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Steve Johnson

Microbiology & Molecular Biology

3132 LSB - Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602


Dr. Steven M. Johnson joined the faculty of the Microbiology and Molecular Biology Department at Brigham Young University as an assistant professor in 2009, the same department from which he received his B.S. in Molecular Biology in 1994. After working for Dr. Raoul Nelson as a laboratory technician at the University of Utah’s Eccles Institute of Human Genetics from 1995 to 1997, Dr. Johnson discovered his love of teaching while pursuing a M.S. (’99) in molecular biology in the lab of Dr. Michael Breindl at San Diego State University. Having decided to stay in academia and become a professor, Dr. Johnson left San Diego for Yale where he worked with Dr. Frank Slack to earn his M.Phil. (’01) and Ph.D (’04) by studying microRNAs and discovering the regulation of the oncogene RAS by let-7 family microRNAs, providing evidence that microRNAs could act as tumor suppressors (Johnson et al, Cell 2005). In 2004, Dr. Johnson joined the lab of Dr. Andrew Fire at Stanford University School of Medicine where as a Fellow of the American Cancer Society (’05-’08) he studied the relationship between DNA sequence, nucleosome positioning, and gene expression; the same topic he and his group are currently researching in his own lab at BYU.

Research Interests

In my lab we study chromatin architecture by looking at nucleosome positioning and its relation to the underlying DNA sequence in the genome, with the goal of learning how to modulate chromatin architecture by subtly manipulating the underlying DNA sequence to regulate gene expression. We are using both in vivo (in live animals) and in vitro (in the test tube) approaches in our studies coupled with ultra-high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies. For these studies we use the nematode worm C. elegans (a common model organism for human genetics and disease). We are also using in vitro nucleosome reconstitution assays to define and test putative nucleosome attractive or repulsive sequences. These sequences can then be tested in vivo in the worm for their potential to regulate genic expression both temporally and spatially in C. elegans.

Because of the highly conserved nature of histone proteins within the domain Eukaryotae and the absolute conservation of the chemical structure of DNA between all forms of life, what we learn from these basic studies in the worm may enable us to subtly manipulate gene expression in human cells and tissues with the potential to overcome the universal problem of gene silencing which occurs with DNA-based disease treatments such as those seen in current applications of gene-therapy.


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, , Stanford University School of Medicine (2009)
  • Ph.D., Molecular Biology , Yale University (2004)
  • M.Phil., Molecular Biology , Yale University (2001)
  • M.S., Molecular Biology , San Diego State Univerity (1999)
  • B.S., Molecular Biology , Brigham Young University (1994)

Honors and Awards

  • Alcuin Fellow, Brigham Young University Undergraduate Education (2023 - 2027)
  • Highly Cited Paper: Johnson, S.M., et al. Cell (2005), Web of Science (2015 - 2015)
  • Highly Cited Paper: Valouev, A., Johnson, S.M., et al. Nature (2011), Web of Science (2015 - 2015)
  • Research Award (Highest Impact Factor Journal Publication), Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology (2011 - 2012)
  • Teaching Award (Highest Students Ratings in a 500-level Course), Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology (2011 - 2012)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Ruth L. Kirschstein-NSRA, Stanford Genome Training Program (2008 - 2009)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, American Cancer Society, Inc. (2005 - 2008)
  • Exceptionally clear and effective poster presentation Award, MCDB Retreat, Yale University (2002 - 2002)
  • 1st Prize International C. elegans Art Show Award, 13th International C. elegans Meeting, UCLA (2001 - 2001)
  • Outstanding Teaching Associate of 1999, Biology Department, San Diego State University (1999 - 1999)
  • Blue Ribbon Protocol Award, American Society of Nephrology Annual Meeting (1996 - 1996)
  • Trustees’ Scholar and Scholarship, Brigham Young University (1988 - 1994)
  • Regents’ Scholarship, gratefully declined, Arizona State University (1988 - 1988)


  • Phi Kappa Phi (2013 - Present)
  • The Genetics Society of America (2011 - Present)

