Jan 23, 2018 10:00 AM
Minna Roh-Johnson, PhD, has recently joined the University of Utah School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, Roh-Johnson graduated with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. She then moved to the United States for her PhD work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and carried out her postdoctoral studies first at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and then at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. During her postdoctoral work, Roh-Johnson was a recipient of an NIH F32 postdoctoral fellowship, a Cooperative Center of Excellence in Hematology Award, and an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. She joined the faculty of the University of Utah in January 2018.
Early in her research experiences, Roh-Johnson developed an obsession with how cells move. During her PhD, she investigated the cell biological and biophysical forces governing cell migration in developing organisms. Her work detailing the progressive linking of a contractile network to neighboring cell shape changes during morphogenesis was featured in The Scientist, Faculty of 1000, and Science Magazine. She subsequently looked to understand how developmental paradigms regulating cell motility are recapitulated in disease cells. Focusing her attention on tumor cell metastasis in living animals, she discovered a unique form of cell-to-cell communication between macrophages, a known tumor infiltrate, and tumor cells. Her work describing how macrophages “spill their guts” to tumor cells during metastasis was highlighted in multiple journals, including being selected as an Editor’s Choice in Science Magazine. Roh-Johnson has strived to use unconventional methods to understand how cells talk to each other in the context of a living animal. At the University of Utah, due to Roh-Johnson’s experience in multiple animal models as well as cell culture systems, her lab uses complementary approaches, taking advantage of the strengths of each system to answer outstanding questions in cancer cell biology.
In addition to her research focus, Roh-Johnson is committed to creating diversity in the scientific community. She has previously been involved in programs providing research opportunities to under-represented students, and will continue to promote diversity and inclusivity in her lab and community at the University of Utah.