Dr Shirley Jackson was the first African American woman – in any academic subject - to earn a doctorate from MIT.
The fact that the subject was particle physics and the year was 1973 makes this achievement even greater. Little wonder then, that she has enjoyed a stellar career across academia, Government and business.
Having completed a Fellowship at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) Shirley joined Bell Laboratories, where she conducted breakthrough scientific research that led to (among other inventions) the invention of the portable fax and touch tone telephones. She was also responsible for the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
In 1995 Shirley was appointed chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission by then President Bill Clinton, where she led international efforts to promote nuclear safety and helped establish the International Nuclear Regulators Association, serving at its first chair.
Shirley was the first African American woman to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering (2001) and was President of the Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004. Her dedication to the role of science in the US was rewarded in 2009 when President Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Since 1999 she has served as President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Dr Shirley Jackson epitomises the word pioneer, breaking down barriers of gender and race to inspire thousands of others in science and technology.
"Business involves risk. Sometimes you just have to be brave and go with your gut instinct."
— Dr Shirley Jackson