Soren Johnson is a senior in bioengineering currently doing research in Dr. Suzie Pun’s lab. His work involves developing nonviral methods for efficient and stable gene transfer in renal progenitor cells. Upon graduation he plans on working in industry after hiking across the United States along the Pacific Crest Trail. 

“I always really liked biology, it was always my favorite subject in high school. My mom is a doctor so she was always pushing me to go premed. Growing up, that’s always what I envisioned. Then I started getting more into math and physics and chemistry and everything else and then I thought, ‘now what?’ That’s how I first got interested in bioengineering.

I started getting more into hiking during my freshman year. I went solo backpacking and the original plan was to drive there myself. I was nervous going by myself for the first time. Eight miles from the trailhead I found out that the bridge was closed went with a backup plan that was considering instead. I had to drive an extra three hours around but I forgot to put in the real trailhead into my GPS, so I wasted all this time and hiked two miles down this road that I shouldn’t have been. Then I had to turn around, drive back, and find the real trailhead. I get to the trailhead and it’s already past sunset and I hiked and set up camp at night. It was creepy that first night in the tent all alone, but then the sun came up and it was a perfect February morning and I went swimming in the lake, took naps, just hung out. From there, it’s all been history.

I haven’t entirely ruled out grad school or even med school at some point after graduation. I’m more leaning towards wanting to get a job, ideally in Seattle because I really like it here. I don’t know if it will be something totally related to what I’m doing in lab, but I feel like that would be my best chance to getting a job here.

I haven’t looked into that too much because after graduation I’m hiking the PCT, the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a trail from Mexico to Canada, or that’s how most people do it. I’ll be doing it backwards though because we graduate later in the year. That will take four to five months. I’m hoping that on that I’ll hone in what I want to do afterwards.

That’s the cool thing about Washington: there’s always more you can do. There’s stuff for all levels. So if you want to go snowshoe for a day, go on a day hike, hike the PCT or do something crazy like ice climbs on Rainier, you can do it all. I’ve been trying to be more patient with that the last couple years because school has been ramping up and I’m starting to realize that some of the things I did when I was first getting into it weren’t very safe. Now, I’m trying to tell myself that it’s okay to go slower, get the proper training and gear, and a good crew you can trust.”