Shirley Ann Jackson
As the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson has transformed the oldest technical research university in the United States into a well ranked world-class technical research university. Appointed in 1999 she brought a strategic vision known as The Rensselaer Plan to the campus which now has state-of-the-art research platforms including centers for biotechnology, experimental media and computational innovations – the home of the most powerful supercomputer at a private American university. Her push to prepare Rensselaer in areas such as nanotechnology, advanced materials, energy, and smart systems is helping make the school a research leader in the areas fundamental to 21st century life.
And this isn’t the first time Jackson has been a leader in technological fields, completing her post-doctoral research at Fermi Lab and CERN before she was hired at AT&T Bell Labs. Spending 15 years at the lab she conducted breakthrough research on the optical and electronic properties of layered materials, strained-layer semiconductor super lattices, surface electrons of liquid helium films, and the polaronic aspects of electrons in two-dimensional systems. Writing or co-writing over 100 scientific articles on these subjects she opened the door for others to invent things like touch tone telephones, solar cells, fiber optic cables and the technology behind caller ID.
In 1995 she became a leader in the public service sector as well. Appointed into a four year term as the Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Committee, she was the first woman and first African-American to hold this position. Jackson then served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 2009-2014, including two years where she was also on the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the U.S. Intelligence Community. This service led to her appointment as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board in 2014.
In 2015 Jackson received two major honors, the first the inaugural Alice H. Parker Award from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the National Medal of Science, the United States’ highest honor for contributions in science and engineering.
Written by Angela Goad