Professional Citizenship

  • Editorial Review Board Member, Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences (2021 - Present)
  • Editorial Review Board Member, Journal of Nanogenomics and Nanomedicine (2012 - Present)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Biology (2018 - 2018)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2018 - 2018)
  • Grant Proposal Reviewer, External, NIH, Molecular Genetics B Study Section, GGG (2017 - 2017)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, PLoS ONE (2017 - 2017)
  • Grant Proposal Reviewer, External, NIH, Pathogenic Eukaryotes Study Section, PTHE (2015 - 2015)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Nature Communications (2014 - 2014)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2013 - 2013)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2012 - 2012)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Nature Structure and Molecular Biology (2012 - 2012)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2011 - 2011)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, BMC Genomics (2010 - 2010)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2010 - 2010)
  • Reviewer, Ad Hoc Reviewer, Genome Research (2009 - 2009)

Courses Taught


John Lawrence Carter Harlan Stevens Perry G. Ridge Steven Michael Johnson Jonathan L Gal Nolan R Cole Dennis Lee Eggett Steven M Johnson John L Carter Colton E. Kempton Emily D.S. Hales Steven M Johnson Nancy R.C. Wilson Ollivia J. Veatch Steven M Johnson David A. Bates Charles E. Bates Andrew S. Earl Collin Skousen Ashley N. Fetbrandt Jordon Ritchie Paul M. Bodily Steven M Johnson K Adams Kelly Scott Weber Steven M Johnson D K Arens T S Brady J L Carter J A Pape D M Robinson K A Russell L A Staley J M Stettler O B Tateoka M H Townsend K V Whitley T M Wienclaw T L Williamson Steven M Johnson Julianne House Grose John L. Carter Rafael Morales Steven M Johnson Kelly Scott Weber Laura Clarke Bridgewater Jamie L Jensen Donald Philip Breakwell Brent Nielsen Steven M Johnson K. R. Kieffer-Kwon K. Nimura S. S. P. Rao J. Xu S. Jung A. Pekowska M. Dose E. Stevens E. Mathe P. Dong S. C. Huang M. A. Ricci L. Baranello Y. Zheng F. T. Ardori W. Resch D. Stavreva S. Nelson M. McAndrew A. Casellas E. Finn C. Gregory B. G. St. Hilaire Steven M. Johnson W. Dubois M. P. Cosma E. Batchelor D. Levens R. D. Phair T. Misteli L. Tessarollo G. Hager M. Lakadamyali Z. Liu M. Floer H. Shroff E. L. Aiden R. Casellas Colton E. Kempton Kelly Scott Weber Steven M Johnson Kelly Scott Weber Jamie L Jensen Steven M Johnson Colton E Kempton Justin R Heninger Steven M Johnson George Locke Devorah Haberman Steven M Johnson Alexandre V. Morozov Anshul Kundaje Sofia Kyriazopoulou-Panagiotopoulou Max Libbrecht Cheryl L. Smith Debasish Raha Elliott E. Winters Steven M Johnson Michael P. Snyder Serafim Batzoglou Arend Sidow Michael Snyder Debasish Raha Steven M Johnson Elliot E. Winters Arend Sidow Ziming Weng Cheryl Smith Philippe Lacroute Philipe Cayting Anshul Kundaje Anton Valouev Steven M Johnson Scott D. Boyd Cheryl L. Smith Andrew Z. Fire Arend Sidow Steven M Johnson A. Valouev J. Ichikawa T. Tonthat J. Stuart S. Ranade H. Peckham K. Zeng J. A. Malek G. Costa K. McKernan A. Sidow A. Fire Steven M Johnson Steven M Johnson F. J. Tan H. L. McCullough D. P. Riordan A. Z. Fire F. Moreno-Herrero R. Seidel Steven M Johnson A. Fire N. H. Dekker A. Esquela-Kerscher Steven M Johnson L. Bai K. Saito J. Partridge K. L. Reinert F. J. Slack Steven M Johnson H. Grosshans J. Shingara M. Byrom R. Jarvis A. Cheng E. Labourier K. L. Reinert D. Brown F. J. Slack S-Y. Lin Steven M Johnson M. Abraham M. C. Vella A. Pasquinelli C. Gamberi E. Gottlieb F. J. Slack Steven M Johnson S-Y. Lin F. J. Slack X. Ma T. Husain H. Peng S. Lin O. Mironenko N. Maun Steven M Johnson D. Tuck N. Berliner D. S. Krause A. S. Perkins


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Steven M Johnson Anton Valouev Scott Boyd Cheryl Smith Arend Sidow Andrew Fire
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