Benjamin Johnson

Benjamin Johnson
Former Postdoctoral Scholar
Focus: I am working toward understanding various economic factors in network security.


After spending my early childhood in Rockford, Illinois, I moved to Fort Worth, TX when I was 6.  There, I attended first grade through high school, graduating from Temple Christian School in 1994.  I went to college at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where I majored in mathematics and computer science, minored in youth ministry, played football as a wide receiver, and earned teaching certification in the state of Virginia for math and computer science.  In 1999, I graduated summa cum laude from Liberty and started graduate work in mathematics at Virginia Tech University, earning a masters degree before transferring to the program in Logic and the Methodology of Science at UC Berkeley in 2001.  At Berkeley, I studied foundations of mathematics and logic, and chose a research path in complexity theory.  

As a graduate student, I pursued many directions simultaneously.  I taught a variety of undergraduate math classes, as the primary instructor, and with consistently good student evaluations.  I learned to do gymnastics, to surf, snowboard, and kiteboard.  I played basketball regularly.  One summer I took a kiteboarding instructor certification course and worked for the next few summers teaching adult kiteboarding lessons. I coached the Golden Bear Gymnastics boys developmental and compulsory teams.  I spent my Friday afternoos doing carpentry and electrical projects at my friend's restaurant in San Francisco.  I served for 5 years as president of the Cal Gymnastics Club, helping in this capacity to organize a 500-athlete national collegiate gymnastics competition in the Oakland Comvention Center.  Shortly after this event, in 2006, I founded a nonprofit corporation to provide organizational support for the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs, and I recruited a team of volunteers to help me write software and policies and to develop that business.  In my last years at Berkeley, I co-authored two papers with friends in the School of Informaiton, applying mathematical tools in my knowledge base to questions involving internet policy and security economics, subjects which at the time I knew very little about.  I also worked a lot on my thesis, obtaining partial results regarding a longstanding open question in quantum complexity theory.

After finishing my PhD in May 2008, and then teaching another math class, I spent a few months traveling the world and kiteboarding in various parts of Europe and Asia.  Starting in 2009 I began working as a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University with Nicolas Christin, with an aim to understand user investments in response to security threats.  Part of this research extended one of the l papers I worked on as a graduate student.  All of the research combines in some way security, economics, and game theory.  I have continued since 2009 to do research in this cross-disciplinary area, accepting alternating short-term postdoctoral appointments with Cylab at Carnegie Mellon Uiversity and with the School of Information at UC Berkeley, and trying to become an expert in this field.  I have also continued to teach, during the summers, for the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department.  As of spring 2011, I am once again working as a postdoctoral scholar in Berkeley's School of Information with John Chuang.