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Dean G. Johnson, Ph.D.

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

Contact Information

Faculty Appointments

  • Research Assistant Professor - Department of Medicine , Nephrology (SMD)
  • Research Assistant Professor - Department of Biomedical Engineering (SMD) - Joint


Professional Background

Ph.D. Microsystems Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology 2013
Thesis: Integration Technologies for Implantable Microsystems
MS Electrical Engineering, Michigan State University 1990
BS Electrical Engineering / Computer Engineering, Michigan State University 1988

University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Medicine/Division of Nephrology
2021 – present
Research Assistant Professor
Grants: 1. NIH NIDDK R01 (five years) 2. NIH NIDDK K25 (five years)

University of Rochester, Biomedical Engineering
Research Assistant Professor 2017 – 2021
Mentor undergraduate Biomedical Engineering students in Senior Design Teams.
Co-advise a BME Master's student.
PI for Three grants: 1. NIH NIDDK R01 (five years) 2. NIH NIDDK K25 (five years)
3. Fresenius Fellowship (two years)
Postdoctoral Fellow 2013 – 2017
The research included wearable/portable hemodialysis devices with ultrathin nanoporous membranes.
Laboratory work includes a variety of projects in MEMs, medical devices, and renal replacement therapy, with a strong focus on therapy-directed Microsystems.
Teaching includes: MEMs Fabrication, Finite Element Analysis for MEMs

Rochester Institute of Technology
Graduate Research Assistant 2005 – 2013
Research of implantable microsystems for intra-cochlear drug delivery (NIH NIDCD). Developed a novel phase change actuation mechanism and has published numerous articles in technical literature.
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Lab instructor: Biomedical Sensors and Transducers, Fundamental Electrophysiology

University of Rochester Medical Center, Facilitator: Ethics Course 2018-2021
University of Rochester, Science Buddies Outreach Program 2013
Rochester Institute of Technology, McNair Scholars Program 2009

Xerox Corporation 1990 – 2004
Software Application Engineer

Sergeant, United States Marine Corps Reserves 1984 – 1990


Dean Johnson is a Research Assistant Professor in the Nephrology Division at the University of Rochester Medical Center in the Department of Medicine. Over the past eight years, beginning as a Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Johnson has worked on developing the skills and tools needed to successfully perform the research needed to develop a novel miniaturized hemodialysis dialyzer. The goal of this proposal is to develop an integrated microfluidic system in the form of a wearable hemodialysis dialyzer with ultrathin, nanoporous, sheet membranes. Both my training and experience prepare me to successfully carry out the work proposed in this application. He completed a multidisciplinary doctoral degree in microsystems engineering with training in MEMS and system engineering. As a Ph.D. candidate, he developed integration technologies that brought together MEMS fabrication, direct-write processing, and room temperature polymer deposition in the creation of a biocompatible micropump for intracochlear infusions in the mouse model. As a faculty researcher, Dr. Johnson has developed benchtop membrane chip dialyzers that clear toxins at rates comparable to those of clinical hemodialysis and successfully tested these chip-based membranes in small-animal model hemodialysis experiments. He is a member of the Nanomembrane Research Group, which holds weekly meetings at the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology where developments and diverse applications of the ultrathin nanoporous membranes are discussed s and also attends Nephrology seminars at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
To improve both health outcomes and the quality of life for those on HD my lab is working on technologies to enable portable or wearable HD. The best hope for a healthier future for ESRD patients, short of a replacement kidney, is the emergence of disruptive technologies in HD therapy. The goal of my lab will be to develop MEMS technologies and devices for medical sensors, diagnostics, and therapies.
My current research focuses on exploiting the properties of ultrathin nanoporous membranes to enable portable/wearable hemodialysis devices for renal replacement therapy. My group is developing an in vitro benchtop large animal model simulator and has experience with microdialysis, small-format device hemodialysis, uremic toxin metrology, and Multiphysics modeling (COMSOL).
In the next three years, I will improve benchtop tests and techniques to help bring compact dialysis devices from benchtop to clinical trials, reducing the number of animals used in pre-clinical trials. I will investigate basic research questions regarding hemodialysis, ESRD, AKI, and other kidney disorders through the development of more efficient HD devices and microfluidic-based diagnostic and benchtop tools. Benchtop tools may include nephron on a chip, kidney on a chip, and a benchtop model of the human vasculature including uremic toxin compartments. My research lab will investigate toxin detection, biomarkers, and therapeutic techniques through the application of these tools.


Journal Articles

Miller JJ, Carter JA, Hill K, DesOrmeaux JS, Carter RN, Gaborski TR, Roussie JA, McGrath JL, Johnson DG. "Free Standing, Large-Area Silicon Nitride Membranes for High Toxin Clearance in Blood Surrogate for Small-Format Hemodialysis." Membranes.. 2020 Jun 6; 10(6)Epub 2020 Jun 06.

Hill K, Walker SN, Salminen A, Chung HL, Li X, Ezzat B, Miller JJ, DesOrmeaux JS, Zhang J, Hayden A, Burgin T, Piraino L, May MN, Gaborski TR, Roussie JA, Taylor J, DiVincenti L, Shestopalov AA, McGrath JL, Johnson DG. "Second Generation Nanoporous Silicon Nitride Membranes for High Toxin Clearance and Small Format Hemodialysis." Advanced healthcare materials.. 2020 Jan 15; :e1900750. Epub 2020 Jan 15.

Salminen A, Hill K, Henry Chung L, James McGrath L, Johnson DG. "Protein Separation and Hemocompatibility of Nitride Membranes in Microfluidic Filtration Systems." . 2018 Jul 0; 2018:5814-5817.