Get to Know Perry Roth-Johnson

10/23/2020
Assistant curator Perry Roth-Johnson stands in front of a mural of a Dodgers player, mimicking the macho face he sees on the player.

For the past six years, Perry Roth-Johnson has played an integral role in the exhibit development department at the California Science Center. He’s focused the majority of his time on developing air and space themed exhibits and managing the acquisition, restoration and transportation of aircraft and spacecraft for the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. Perry’s experiences in graduate school gave him the foundation he needed to excel in his current role as assistant curator for aerospace science. Perry spends time thinking about aircraft engineering and imagines ways to make aerodynamics more fun and accessible for our guests.

While he was in graduate school studying aerospace engineering, Perry co-founded and ran a K-8 STEM outreach program. He loved bringing science and engineering to schools and helping kids to discover the fun in those subjects. He wanted to continue his work in informal science education after he graduated, so it was a perfect fit when he secured a position as an exhibit developer at the Science Center in 2014. A couple of Perry’s professional STEM highlights include conducting focus groups and presenting a conference panel related to people’s attitudes about drones, and starting our podcast Ever Wonder? From the California Science Center.

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“I love working here because I can combine my technical background in engineering with my passion for science education to promote our mission of stimulating curiosity and inspiring science learning in everyone.”

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Perry’s love of science started at a young age. When he was younger, he had the opportunity to go to Space Camp. That pivotal experience led him to want to become a U.S. Air Force pilot and apply for NASA’s astronaut program. However, because he was colorblind, there were restrictions that would limit his chances. So Perry decided to become an engineer so that he could learn to build and work on planes and rocketships, instead of flying them. It makes sense why Wear-A-Wing is Perry’s favorite exhibit at the Science Center. When you to put on the exhibit’s giant foam wings and stand in front of the high-powered fans, you can actually feel the lift from the wind, and you get the sensation of flight!

Of the numerous exhibit development projects that Perry has worked on, his favorite is one he’s managed for the last few years, the restoration of the space shuttle external tank (ET-94). The external tank carried the cryogenically cooled propellants—liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen—that powered the space shuttle orbiters. ET-94 has a very special history. It’s the last flight-qualified external tank in existence. It was originally ordered by NASA to support science missions for the space shuttle Columbia. After Colombia was destroyed on its return during flight STS-107 in 2003, NASA made changes to the construction of the external tanks, and ET-94 was never flown. Over the years many pieces were removed from the tank, so that’s why it will need some restoration before its final display in the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. Perry has worked closely over the years with Project Director Dennis Jenkins and a talented group of sculptors and painters to restore ET-94 to a launch-ready state. At 154 feet long and 27.5 feet in diameter, Perry agrees that it’s a daunting task to restore such a large artifact. But he says is rewarding to see how nice it looks when the foam is patched and repainted to that bright orange color!

Try It!

When he’s not at work, Perry loves to watch baseball (Go Dodgers!) and try out recipes for fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Perry included the recipe below and challenges you to make homemade kimchi yourself! Is it inspired by the Digestion Diner experience in World of Life? Who knows?

SQUARE-CUT NAPA CABBAGE KIMCHI
MAK [COMMON] KIMCHI (adapted)

Lauryn Chun (2012), The Kimchi Cookbook, pg. 78

For technique, also see: Maangchi, How to make Easy Kimchi (막김치)

You’ll need the following ingredients. Cut the ingredients in half to make a smaller portion.

While preparing a recipe, a smiling Perry Roth-Johnson sticks his hand into a jar full of chopped cabbage
Courtesy of Perry Roth-Johnson

Ingredients

  • brine
    • 2 medium heads (4-6 lbs total) napa cabbage
    • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • seasoning paste
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
    • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
    • 2 tablespoons anchovy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons salted shrimp
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • Between 1/2 cup to 2 cups Korean chili pepper flakes (gochugaru), depending on how spicy you like it (Perry likes lots of spice, so he uses 2 cups!)
    • 4 green onions
    • 1/4 cup water

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the cabbage with the salt and set aside for about 1 hour. Drain the liquid and rinse the cabbage to remove any traces of salt. Let the cabbage drain in a colander for 20 minutes, or use a salad spinner to remove most of the water.
  • Meanwhile, make the seasoning paste. In a mini food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse together the onion, garlic, ginger, [anchovy sauce, shrimp], and sugar until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the chili pepper flakes. Set aside for 15 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the green onions, seasoning paste, and drained cabbage until combined thoroughly, making sure the seasoning paste is distributed evenly among the leaves. Pack the mixture tightly into a 2-quart container. Add 1/4 cup water to the mixing bowl, and swirl the water around to collect the remaining seasoning paste. Add the water to the container, cover tightly, and set aside for 3 days at room temperature. The cabbage will expand as it ferments, so be sure to place the jar on a plate or in a bowl to catch the overflow. Refrigerate and consume within 6 months.

Fermentation: 3 days; keeps up to 6 months