Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson; overview of an exemplary life

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Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT. She was the second African-American woman in the United States to receive a doctorate in physics.

Jackson was the eighteenth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an American physicist.

The Physicist was also the first to be awarded the National Medal of Science.

Shirley Ann Jackson early life

Jackson was born on the 5th of August 1946 in Washington. Her parents valued education and encouraged her in school. Her father helped her interest in science by assisting with projects for her science classes. Jackson attended accelerated programs in math and science in High School and graduated in 1964 as valedictorian.

In 1964, Jackson began classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was one of the twenty African-American students in the institute and the only one studying theoretical physics. While in school, she worked voluntarily at Boston City Hospital and lectured students at the Roxbury YMCA.  Jackson earned her B.S. degree in 1968 for writing her thesis on solid-state physics.

Jackson decided to stay at the Institute for her doctoral work, in a bid to encourage more African American students to attend the institution. In 1973, she operated on elementary particle theory and received her Ph.D. degree in nuclear physics at the MIT.

Dr. Shirley Jackson career

Jackson studied and conducted research at numerous physics laboratories in Europe and the United States. Her first position was as a research associate at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia where she studied hadrons.

She discovered theories of strongly interacting elementary particles in 1974. At the time, she was a visiting scientist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland.

In 1976 and 1977, she taught physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. She then became a visiting scientist at the Aspen Center for Physics.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton hired Jackson as Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This made her become the first woman and first African American to hold that position.

Furthermore, while Jackson served at the commission, she also assisted in the establishment of the International Nuclear Regulators Association.

In 1976, Jackson joined the Theoretical Physics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories. There, she studied materials to be used in the semiconductor industry.

In 1978, she was part of the Scattering and Low Energy Physics Research Department. Eventually, she moved to the Solid State and Quantum Physics Research Department in 1988.

She researched the optical and electronic properties of two-dimensional and quasi-two-dimensional systems.

In her research, the Physicist made contributions to the awareness of charged density waves in layered compounds and aspects of electrons in the surface of liquid helium films.

Shirley Ann Jackson work at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On the 1st of July 1999, Jackson became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She was the first female and African- American to hold this position.

Since her appointment, Jackson has helped to raise over 1 billion dollars donation for philanthropic reasons. She is leading an initiative known as The Rensselaer Plan, and progress has been made towards achieving its goals.

Shirley Ann Jackson honors and distinctions

Jackson received many fellowships which include the Martin Marietta Aircraft Company Scholarship and Fellowship. She also received the Prince Hall Masons Scholarship to mention a few.

Her achievements in science and education were recognized with several awards, including the CIBA-GEIGY Exceptional Black Scientist Award.

Jackson received awards in 1976 and 1981 as one of the Outstanding Young Women of America.

The Outstanding woman was also inducted into National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998. This was for her contributions as a distinguished scientist and activist for science, public policy, and education.

In 2007, Jackson received the Vannevar Bush Award for lifetime achievement in scientific research, education, and contributions to public policy.

In her continuous involvement in politics and public policy, she became the University Vice Chairman of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness in 2008.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed the physicist to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The council was a twenty-member advisory group dedicated to public policy.

Jackson received a Candace Award for Technology from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1982. Today, Jackson serves on the boards of directors of many organizations.

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