Shirley Ann Jackson


Shirley Ann Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1946. 

She absorbed her father's Principle. "Aim for the stars." "Aim for the stars," he urged each of his children. "So that you can reach the treetops, and at least you'll get off the ground." His advice took hold. By the time she was 8, Shirley Ann Jackson already was taking aim——developing passions for science, for knowledge, for accomplishment.

She graduated as valedictorian from the segregated Roosevelt High School in Washington D.C. in the 1960s and then joined the first wave of African -American students to be accepted at MIT. She was one of only two African -American women in her undergraduate class, and the first to earn a doctorate from that institution. She was one of the first two African-American women in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics.

Jackson had been accepted at another institution for her graduate work, but chose to remain at MIT and encourage the enrollment of more black students there. The number of blacks entering MIT went from two to 57.

She received her B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and her Ph.D. (Physics) in 1973. Shirley Jackson became the first African American female to receive a doctorate in Theoretical Solid State physics from MIT. Jackson is now a life member of the MIT Corporation, the institution's board of trustees




Dr. Jackson became a Research Associate in Theoretical Physics at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory from 1973_1974 and served as a Visiting Science Associate at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (1974_1975). In 1975_76, Dr. Jackson returned to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as a Research Associate in Theoretical Physics. She spent 1976_77 at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Aspen Center for Physics. Dr. Jackson then served on the Technical Staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories in theoretical physics from 1976 until 1978. In 1978 Shirley Jackson began working with the Technical Staff of the Scattering and Low Energy Physics Research Laboratory of Bell Telephone Laboratories.

From 1976 to 1991 Dr. Jackson was appointed as Professor of Physics at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. From 1991 to 1995, Dr. Jackson serving concurrently with her professorship at Rutgers as a consultant in semiconductor theory to AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. Dr. Jackson was appointed as Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and assumed the Chairmanship on May 2, 1995.


"Although Dr. Jackson took her doctorate in theoretical high energy physics, and later switched fields to theoretical condensed matter physics." Comment from Claude Poux, Dartmouth College. email communication (February 7, 1997) Her research has focused on Landau theories of charge density waves in one_ and two dimensions. Dr. Jackson's research also touched on two dimensional Yang_Mills gauge theories and neutrino reactions.

"I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behavior of magnetic polarons in semimagnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum wells and superlattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of antiferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems." 

Professor Shirley Jackson


She has been awarded 10 honorary doctoral degrees. For her work as a scientist, as an advocate for education, science and public policy, Jackson was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.


Photo by: Gary Gold
Shirley Ann Jackson on the patio at the president's official residence


The Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been named the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She was inaugurated Sept. 24th. 1999.

Jackson is married to Dr. Morris A. Washington, also a physicist. They have one son, Alan

Left: Jackson and Husband Dr. Morris A Washington. Above: son Alan.
Photos by: Gary Gold
© 1999 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


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Created:3/30/97 Updated: 11/26/01