Professor Clifford JohnsonName: Professor Clifford Johnson

Degree: BSc Physics

Graduation year: 1989

Current role: Professor in Theoretical Physics, University of Southern California

Most useful module: I work in topics such as quantum gravity, unified theories, with connections to black holes and so forth. Probably the most useful courses were ones that, at the time, seemed less immediately interesting or unified to me, on my goal to learn more about the things I loved. For examples, courses on various models of solids, liquids, and gases, or effective models of nuclear physics etc., which we all grumbled about. I began to learn later on that those actually taught me about how to develop physics intuition about genuinely difficult, messy systems. They also taught physics history, and maybe most importantly, helped me build the tenacity to struggle through material I’m not immediately excited about and find ways of seeing connections to things I loved. I now know that those courses we thought were “boring” were the bedrock of so very much done in all of physics.

Tell us about a Black scientist who's been an inspiration for you:  The people I am finding inspiring, in terms of hope for the future, is the new generation of young Black scientists at Undergraduate, Graduate and Postdoc level that I’m learning about in recent years, through social media movements like #BlackinSTEM, and groups like The Blackett Lab Family. Thank you for working hard on finding each other and uniting your voices in support of each other, and helping to get the resources and opportunities you need to be a success. I, and many others, did not have that at your career stage, and it can make a huge difference.