Her Story Thursdays: Shirley Ann Jackson


download In honor of Black History Month, each Her Story Thursdays post for the entire month of February will be featuring a prominent African American women in the STEM field. Our first Her-Story Thursday of the month is featuring Shirley Ann Jackson, current president of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute.

Jackson grew up in Washington D.C and graduated as Valedictorian of her High School Class. She Attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology starting in 1964, and was only one of fewer than twenty African American students at the University. She was also the only one to study Theoretical Physics. She completed her Bachelors degree in 1968 and stayed on at MIT to complete her doctoral degree, which she received in 1973. Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African American women to earn a doctorate degree from MIT and only the second to earn a doctoral degree in Physics in the United States.

After receiving her Ph.D she spent time working as a research assistant at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and then later became a visiting scientist at CERN in Switzerland. In 1976 she joined Bell Laboratories and, according to Wikipedia:

[She] made contributions to the knowledge of charged density waves in layered compounds, polaronic aspects of electrons in the surface of liquid helium films, and optical and electronic properties of semiconductor strained-layer superlattices. On these topics and others she has prepared or collaborated on over 100 scientific articles.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her head of the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a position in which she was both the first African American and Women. In 1999, Jackson became the 18th president of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, where again, she was the first women and first African American to hold the position.

Since first receiving her Ph.D, Shirley Ann Jackson has received 53 honorary doctorates, served on several presidential advisory boards, been inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame, and most recently, received the Alice H. Parker Award.

Shirley Ann Jackson is an amazing women who didn't let anything stop her, though she faced many challenged. She is a trailblazer, a female icon, and one of the best examples of following your dreams.