Amy Wagoner Johnson

Amy Wagoner Johnson
Amy Wagoner Johnson
Professor; Andersen Faculty Scholar
(217) 265-5581
2101A Mechanical Engineering Lab

For more information


  • Ph.D. Mat. Sci. Brown University 2002
  • M.S. Mat. Sci. Brown University 1998
  • B.S. Mat. Sci. and Eng. The Ohio State University 1996

Academic Positions

  • Head, Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences, Carle Illinois College of Medicine (33%), December 2019 - present
  • Professor, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, August 2018-present
  • Professor, Bioengineering (0%), August 2018-present
  • Chair of Excellence, NanoSciences Foundation, Grenoble, France, July 2014-2017

Research Statement

Loss of bone through trauma or disease can result in life-threatening complications, so repair of such defects is consequently critical to the health and well-being of patients. Professor Wagoner Johnson's work in biomaterials is laying the scientific groundwork for the design of synthetic bone substitute materials and systems that may one day replace bone grafts currently harvested from patients themselves or from donors. Rejection, disease transmission, and other complications associated with the transplantation of human tissue (as well as the limited availability of donor tissue) make synthetic materials attractive candidates for the repair of bone defects.

To develop such bone substitutes, Professor Wagoner Johnson is investigating how cells and tissues interact with or modify their environment, how tissue grows into the substitute and how drug or stem cell delivery can improve bone in-growth. In one highly collaborative project, her group is investigating scaffolds with pore sizes that span multiple lengthscales, from millimeters to nanometers, as bone replacements for large and load-bearing defects. Researchers in the department's dynamics and controls group make the ceramic (hydroxyapatite) scaffolds via rapid prototype deposition, while researchers in Professor Wagoner Johnson's group work to tailor the scaffold's macro- and microstructure to optimize bone in-growth and mechanical properties of the scaffold/bone composite. As they do so, they work with surgeons from the local hospital, Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences to understand and characterize the biological response. The group's preliminary laboratory studies have demonstrated that bone grows more readily into such implants. They believe that tissue infiltrates the microscale pores, which helps to improve mechanical properties of the scaffold in vivo.

The group is also working with researchers at the Indiana School of Medicine on a novel cell-based approach that may make it possible to implant large scaffolds on the order of 10s of centimeters. The size of implants is currently limited by how far the tissues within them are from nutrient-supplying and waste-removing blood vessels. Because living cells cannot survive farther than 150 to 200 microns from a blood supply, cells within large scaffolds typically die before blood vessels from the surrounding tissue can grow into them. By combining two types of stem cells-one from umbilical cord and the other from fat tissue-Professor Wagoner Johnson's group hopes to build blood vessels at the center of the scaffold that can then grow out to connect with vessels outside the scaffold.

Her group also uses a non-destructive imaging technique called Micro-CT, similar to a CAT scan, to understand how bone grows spatially and temporarily into the scaffolds. Such data are used to understand and model the mechanical behavior of the bone/scaffold composites. Students in the group are also developing scaffolds made of a modified form of chitin, the structural material found in the exoskeleton of crustaceans. Gelatin microspheres loaded with a growth factor known to encourage blood vessel growth are built into the scaffolds, which are being developed for the treatment of chronic cutaneous ulcers.

Research Interests

  • women's reproductive health
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomaterials

Research Areas

  • Computation and Applied Math
  • Dynamics & Controls
  • Health and Bio
  • Manufacturing
  • Solid Mechanics and Materials

