L. Syd M Johnson

Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Bioethics
Department of Humanities
Department of Kinesiology & Integrative Physiology
Michigan Technological University








Syd Johnson is a philosopher and assistant professor at Michigan Technological University, with a joint appointment in the Departments of Humanities, and Kinesiology & Integrative Physiology. Her research is empirically-oriented and multidisciplinary. The two main foci of her work are Disorders of Consciousness, and sport-related neurotrauma. In her research on Disorders of Consciousness, Syd’s aim is to problematize current approaches to quality of life assessment, as well as research and treatment priorities in Disorders of Consciousness. This work has implications for several core problems in bioethics, including ethics at the end-of-life, the justification of research on vulnerable populations, and surrogate decision making. This work has potentially broad application to other vulnerable groups, including persons with dementia, infants, children, individuals with profound cognitive disabilities, and non-human animals. Her second area of research explores the ethical dimensions of neurotrauma resulting from sport-related concussion, in both youth and adult athletes. Sport-related concussion has been a subject of intense public and media interest in recent years, but it has been largely neglected as a topic of bioethical and neuroethical concern. This area of research is one where Syd has frequent occasion to interact with the media and the public, which accords well with her pedagogical mission to enhance bioethical literacy. She serves as a specialist reviewer of scientific research proposals related to concussion, mild traumatic brain injury, and PTSD for the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Defense.


At Michigan Tech, Syd is working to promote the integration of research ethics into science education, using the National Science Foundation mandate concerning Responsible Conduct of Research education as a platform to engage student-scientists as they develop tools for thinking about their work within a moral framework.



Representative publications


Johnson, LSM. 2015. Sport-related neurotrauma and neuroprotection: Are Return-to-play protocols justified by paternalism? Neuroethics 8(1):15-26. (online June 2014)

Johnson, LSM. 2013. Can they suffer? The ethical priority of quality of life research in disorders of consciousness. Bioethica Forum 6(4):129-136

Johnson, LSM. 2012. Return to play guidelines cannot solve the football-related concussion problem. Journal of School Health 82(4): 180-185

Johnson, LSM. 2011. Concussion and youth hockey: It’s time to break the cycle. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 183:921-924

Johnson, LSM. 2011. The right to die in the minimally conscious state. Journal of Medical Ethics 37:175-178