Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson
Washington, DC, USA
Associated organizations
Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Bell Labs, Rutgers University
Fields of study
Solid state physics
Outstanding Young Women of America


Shirley Ann Jackson was born on August 5, 1946, in Washington, D.C. Dr. Jackson is the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic University located in Troy, NY. She was appointed to that position in 1999. She earned her Bachelors in Physics in 1968, and her Ph.D. in 1973, both in Physics from MIT, and one of the first African American women in the country to receive a doctorate in physics. She was the first African American Woman to earn her Ph.D. from MIT. During her studies, she was one of less than twenty African American students studying at the Institute.

Dr. Jackson began her career in physics as a Research Associate at the Fermi National Accelerator, and then served as a Visiting Science Associate at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. From 1976 to 1991, she was employed by Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ. There she conducted research in the areas of theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics.

From 1991 to 1995, she was on the faculty of Rutgers University where she taught undergraduate and graduate students. She also supervised Ph.D. students. During this time, she was also a consultant to Bell Labs.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her as the head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which she served until 1999. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the NAE, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society. Dr. Jackson has also served as the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society.

She has been awarded 40 honorary doctorates and is a member of the Board of Directors of several corporations.

In 2002, Jackson was named of the top 50 Women in Science by Discover magazine, and was named by Industry Week Magazine as one of the 50 Most Inspiring African-Americans. In 2001, Dr. Jackson received the "Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award" from the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 1998, Dr. Jackson was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and two years later, in 2000, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Foundation Hall of Fame. Jackson was awarded the New Jersey Governor's award of Science in 1993, and was also the recipient of the Outstanding Young Women of America award in both 1976 and 1981.