Aaron W. Johnson

Assistant Professor


3053 François-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Building
1320 Beal Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2140


Aaron W. Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Aerospace Engineering Department and a Core Faculty member of the Engineering Education Research Program at the University of Michigan. He believes in a strong connection between engineering education research and practice, and his research leverages his experience teaching engineering science courses to bridge the gap between theoretical, well-defined coursework and ill-defined, sociotechnical engineering practice. His current work uses qualitative methods to develop an understanding of how students engage in the productive beginnings of professional practices and how instructors’ pedagogy and assignments can support these productive beginnings. Specifically, Aaron focuses on the professional practices of engineering judgment and macroethical reasoning, and on the pedagogy of responsive teaching. Aaron has mentored both undergraduate and graduate students in engineering education research and seeks to empower students to make positive changes in their undergraduate engineering programs. 

Aaron holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an S.M. and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, his Ph.D. research used human-in-the-loop experiments and mathematical modeling to investigate the effect of control mode transitions on human pilots. Before rejoining the U-M Aerospace Engineering Department, Aaron was an Instructor in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has also held postdoctoral research fellow positions at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach and the University of Michigan Engineering Education Research Program. Aaron has been recognized for his teaching with the 2021 Sullivan-Carlson Innovation in Education Award from CU Boulder and two consecutive Silver Shaft Awards for Undergraduate Teaching from the U-M Aerospace Department. He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, and he was awarded the 2020 Apprentice Faculty Grant from the ASEE Education Research & Methods Division for promising engineering education scholars.

Now that you know all that, some fun things about Aaron! While in undergrad he played tenor saxophone in the Michigan Marching Band. In grad school, he did some sports analytics research and was featured on ESPN2 talking about NFL field goal kicking. He also made educational videos for middle school students about space and earth science. In his free time, Aaron likes to read non-fiction and science fiction, and is always open to new recommendations. He also enjoys collecting LEGO NASA sets, biking, hiking, camping, and playing disc golf. He hopes that you also make time for fun activities in your life, especially if you’re a student.


  • He/Him/His


  • Ph.D., Humans in Aerospace, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2015
  • S.M., Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010
  • B.S.E., Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan, 2008

Research Interests

  • Productive beginnings of professional practices
  • Engineering judgment
  • Macroethics
  • Working-class engineering students

Professional Service

  • American Society for Engineering Education


  • North Campus Deans’ MLK Spirit Award for Activism, Awareness & Organization with MARS Dialogues (Mackenzie Warwick, Betsy Strehl, and Aditi Verma), University of Michigan, 2024
  • Sullivan-Carlson Innovation in Education Award, University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science, 2021
  • Best Paper; Best Paper for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Superior Student Paper awards with Corin Bowen. Distinguished Student Paper award with Connor Ott, ASEE Aerospace Division, 2021
  • Apprentice Faculty Grant, ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division, 2020
  • Silver Shaft Award for Undergraduate Teaching, University of Michigan Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Honor Society, 2018 & 2019
  • Stanley Roscoe Award for Best Doctoral Dissertation, Aerospace Human Factors Association, 2016