The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, PhD, is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States, where she has led an extraordinary transformation since 1999. Described by Time Magazine as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science,” Dr. Jackson has held senior leadership positions in academia, government, industry, and research. A theoretical physicist, Dr. Jackson holds an SB in Physics and a PhD in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics, both from MIT.
In September 2014, United States President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson as Co-Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, where she served until January of 2017. From 2009 to 2014, Dr. Jackson served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), and, as part of PCAST, was Co-Chair of the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). Dr. Jackson also served on the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board from 2011 to 2017, and the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board from 2013 to 2017.
Before taking the helm at Rensselaer, Dr. Jackson was Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), from 1995 to 1999. At the NRC, Dr. Jackson conceived and promulgated risk informed, performance-based regulation and created a new planning, budgeting, and performance management process (PBPM). During her tenure at the NRC, Dr. Jackson spearheaded the formation of the International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA), and served as its Chairman from 1997 to 1999.
Dr. Jackson is a Life Member of the MIT Corporation, and a former Vice-Chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. In 2017, she was named Regent Emerita of the Smithsonian Institution. She currently serves on the boards of corporations that include FedEx, Kyndryl, and PSEG. Dr. Jackson also serves on the Global Board of Directors for The Nature Conservancy. She is a former member of the boards of the World Economic Forum USA (WEF USA), IBM, Medtronic, the New York Stock Exchange, Key Corp, AT&T, Marathon Oil, US Steel, and Sealed Air Corporation.
Dr. Jackson is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations. She is an international fellow of the British Royal Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she served as president in 2004.
Dr. Jackson is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. In 2016, United States President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Jackson the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor in science and engineering.
Most recently, she was named the 2021 recipient of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Oersted Medal, the 2021 recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, and the 2019 recipient of the American Physical Society (APS) Joseph A. Burton Forum Award.
In 2018, Dr. Jackson was awarded the W.E.B. DuBois Medal from the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to African and African American history and culture, and more broadly, individuals who
advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights in an increasingly global and interconnected world.
In 2007, describing her as “a national treasure,” the National Science Board selected Dr. Jackson as the recipient of The Vannevar Bush Award for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”
Dr. Jackson holds 55 honorary doctoral degrees.