The Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson became the eighteenth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on July 1, 1999. Dr. Jackson is s a theoretical physicist.
Dr. Jackson’s career prior to becoming Rensselaer’s president has encompassed senior positions in government, as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; in industry and research, as a theoretical physicist at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories; and in academe, as a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University.
In 1995 President William Clinton appointed Dr. Jackson to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Dr. Jackson was Chairman of the NRC from 1995-1999. As Chairman, she was the principal executive officer of, and the official spokesman for the NRC. She had ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licensee.
While Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dr. Jackson spearheaded the formation of the International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA) in May 1997, and was elected as the group’s first chairman, a position she held from 1997 to 1999. The Association is made up of the most senior nuclear regulatory officials from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
From 1991 to 1995, Dr. Jackson was Professor of Physics at Rutgers University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate students, conducted research, and supervised Ph.D. candidates. She concurrently served as a consultant in semiconductor theory to AT&T Bell Laboratories.
For 15 years, from 1976 to 1991, Dr. Jackson conducted research in theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.
For her research she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Physical Society. She is a member of a number of other professional organizations. Dr. Jackson holds 10 honorary doctoral degrees.
Prior to her government service, Dr. Jackson served on the boards of directors of a number of major corporations. She currently is director of Sealed Air Corporation and FDX Corporation.
Dr. Jackson is a Life Member of the M.I.T. Corporation (the Board of Trustees). She has served on a U.S. Department of Energy Task Force on the future of its multipurpose National Laboratories, and on a number of committees of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Prior to her government service, she served on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operation (INPO). Dr. Jackson also has been a member of a number of high level commissions in the State of New Jersey, including the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology.
Dr. Jackson is the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from M.I.T. – in any subject. She is one of the first two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the U.S. She is the first African-American to become a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to serve as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and now the first African-American woman to lead a national research university.
Dr. Jackson was inducted into The National Woman’s Hall of Fame in 1998 for her significant and profound contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy.
Dr. Jackson is married to Dr. Morris A. Washington, also a physicist.
They have one son, Alan, a freshman at Dartmouth College.
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