Mary Katherine Raymond Johansson ’91 Delivers 2018 Dunne Lecture

Mary Katherine’s presentation on April 5th was titled, “From Reed Class of ’91 to Developing Pro-Fluorescent Assays at a Biotech Startup”. Mary captivated her Reed audience with her personal and chemical history that spanned three decades, multiple generations of the Raymond and Johansson families, and research projects ranging from 15N NMR to protein photophysics.

Mary told her story chronologically beginning with her early days as a Reed offspring on campus that still lacked the “new” chemistry building. Both of her parents (Raymonds) are Reed alums, chemists, and academics. Her Reed career culminated in a most unusual off-campus thesis conducted at Caltech under the direction of Prof. John D. Roberts (thesis title: “An investigation of T1 and nuclear Overhauser enhancement of 15N in histidine”). Tom Dunne, who had taught chemistry to both of Mary’s parents many years before, served as Mary’s academic advisor throughout her Reed career and personally shepherded her unorthodox thesis request through all of the ‘old Reed’ administrative hurdles.

The next “chemistry” step for Mary was graduate school at the University of Colorado with photochemist Josef Michl leading to a Ph.D. which gave her considerable hands-on experience constructing experimental apparatus. The confidence that came from this training paid off well. After a productive biochemistry postdoc Sweden, Mary returned to California for her first “real” job. She became employee #17, and also the entire R&D department of biochem startup, Biosearch Technologies (Novato, CA), where she soon produced results on fluorescence quenchers that were both publishable and patentable.

Sweden also marked a turning point in Mary’s personal life. She arrived there a Raymond, and left as part of another family, the Johanssons (if you’re interested in looking for Mary’s research publications, there are four pre-2001 papers published under Raymond; newer publications carry the Johansson label). Mary and her husband still live in the San Francisco Bay region with their two children, a son and daughter. And, who knows, perhaps their offspring will attend Reed someday too?

A post-seminar photo:

rom L, Alan Shusterman, Ron Sato, Arthur Glasfeld (back row), Juliane Fry, Tom Dunne, Mary Johansson, Miriam Bowring (front)

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