Tracy Johnson to keynote 2017 WWU Scholars Week

The Scholars Week Organizing Committee is extremely pleased to announce that Tracy Johnson will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 WWU Scholars Week (May 15th-19th). Johnson is the Maria Rowena Ross Chair of Cell Biology and Biochemistry and Professor of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Early Career Award in 2006 and selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor in 2014. Her work in biology is focused on three key areas: (i) understanding the molecular details of the spliceosome rearrangements involved in splice site recognition and splicing catalysis; (ii) dissecting how this occurs in the context of transcription, chromatin modification, and other RNA processing events; and (iii) understanding how the cell exploits these mechanisms to respond to its environment.

In addition, Johnson leads a HHMI project called Pathways to Success that gives students from traditionally underserved communities a sense of scientific ownership early on. Students gain confidence in using the tools of science as they help identify molecules that play a role in RNA splicing and become part of a learning community and receive mentoring from their peers, more advanced students, and faculty. The hope, she says, is that the experience will give students the motivation to “work through the hard stuff,” complete undergraduate degrees in the sciences, and perhaps go on to advanced degrees. “We want to change the statistics for not only how many, but also who succeeds.” 

More information about Johnson and her work is available at and   The committee is especially pleased to have been able to secure her as a speaker.

Questions can be directed to the Scholars Week Committee at