Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 12, 2016


Professor David Johnson


Meet Manchester’s newest psychology professor

Sarah Farnam

After trading in his drumsticks for a neuroscience PhD, Assistant Professor David Johnson is the newest addition to Manchester University’s psychology faculty.

Johnson began teaching at Manchester in fall 2015 and is currently teaching four different courses. The most notable parts of his experience thus far have been both the campus and the community. “I feel very fortunate to be able to spend most of my waking hours thinking about and discussing the science of human psychology with interesting and thoughtful students and colleagues,” he says.

However, he did not always know that he would end up working as a psychology professor. Right out of high school, Johnson began working as a professional musician. For about 15 years, he had the opportunity to tour around the world with various musicians and to record in New York City studios. “It can be grueling,” he says, “but it’s a great way to see the world. I have nothing but the best memories of those times.”

Johnson stumbled into the world of psychology thanks to a freak dishwashing accident, which severed a tendon in his wrist. With his ability to play drums now limited, he picked up a book called How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker. “This was my first introduction to the world of cognitive psychology,” he says. “I loved it from first sight.” He then shifted his focus from music to psychology. Though he is now retired from the music industry, he still gets together with friends from time to time to play.

Once Johnson discovered psychology, it was an easy decision to continue his studies. “I’m fascinated by the complex beauty of the brain and mind and never tire of studying it,” he says. He completed his undergraduate program in psychology at New York University. Then, after managing a research lab at Harvard University, he earned his PhD in neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, which is located in New York City as well.

Having spent most of his life in the Big Apple, Johnson is still getting accustomed to the small-town lifestyle in North Manchester. “It’s nice to live in a place where I always know how long it’s going to take to get from point A to point B,” he says, noting that the answer is generally about five minutes.

Currently, Johnson is working on creating a research lab at Manchester, and is, as he says, looking forward to getting students involved in the research.

Johnson’s students are important to him, which is why it troubles him to hear them discussing their stress and anxiety over the thought of failure, especially when it comes to grades. While he recognizes the importance of a high GPA, he advises students to focus on other facets of the college experience as well. “College is a great time to explore new interests, to take chances, and to find out what you’re really capable of,” he says. “Sure, try to keep the GPA up, but don’t play it too safe!”

To learn more about Johnson and his studies, you can visit his personal webpage,