Julius H. Jackson was born in 1944. He is the middle child of Virgil Lawrence Jackson, Sr. and Julia Esther Jones. He has two siblings, an older brother Virgil and a younger sister, Esther. Jackson received his A.B. and Ph.D. degrees in microbiology from the University of Kansas in 1966 and 1969, respectively. Jackson completed a National Institute of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellowship from 1969 to 1971 at Purdue University. Following completion of the NIH fellowship, he continued to work at Purdue University as a postdoctoral research associate. In 1972, Jackson accepted an appointment at the historically black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee where he worked in a number of positions that included the chair of the microbiology department. After leaving Meharry, he became the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Clark Atlanta University.
In 1987, he joined the faculty of Michigan State University as a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and as Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs. Jackson directs the J-Lab, a research laboratory that incorporates mathematical and computer models to analyze the function of bacterial genes in cells. His work maps bacterial genomes to see how genes carry out the physiological processes of organisms. He has been an active mentor to students in his lab as well as a strong advocate for the importance of integrating math into study of biology. Further, Jackson has published numerous papers on the latter in addition to bacterial genomics. Beyond his research interests, he has been the director of several programs that recruit, support, and provide professional development to doctoral students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. These programs include the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Program and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), the latter supports underrepresented groups in these fields.
From 1995 to 1997, Jackson was the Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Because of his research on model bacterial genomes, he has served on several panels that include the National Institute of Health (NIH), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBM), and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Jackson received the William A. Hinton Research Training Award from the ASM for his work on bacterial genomes in 2000. He lives in E. Lansing, Michigan with his wife Patricia Ann Herring. He has three children, Rahsaan, Felicia, and Sajida with his first wife Jalanda Lazelle Smith who is deceased.
Julius Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 24, 2012.