Michael Johnson ’11 - Outstanding Young Alumnus
From Sarah Leonhardt on September 25th, 2018
Michael Johnson ’11
Outstanding Young Alumnus
Michael Johnson came to Muhlenberg to major in biology and play football. Coach Mike Donnelly recruited him and became a mentor and inspiration. Coach Donnelly would say, “No matter what, you have to find a way to overcome and achieve what you need to achieve.” Johnson admired Donnelly’s knack for leadership and his skills to lead a team. Sports—specifically football and ice hockey—taught Johnson the importance of being organized in order to maintain excellence in his studies.
Muhlenberg was more than academic destiny for Johnson. Before first-year classes even began, he
met Kassandra, the woman he would eventually marry in Egner Memorial Chapel. They have been
together for 11 years.
Despite the 150 applications and cover letters Johnson sent off in April 2011, he struggled at first to
lock down a plan for after graduation thanks to a weak economy. He was in the dining hall when he
received a call from NASA offering him a summer internship in California. The NASA experience
awoke his desire to do research.
He entered Rutgers University’s Ph.D. program and paid for his graduate degree with a grant from the
National Science Foundation to research biofuels made from algae. After graduation, Johnson was
hired by Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant. There, ideas began to percolate, and he and
research colleagues from Rutgers saw an opportunity to turn an idea into a company.
Launched in 2016, Johnson is Visikol’s cofounder and CEO. The cutting-edge imaging technology,
which transforms three-dimensional tissue data to accelerate drug discovery and improve the
diagnosis of disease, soon proved indispensable for pharmaceutical companies. In June 2018, the
company launched a cancer-drug screening service leveraging its patented three-dimensional