The President of Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a physicist. She is the second African-American woman in the United States who earned a doctorate in physics.
She was appointed an international fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2012 and continues to this day to be involved in politics and public policy. In 2008, she became the University Vice Chairman of the United States Council on Competitiveness, a non-for profit group based in Washington, D.C. In 2009, former President Obama appointed Shirley Ann to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a 20-member advisory group dedicated to public policy. In addition, she was awarded the Vannevar Bush Award for "a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy" in the spring of 2007.
Shirley Ann is active in professional associations and in serving society through public scientific commissions. In 1985, Governor Thomas Kean appointed her to the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. She is an active voice in numerous committees of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Foundation.
Her continuing aim has been to preserve and strengthen the United States’ national capacity for innovation by increasing support for basic research in science and engineering. This aim to preserve and strengthen is accomplished in part by attracting talent from abroad and by expanding the domestic talent pool by attracting women and members of under-represented groups into careers in science.
In 2004, she became president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and chaired the AAAS board in 2005.
Jackson received several awards for the years 1981 and 1976 as one of the Outstanding Young Women of America. Her achievements in science and education have also been recognized with awards the CIBA-GEIGY Exceptional Black Scientist Award.
In 2001, she received the Richtmyer Memorial Award given annually by the American Association of Physics Teachers. Finally, she has also received many honorary doctorate degrees. In the early 90s, Governor James Florio awarded her the Thomas Alva Edison Science Award for her contributions to physics and the promotion of science.
Shirley Ann received many fellowships, including the Martin Marietta Aircraft Company scholarship and fellowship, the Prince Hall Masons scholarship, the National Science Foundation traineeship, and a Ford Foundation Advanced Study fellowship. She has been elected to numerous special societies, including the American Physical Society and American Philosophical Society.
In 2014, she was named the recipient of the National Medal of Science.