Selected Articles in Journals

Invited Lectures

  • "Technical writing tips, resources, and encouragement!," Technical Writing Workshop for MechSE ASME (3/3/16, 2/1/17, 10/30/17, 11/5/2018)
  • Plenary Speaker, Order of the Engineer Ceremony, February 26th, 2016.
  • Midi at Minatec. Grenoble INP, Grenoble, France, April 3rd, 2015. Minatec is Europe’s leading innovation campus for micro and nanotechnology. The MINATEC innovation campus is home to 2,400 researchers, 1,200 students, and 600 business and technology transfer experts on a 20-hectare state-of-the-art campus with 10,000 m² of clean room space. An international hub for micro and nanotechnology research, the MINATEC campus is unlike any other R&D facility in Europe.
  • Invited speaker, weSTEM (Women Empowered in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Conference with GradSWE, UIUC, "Navigating academia and personal life in a dual career couple," 2013.
  • Invited speaker, Workshop "How to train graduate students and post-docs who supervise undergraduates doing research," Sponsored and Organized by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office of Undergraduate Research, UIUC, 2013.
  • "Microstructure-induced Capillary Forces and their Role in Bone Regeneration," Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Connecticut, February 23rd, 2018.
  • "Soft Tissue Indention: Tips and Tricks for Successful Experiments and Data Interpretation," 6th Annual Fall MRL Conference, November 9th, 2017
  • "Capillary forces, scaffolds, and bone regeneration," Share the Vision Innovation and Start-up Showcase, Urbana, Illinois, September 21, 2017.
  • "How do capillary forces influence bone regeneration?" Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, November 8th, 2016.
  • "3D Additive Fabrication of Ceramic Scaffolds Supporting Biological Tissue Growth," Coral Reef Restoration Program Workshop “Coral Lifeline” Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, Discovery Bay, Jamaica, August 16-17, 2016.
  • Invited expert and speaker at a focused workshop on Micro and Nano Systems for Biology – Additive Manufacturing and Biomedical Applications organized by the French technology watchgroup OMNT (Observatoire des Micro et NanoTechnologies), Paris, France, June 17th, 2015.
  • Plenary speaker at the French-American Workshop, Grenoble, France, June 15th, 2015.
  • Plenary Speaker, European Research Council (ERC) BioMIM (BIOMIM : Biomimetic films and membranes as advanced materials for studies on cellular processes) Conference, Grenoble, France, March 11-13, 2015.
  • Seminar, RMS Foundation in Bettlach, Switzerland, February 26th, 2015.
  • Seminar, Laboratoire Matériaux: Ingénierie et Science (Mateis) at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Lyon, France, February 24th, 2015.
  • "Microstructure-induced capillary forces for seeding cells in rigid substrates," Laboratoire des Matériaux et du Génie Physique, Grenoble Institute de Technologie, Grenoble, France, September 2nd, 2013.
  • "Navigating academia and personal life in a dual career couple," weSTEM Conference with GradSWE, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, April 20th, 2013.
  • "Multiscale cell seeding in CaP scaffolds containing controlled macro and microporosity," Keynote, The GRIBOI association, or Society for Injectable Osteoarticular Biomaterials, a multidisciplinary group of professionals interested in injectable biomaterials. GRIBOI stands for "Groupe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Biomatériaux Ostéoarticulaires Injectables." Boston, MA April 8-22, 2013.
  • "Capillary forces for self-seeding micropores and trapping cells in CaP bone scaffolds," Division of Engineering, Brown University, December 5th, 2012.
  • "Micro and Nano Printing for Understanding Cell-material Interactions," Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) Annual Nanotechnology Workshop, May 12-13, 2011.
  • "BCP Scaffolds with Multi-scale porosity," joint seminar with Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, September 3rd, 2010.
  • "Osteoconductivity and Osteointegration - New Measures and Influence of Microporosity and BMP-2 for CaPs," Department of Materials Science and Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, May 28th, 2010.


  • Wagoner Johnson, A., G. Juarez, B. Fouke, K. Marhaver, M. Vermeij, F. Rower, and L. Wegley, "How can materials science help coral restoration science?," Reef Futures 2018, Key Largo, FL, December 10-14, 2018.

Professional Societies

  • Member, ASME Bioengineering Division Tissue and Cellular Engineering Committee, 2011-2015
  • Member, ASME, 2011-date
  • Member, Society of Engineering Science, 2003-04, 2006-date
  • Member, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS), 2006-2007
  • MRS Public Outreach Committee, January 2004-2008
  • Member, The Materials Research Society (MRS), 1998-2010
  • Member, The Minerals Metals and Materials Society (TMS), 1994-2003, 2009-present

Teaching Honors

  • SWE Outstanding Engineering Educator Award, 2020
  • Rated as Outstanding on the list of Teachers Ranked as Excellent, Spring 2019 (598 Course Science Communication for Mechanical Engineers with 4.9 on Items 1 and 2)
  • MechSE Two-Year Effective Teaching Award, 2018
  • List of Teachers Ranked an Excellent, Fall 2016, 2017, 2018; Spring 2019
  • Campus Award for Guiding Undergraduate Research, 2013
  • Amy L Devine Recognition Award from Alpha Omega Epsilon for "being a passionate engineering professor and outstanding advisor," 2009.
  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, 2009, 2012, 2020

Research Honors

  • Andersen Faculty Scholar, 2020
  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Research, 2018
  • Invited Professor, University of Grenoble, 2016-2017
  • Center for Advanced Study Associate 2017-2018
  • Chair of Excellence (2014-2017), NanoScience Foundation, Grenoble, France
  • Arnold O. Beckman Research Award from the Research Board for "projects of special distinction, special promise, or special resource value," 2011
  • Alice L. Jee Memorial Award, Sun Valley Workshop on Skeletal Tissue Biology, 2008

Recent Courses Taught

  • BIOE 497 AWJ - Individual Study
  • ME 330 - Engineering Materials
  • ME 431 - Mechanical Component Failure
  • ME 482 (BIOE 482) - Musculoskel Tissue Mechanics
  • ME 598 AWJ (ME 598 WJO) - Science Communication for ME