Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson was born in DC in 1946. Her parents read her books about Benjamin Banneker, an African American scientist and mathematician who helped design and build Washington, DC. Her father encouraged her interest in science by assisting her with projects for school.

Shirley Ann Jackson attended Roosevelt High School. Upon graduation she  attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was only one of two women in her class and among the first AA students to attend MIT. 1968 she received her BS degree in theoretical. She continued to study at MIT to get her Ph.D. in Physics. She was the first woman to get a Ph.D. in Physics at MIT and the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT in any field.

Shirley Ann Jackson joined the Theoretical Physics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories studying materials to be used in the semiconductor industry. She researched the optical and electronic properties of two-dimensional and quasi-two-dimensional systems.

In 1985 she became the president of the National Society of Black Physicists.

From 1991-1995 Dr. Jackson served on the faculty at Rutgers University in Piscataway and New Brunswick, New Jersey.

In 1997 she was appointed to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As chair she had ultimate authority for all Nuclear Regulatory Commission functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licensee. She assisted in the establishment of the International Nuclear Regulators Association and served as the chairperson for the International Regulators Association from 1997-1999. The association consisted of nuclear regulatory officials from countries like Canada, France, Germany and Spain.

In 1999 she became the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Since her appointment she has helped raised over $1 billion in donations for philanthropic causes. A 2015 article cited Dr. Jackson as the highest paid college President with a base salary of $945,000 plus another $276,474 in bonuses and $31,874 in nontaxable benefits. 

Dr. Jackson served as president of Rensselaer Institute for 23 years, stepping down in June of 2021.

Dr. Jackson serves on the Nature Conservancy Global Board.

Dr. Jackson has received numerous awards and many honorary doctorate degrees and in considered one of the most important women in science.  Dr. Jackson is married to Dr. Morris Washington, a physic professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

She is featured in the “2024 Planner – DC Women” published by the

National Womens Foundation which you can purchase at for $20.00.

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