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Shirley Ann Jackson

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Information about Shirley Ann Jackson

Profile image of Shirley Ann Jackson

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
University President
Physicist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Aim For The Stars, So That At Least You Can Reach The Treetops.

Birthplace

Born:
8/5/1946
Birth Location:
Washington, District of Columbia

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
University President
Physicist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Aim For The Stars, So That At Least You Can Reach The Treetops.

Birthplace

Born:
8/5/1946
Birth Location:
Washington
See how Shirley Ann Jackson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Renowned physicist and university president Shirley Ann Jackson was born on August 5, 1946, in Washington, D.C., to George Hiter Jackson and Beatrice Cosby Jackson. When Jackson was a child, her mother would read her the biography of Benjamin Banneker, an African American scientist and mathematician who helped build Washington, D.C., and her father encouraged her interest in science by assisting her with projects for school. The Space Race of the late-1950s would also have an impact on Jackson as a child, spurring her interest in scientific investigation.

Jackson attended Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., where she took accelerated math and science classes. Jackson graduated as valedictorian in 1964 and encouraged by the assistant principal for boys at her high school, she applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jackson was among the first African American students to attend MIT, and in her undergraduate class she was one of only two women.

In 1973, Jackson graduated from MIT with her Ph.D. degree in theoretical elementary particle physics, the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics in MIT’s history. Jackson worked on her thesis, entitled The Study of a Multiperipheral Model with Continued Cross-Channel Unitarity, under the direction of James Young, the first African American tenured full professor in the physics department at MIT. In 1975, the thesis was published in Annals of Physics.

After receiving her degree, Jackson was hired as a research associate in theoretical physics at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab. While at Fermilab, Jackson studied medium to large subatomic particles, specifically hadrons, a subatomic particle with a strong nuclear force. Throughout the 1970s, Jackson would work in this area on Landau theories of charge density waves in one- and two-dimensions, as well as Tang-Mills gauge theories and neutrino reactions.

In 1974, after two years with the Fermilab, Jackson served as visiting science associate at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, and worked on theories of strongly interacting elementary particles. In 1975, Jackson returned to Fermilab, and was simultaneously elected to the MIT Corporation’s Board of Trustees. In 1976, Jackson began working on the technical staff for Bell Telephone laboratories in theoretical physics. Her research focused on the electronic properties of ceramic materials in hopes that they could act as superconductors of electric currents. While at Bell laboratories, Jackson met her future husband, physicist Morris A. Washington. That same year, she was appointed professor of physics at Rutgers University. In 1980, Jackson became the president of the National Society of Black Physicists and in 1985, she began serving as a member of the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology.

In 1991, Jackson served as a professor at Rutgers while working for AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. In 1995, Jackson was appointed by President Clinton to the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 1997, Jackson led the formation of the International Nuclear Regulators Association. In 1998, Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; the following year, she became the eighteenth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Jackson remains an advocate for women and minorities in the sciences and, since 2001, has brought needed attention to the "Quiet Crisis" of America’s predicted inability to innovate in the face of a looming scientific workforce shortage.

Shirley Ann Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 22, 2006 .

See how Shirley Ann Jackson is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Shirley Ann Jackson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson shares her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her father's upbringing and involvement in the D-Day landing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her mother's upbringing and family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her fifth birthday party and talks about her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson tells a story about protecting her sister during an encounter with a rude school bus driver
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her family's move to the northwest section of Washington, D.C. and having to be bused to the black school.
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her family's house in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes the chores and meals in her childhood household
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about a cousin who came to live with the family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson tells a story about her mother walking to work at a home for mentally handicapped children
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her parents' personalities and roles
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson recalls she and her siblings' childhood activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson remembers her childhood fascination with libraries
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about how the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling caused her to move to an integrated school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about starting the honors program at Barnard School in the seventh grade
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the groups she was involved with as a teen
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses the racial composition of the segregated and integrated schools including Barnard Elementary School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes particular students and teachers from her childhood
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses her interest in math and her bee collection
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her experience with segregation during family road trips
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses how race influenced her life and the emerging Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson remembers the boys' assistant principal encouraging her to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about how the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and Sputnik launch inspired possibilities for many
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her scholarships to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her feeling of isolation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about pledging the Delta Sigma Theta sorority while at MIT
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about volunteering in the pediatric unit of the Boston City Hospital
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her relationship with her MIT professors
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson recalls an encounter with an MIT materials science professor who dissuaded her away from majoring in physics
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her love of physics and making gold iron alloys in the laboratory
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her summer job at Martin Marietta Corporation, part 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her summer job at Martin Marietta Corporation, part 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about not wanting to return to MIT's campus
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson recalls certain professors and her decision to major in physics at MIT
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the lack of activism at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her presidency of Delta Sigma Theta Iota Chapter
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about applying to graduate school and her speaking at MIT's memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the political climate of the time and the Orangeburg Massacre
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the formation of a task force for educational opportunity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson reflects on the racism and segregation that she experienced in her life up through college
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson shares talks about Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her Boston area community service
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes the comfort of her childhood Washington, D.C. neighborhood
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson details her experiences of open racial hostility in Boston
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about working in a metallurgy and materials science lab the summer after her freshman year
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her summer job at the Martin-Marietta Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her summer work after her junior year in a materials science and engineering lab
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson explains her interest in materials science
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson explains how the death of Martin Luther King Jr. influenced her decision to remain at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson explains the difference between nuclear physics and particle physics
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes the structure of the Ph.D. physics program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her Ph.D. thesis on the high energy physics of colliding particles
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about Project Epsilon and Project Interphase
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her academic courses, contacts, and activities during graduate school
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her post doctoral work including two years at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses Fermi Lab in the context of other national laboratories
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about working on Hadrons at Fermi Lab
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her work at Bell Laboratories
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her early work at Bell Labs and her decision to stay there
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes her work in the solid state and quantum physics department at Bell Labs
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson explains the applications of her work and the importance of scientists in society
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes how she started a family while working at Bell Labs
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her role on the board of New Jersey Resources
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her involvement in higher education initiatives and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her position on the Board of Public Service Enterprise Group and chairing the Nuclear Oversight Committee
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses her experience on corporate boards
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about balancing service on corporate boards, teaching at Rutgers University, and working at Bell Labs
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her work on the board of New Jersey Resources and Public Service Enterprise Group
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses her appointment to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson provides background on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson discusses the issues handled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during her chairmanship
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson clarifies the work and contributions of scientists and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about creating the International Nuclear Regulators Association
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about instituting the use of probabilistic risk assessment at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes the highlights of her tenure as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson describes the process of her appointment to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson continues to talk about her work at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about her strategic plan for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about leaving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to serve as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson shares the history of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the plan Rensselaer Plan, part 1
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the Rensselaer Plan, part 2
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Shirley Ann Jackson details Rensselaer Plan's ideas for development of biotechnology and nanotechnology
  • Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the Rensselaer Plan and how it addresses what she calls the "quiet crisis."
  • Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the world energy crisis and energy security
  • Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Shirley Ann Jackson talks about the need to build scientific talent from within the United States
  • Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Shirley Ann Jackson responds to questions about her legacy and her being a change agent