Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Katherine Johnson (Fed)

Social Scientist

Katherine J. Johnson (Jo) is a Social Scientist and Earthquake Risk Mitigation Policy Analyst at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Trained as an Applied Environmental Anthropologist, Jo is inspired to tackle complex problems which span the human, natural, and built environments. Her focus is to promote reduction of risk from natural hazards through emerging areas of research and collaboration from her home base within NIST’s Engineering Laboratory. 

Jo received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland where applied social science theory and method to better understand both the experience of and effects from natural hazards for a low-lying coastal area of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. As Project Director of the Deal Island Peninsula Project, Jo played a key role in defining collaborative science and learning activities across a local multi-sector stakeholder network. The goal of these efforts was to create new ideas and solutions that would improve the resilience of both humans and the environment across the social-ecological system.

At NIST, Jo is involved with research that will help improve the performance of buildings to better mitigate natural hazards risks and accommodate the needs of inhabitants. For example, in 2018 she was a co-author on a report to Congress highlighting stakeholder-derived research needs for the development of a building performance objective that would better enable a building to be immediately occupiable after a natural hazard event. A key accomplishment of this work was to highlight the social, economic, and community level concerns that are often overlooked in more traditional engineering efforts. In 2020, another report is due to Congress identifying ways to improve the recovery of function and time to reoccupancy after an earthquake.

She has participated in disaster reconnaissance trips to Florida after Hurricane Michael and to Anchorage, AK after the Cook Inlet Earthquake. In addition, she is a member of NIST’s Research and Investigation efforts of Hurricane Maria’s effects on Puerto Rico. These kinds of experiences are invaluable for gathering realistic perspectives on challenges communities face in disaster situations. Jo is interested to contribute her knowledge and skills to help improve federal, multi-agency, and collaborative efforts to mitigate risk. She also participates in the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) alongside team-members from FEMA, NIST, NSF, and the USGS.

Select publications

Johnson, K. ; Fung, J.; McAllister, T.; McCabe, S.; Sattar, S.; Segura, C., "Social and Economic Components of Resilient Multihazard Building Design," ASCE Natural Hazards Review, Volume 21, Issue 1, February 2020.

Paolisso, M.; Prell, C.; Johnson, K.; Needelman, B.; M. P. Khan, I.; Hubacek, K., "Enhancing Socio-Ecological Resilience in Coastal Regions Through Collaborative Science, Knowledge Exchange and Social Networks: A Case Study of the Deal Island Peninsula, USA," Socio-Ecological Practice Research, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 109–123, 2019.

Sattar, S.; McAllister, T.; Johnson, K.; Clavin, C.; Segura, C.; McCabe, S.; Fung, J.; Abrahams, L.; Sylak-Glassman, E.; Levitan, M.; Harrison, K.; Harris, J., "Research Needs to Support Immediate Occupancy Building Performance Objective Following Natural Hazard Events," National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 1224,  August 2018.


Created September 17, 2019, Updated December 9, 2022