Rodney Johnson named ACES associate dean for research

Rodney Johnson's headshot
Rodney Johnson

Rodney Johnson has been named associate dean for research and director of the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His appointment will begin on June 16, 2024, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.

Johnson comes to the role after serving as head of the Department of Animal Sciences for six years and as a productive and engaged member of the department for more than three decades. He also led the Division of Nutritional Sciences as its director from 2009 to 2018. 

Having earned a bachelor of science from Truman State University, Johnson came to Illinois to complete his master’s and doctoral degrees. After postdoctoral training at Iowa State University, he returned to the Department of Animal Sciences as an assistant professor in 1993. Throughout his career at Illinois, Johnson built and maintained interdisciplinary research collaborations with units such as the Neuroscience Program, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Center for Advanced Study, and more. 

Johnson’s group has published nearly 200 scholarly articles with a primary focus on how perinatal insults such as infection, nutrient deficiency, and low birth weight affect brain and cognitive development; and how aging results in inflammation in the brain and deterioration of brain health and behavior. He had a special interest in how infection and diet influence the communication between the immune system and brain. 

He has trained and mentored 28 graduate students, 10 postdoctoral fellows, and dozens of undergraduate researchers. Johnson’s grant portfolio comprises nearly $32 million, including uninterrupted funding from the National Institutes of Health from 1996 to 2023. He has also received funding from numerous commodity groups and industry stakeholders.

With administrative experience leading both the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, Johnson is experienced in strategic planning; managing and increasing research expenditures; overseeing farm facilities; and visioning and implementing interdisciplinary research programs, including Vision 20/20, which spurred the college’s FIRE program

 Dr. Rodney Johnson embodies the spirit of progress and innovation as he takes on the role of associate dean for research at ACES. With a keen focus on advancing society, nurturing food security, safeguarding the environment, enhancing production agriculture, and empowering individuals and families, Dr. Johnson's leadership promises to steer us towards a future where knowledge serves as the cornerstone of societal betterment,” said College of ACES Dean Germán Bollero.Having known Rod for 25 years, I recognize that he is a scientist and administrator of the highest caliber. I look forward to working with him in this role.”

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