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Shirley Ann Jackson    

Theoretical Physicist & Inventor; President of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; National Medal of Science Recipient

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist and famous inventor, has been credited with making many advances in science.

She first developed an interest in science and mathematics during her childhood and conducted experiments and studies, such as those on the eating habits of honeybees. She followed this interest to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she received a bachelor, and doctoral degree, all in the field of physics. In doing so she became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT, as well as the second African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in physics.

Jackson conducted successful experiments in theoretical physics and used her knowledge of physics to foster advances in telecommunications research while working at Bell Laboratories. Jackson conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch-tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

Jackson also served as the chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board under former U.S. President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017. Prior to holding that position, she served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, assisting the White House in developing policies related to STEM innovation.

From 1995 to 1999, Jackson served as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a position to which she was appointed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

In addition to her doctorate from MIT, she has been awarded over 50 honorary doctoral degrees as well as countless honors. In 2016, she was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for contributions made in science and engineering.

Currently, Jackson is the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation's top 50 universities. The mission of Rensselaer since its founding in 1824 has been to "apply science to the common purposes of life." Jackson's goal for Rensselaer is "to achieve prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier world-class technological research university, with global reach and global impact."

In 2020, Jackson was named to the Nature Conservancy's Global Board for her accolades and devotion to the conservation of nature.


Shirley Ann Jackson, president Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ...
Shirley Ann Jackson is a theoretical physicist and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's...

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