Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson ( * August 5, 1946 in Washington, DC) is an American physicist and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Shirley Ann Jackson was the second of three children in Washington, DC born. Her mother, Beatrice, was a social worker and her father, George, had held a senior position in the United States Postal Service. Jackson's parents encouraged the educational development of their daughter and supported her interest in science. The father supported her in science teaching projects. In school she attended classes for advanced classes in math and science. In 1964 she joined the Roosevelt High School in Washington, DC as valedictorian from.

After leaving school Jackson began a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the academic year 1964, 43 of the 900 freshmen women and among the 8,000 undergraduate students were about 20 blacks. Jackson felt initially isolated, but developed in the course of undergraduate studies friendships with other students. In response to the advice of a professor that " colored girls " should learn a craft, she opted for physics study. They financed their studies through scholarships by Martin Marietta and the NGO Prince Hall Masons as well as a part-time job in the MIT Laboratory for Nutritional Sciences. 1968 Jackson joined the study with a Bachelor of Science in Physics from. In her thesis she dealt with superconductors.

Jackson continued her studies at MIT and research as a PhD student in the field of elementary particle physics. The Ph.D. She was awarded in 1973. She is the first African-American woman who has received a doctoral degree from MIT, and the second African American woman in the United States with a Ph.D. in physics.


As part of their postgraduate research Jackson worked in prestigious physics laboratories in the United States and in Europe. In 1973, she conducted research on hadrons in the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, 1974 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. In 1976 she taught at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California and in 1977 she was a visiting scholar at the Aspen Center for Physics in Colorado.

From 1976 to 1991 Jackson worked at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Her work primarily with solid-state physics, but also conducted research projects in theoretical, optical and quantum physics. These and other topics Jackson has published over 100 scientific studies.

Between 1991 and 1995, Jackson was a professor of physics at Rutgers University. In 1995, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and officially sworn in on May 2, 1995. She is the first woman and first African American woman who held this position. During her tenure she had several power plants for violations of safety regulations close.

She was the first woman and first African-American as President of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ( RPI ), the oldest technological research university in the United States, elected in 1999. The Institute was before Jackson's arrival in a difficult financial position and reported for years declining student numbers. Jackson presented a detailed plan, which provided that the RPI focus more on biotechnology and information technology, and should employ respected teaching staff in these areas. In the plan that the University Council approved in 2000, Jackson also explained how the endowment of the Institute could be at least doubled. In the first eight years of Jackson's presidency, the funds allocated for research increased from USD 37 million to USD 80 million and the foundation assets in 2007 amounted to a total of USD 805 million. In 2001, she managed to secure an anonymous donation of $ 360 million for the university, which was then the largest donation from an American university. 180 new scientific teaching Personenen were made, 80 of them in specially created for them new positions. The number of study space applications and the resulting scientific prizes tripled under Jackson's line and the number of doctoral degrees awarded increased since the academic year 1999 from 91 to 163 The RPI developed over the course of Jackson's presidency into a leading technological research university. In 2010, the Institute announced that the University Council had unanimously decided Jacksons contract by ten years until 2020. Jackson is one with an annual income of $ 1.75 million (as of 2011) of the ten highest-paid college presidents in the world.

In addition to her employment at Rensselaer Institute Jackson takes more tasks. In 2009 she was appointed by President Barack Obama in the Council for Science and Technology ( United States President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology ) and has since been co- chairman of the Council for Innovation and Technology, a sub-division of the Council for Science and Technology. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Royal Academy of Engineering. She is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society. She is managing member of several companies, including IBM, Medtronic, and Marathon Oil. She was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and sat on the board of the Smithsonian Institution.


Jackson received throughout their careers several awards and prizes in recognition of their contributions to research and education. 53 universities awarded her honorary doctorates, including the Harvard University, the University of Dublin, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the and the KAIST. In 1998 she was accepted as a recognition of their academic achievements in the National Women 's Hall of Fame.

The Discover magazine counted Jackson in 2002 the 50 most important women in the sciences and in 2005 Time magazine designated it as perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science.

2006 Jackson was honored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with the Presidential Award. A year later she received the contracts awarded by the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation Vannevar Bush Award for " outstanding contributions beyond the boundaries of science and technology". 2011 tribute to the American Association for the Advancement of Science Jackson's scientific achievements and in particular its commitment to the inclusion of ethnic minorities and women in technical professions.

Private life

During her teaching career at Rutgers University Jackson met the physicist Morris A. Washington and married him later. The couple has a son, Alan.