Shirley Ann Jackson

Describing her as “a national treasure,” the National Science Board selected Shirley Ann Jackson as its 2007 recipient of the prestigious Vannevar Bush Award for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.” Jackson received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2011.


Described by TIME magazine in 2005 as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science,” Jackson has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research and academe.

Since arriving at Rensselaer in 1999, she has fostered an extraordinary renaissance there through the development and implementation of The Rensselaer Plan, the institute’s strategic blueprint.

Personifying leadership in many areas

In April 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Jackson to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers that advises the president and vice president in policy areas where understanding of science, technology and innovation is key to strengthening the economy.

Prior to her leadership of Rensselaer, Jackson was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University; and a theoretical physicist conducting basic research at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1968 and a doctorate in theoretical elementary particle physics in 1973, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

She serves on the board of regents of the Smithsonian Institution and on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. She is past president (2004) and chairman of the board (2005) of the AAAS. She is a vice chairman of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chaired its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative.