chance to go around the country and talk a lot. In fact, that's how I met Mary Frances Berry. We were on the same panel here, at UNC [University of North Carolina] Chapel Hill. And I know at that time--well, she hasn't seen me since, but I was probably identified by Mary Frances Berry--because you know how she is--as just a lame brain in terms of what was really going on. Because at the same time that we were there for that panel, the students at UNC [University of North Carolina] had erected these shanty towns--these, they called them shanty towns. And they were living in the middle of campus in these housing units that resembled, I guess the houses in South Africa, because they were protesting against apartheid. So, Mary--so, the people that told us about it--because that was going on--and so Mary Berry said, "Well, let's go over there." And of course, at the time I really didn't know what was going on, because I was a bit a naive. And I sort of paved along behind her, and she was doing all the talking. And I'm sure she just thought I was just a, you know, just not--very ignorant about issues. That was one reason why I said I wanted to send her a note and tell her thank you for that book. She probably won't remember the time that we were on the panel together. But in any event--So, that's how I got involved with Minority Women in Science. And we started--the first that I know of--at that time in 1979, we had science discovery days on a Saturday, on Saturdays, for district resident middle school students. And we brought them in and had them attend these workshops where various scientists engaged in hands-on activities. Of course, the idea was to introduce them to what we now call STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] careers, at a very early age. But this was the very beginning of this whole--what we do now--when we talk about engaging students at a very early age. Because with this focus that we had at UDC [University of the District of Columbia, Washington, District of Columbia] on engaging minority students, it then became an issue of engaging women at an early age. And so now, I mean that's the buzz word, you know, engaging students.$$And this was in the early '80s [1980s]? This is--$$It was, this was 1979--$$1979, okay.$$--when we had our first Science Discovery Day.$$Okay, okay.$$Now the organization is not as active. I think they still have the Science Discovery Days, but it's not as active. In my estimation, it doesn't make the same impact as it did then, because there's so many different organizations now doing the same thing.