Last week, Johnson was named the new director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He has worked at a similar museum in Denver since 1991 and led a renowned excavation in Snowmass Village, Colo., in 2010.

What are you looking forward to doing with the Smithsonian museum?

Any time you have the opportunity to run something as amazing as the Natural History Museum, there are multiple opportunities. My first year, I'm sure, is going to be spent really understanding what's in that place and meeting a lot of scientists.

Is it true you have big changes planned for the dinosaur hall?

We'll be renovating the entire dinosaur hall over the next seven years. That will be renovated as a history of life on Earth. ... One thing about science is it's always changing. It's always creating new information. And the museum is -- and will be -- an example of that for the public.

What do visitors have to look forward to in the new and improved dinosaur hall?

It'll be the premier dinosaur hall in the world -- I would imagine -- given the potential of the fossils and the size of the staff.

Is it a daunting task to be in charge of one of the most popular museums in the country?

It's not daunting; it's really exciting. I was thinking I'm sort of like an omnivore at the all-you-can-eat buffet of science. ... The Natural History Museum has this amazing scientific staff and over 100 scientists doing all sorts of kinds of research in a building that's visited by 7 million visitors a year. So for me, the potential for communicating about science is tremendous. ... A lot of kids in their classes say it's boring or it's hard. But if they only knew how cool it is. And that's our job at the museum, is to let them know how cool it is.

-- Jacob Demmitt