supporting Cambridge public school students

Meet Corinne Johnson – Recent Mack Davis Winner

Corinne Johnson began tutoring chemistry in the CSV Tutoring Center five years ago. From the start, Corinne distinguished herself. At that time, she was tutoring a student who had previously been home schooled. He was struggling to integrate into school and keep up with chemistry. Corinne took the initiative to meet with his teacher, help him organize all of his assignments, and track his progress. She was meticulous. She’d arrive for tutoring armed with a thick, tidy binder of assignments and notes. Corinne was conscious of his unusual circumstances and saw him through to graduation.

It wasn’t long before his chemistry teacher caught on, and Corinne began assisting in her Honors Chemistry class. This particular teacher has hosted many classroom volunteers through the years, and she lauded Corinne’s exceptional professionalism, subject expertise, kindness, and flexibility. The teacher remarked that Corinne creates an individual approach to each student’s learning style.

Four years ago, Corinne began working with the CRLS Science Olympiad team and became a core go-to mentor for the team. As part of a team of volunteer scientists recruited by CSV, Corinne advised students in events such as Cell Biology, Designer Genes, and Microbe Mission. She has worked with some of the same students and events over consecutive years. Corinne says that her volunteer work stimulates her to stay current with advances in biology and chemistry.

Counter-intuitively, excellent tutors are distinguished by their listening skills. Corinne naturally learns about and remembers her students’ interests. She is approachable, kind, and steady, using every opportunity to teach something from everyday life. Corinne has kept in touch with some of her students after graduation, and she likes to hear updates on their lives.

The daughter of two chemists, Corinne grew up with an interest in scientific inquiry. She is a former visiting professor of biology at Vassar and Carleton College. Corinne holds a Ph.D. in Biology with a specialty in Cell Physiology and Metabolism and a Master of Science degree, both from the University of Rochester, and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Wellesley College.

Corinne’s research explored biochemistry in the context of biology; for example, her work delved into the growth and metabolism of autotrophic bacteria that oxidize sulfur compounds and fix carbon dioxide. “Biology is where I really found myself and where I belonged,” she notes. Corinne has a remarkable and eclectic multidisciplinary background which includes not only biochemistry, but also database design and software development. She previously worked at Genome Therapeutics and AstraZeneca Research and Development Boston, where she put together her database and software development skills and her biology expertise.

CSV is not the only institution to benefit from Corinne’s talents. Corinne’s other passion is classical music. She has sung in choral societies since her own high school days, and has sung at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. This June, Corinne agreed to sing for her 55th Wellesley College reunion.

Corinne’s professional trajectory comes full circle at CSV. Through her diverse and rich career, nothing has really changed, she shares: “I’m tutoring both chemistry and biology. It’s consistently been the same combination of interests that kept me involved.” CSV provides a way for her to communicate her passion for science, research, and teaching.

We were delighted to recognize Corinne with a 2015 Mack I. Davis Award for her unique contributions to the CRLS community.