Alayna Johnson

Alayna Johnson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Chemistry and the Program in Polymers & Soft Matter at MIT. As a polymer chemist in Jeremiah Johnson’s research group, Alayna studies new ways to degrade and recycle plastics. Alayna’s focus centers on installing cleavable bonds into plastics that are otherwise difficult to degrade such as polyethylene (the plastic used to make grocery bags), polyurethane (a constituent of many foams and coatings), and polydicyclopentadiene (a material used in next-generation wind turbine blades).

Alayna has previously studied self-healing plastics at the Center for Sustainable Polymers and non-opioid compounds for pain management at Merck. In 2020, Alayna graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in Chemistry with Highest Honors, after writing her thesis on upcycling polyurethanes under the tutelage of Professor Steve Zimmerman. Alayna is a Goldwater Scholar, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and an MIT Presidential Fellow. She has authored publications on sustainable polymer chemistry in Nature, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Outside of research, Alayna enjoys crocheting, painting, and spending time with her cat, Beans.