Alternative student explores possibilities in art, science

Sept. 2, 2013

April Wefler
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Art and science: two categories that most think seldom overlap. However, for alumna Kat Johnson, they are both equally important parts of her life.

Johnson originally came to the campus to study art. “I was interested in art reservation and conservation, and I realized that I was actually more intrigued by the technical aspect of it, so I switched over to chemistry,” she said.

In science, Johnson said that there are many different things people can do with it. “If you have any type of interest at all, there’s probably something you can do with it in science.”

“There’s so much overlap between the sciences and people often have to work together on certain projects,” she added.

“I think it’s great the different types of people it brings together. It’s innovation, really; it’s making new discoveries, discovering new things to improve our current world.”

She said that although she didn’t graduate with a degree in art, she’s still very much interested in the subject. “I went to a da Vinci machine exhibits in Denver. It really showed me the overlap, that’s all classical mechanics in physics, but the art of his brain allowed him to put together these physic concepts to make really neat, creative designs,” she said.

Johnson said that coming from Boulder, people tend to stereotype her as a hippie. In addition, because she was in an alternative school, people tend to think she’s more of a slacker.

Halfway through her junior year of a rigorous college prep school, Johnson had to drop out for a couple of months after contracting mononucleosis. She fell behind and switched to an alternative school in Boulder.

“It’s really breaking down authority barriers between teachers and students. The public system can really thrive there because your teachers know you well and everyone wants to be there, so it makes for a much different learning experience,” Johnson said.

She said that while there were students in her school who weren’t motivated to do any academics, there were people like herself that saw it as an opportunity.

“There were a few people like myself that took advantage of the freedoms that were offered to us – lighter class schedule, less homework … lots of room for independent research.”

Now, with her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, a minor in physics and a variety of art classes, Johnson works as a quality control specialist for Pyxant Labs Inc., a contact research organization.

As part of her job, she checks all of the lab work that comes through for spelling errors or inconsistency with dates.

In addition, she manages the check-in and check-out logs and makes sure everyone’s filling everything out properly and turning everything back in time.

“It’s a mom-and-pop shop compared to a huge corporation, so I get a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t get in a larger lab. Lots of opportunities for me to learn things that aren’t necessarily in my immediate department,” she said.

“We all have to work together to support each other in a way that I can’t imagine would hold true in a much larger setting,” she added.

Johnson said she’s been interested in doing something in marine chemistry. “Mostly, I’ve been really interested in what I can do to improve the world. I’ve really been thinking a lot of marine chemistry and what’s happening on the water and in the oceans,” she said.