February 8, 2017
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Shirley Jackson.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson was born on August 5, 1946, in Washington, D.C. She is the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when she received her Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Motivated by her parents who strongly encouraged and valued education, Dr. Jackson, attended an accelerated program in both math and science at Roosevelt High School, and graduated at the top of her class in 1964. After graduation, she began studying theoretical physics at MIT. She graduated with her bachelors and decided to stay on at MIT for her doctorate work. As a Ph.D. student, Dr. Jackson, studied elementary particle theory under Dr. James Young. When she completed her Ph.D. in 1973, she was the first African American to graduate with a Ph.D. from MIT and only the second African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in physics. After completing her Ph.D., Dr. Jackson held several positions, including: a research associate at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; visiting scientist at CERN in Switzerland; scientists at AT&T Bell Lab; lecturing professor at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; and a faculty member of Rutgers University in New Jersey. In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson to serve as Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), becoming the first woman and African American to hold this position. Then in July of 1999, she became the 18th president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is the oldest technological research university in the United States. She was also the first woman and African American to hold this position. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, presently serves as the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Among her many accomplishments, she was the first woman to serve as president of the National Society of Black Physicists in 1983. In 2014, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory. In addition to the doctorate degree she holds at MIT, she has been award over 50 honorary doctoral degrees. In 2005, Time Magazine called Dr. Jackson “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science”. Dr. Jackson is married to Dr. Morris A. Washington, a professor in physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and they have one son.