The recent discrimination against the black in many places has made many of us realize that people have forgotten about the efforts and persistence of many black people who have enabled us to many things that we take for granted these days. Today, the spotlight is on Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the renowned American physicist. She has had an influential, decorated career that has helped pave the way for many of the technologies we use in the telecommunication world today.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. Her parents, Beatrice and George Jackson, strongly valued education and encouraged her in school. Her father helped her on her interest in science by helping her with projects for her science classes. At Roosevelt Senior High School, she attended accelerated programs in both math and science, and graduated in 1964 as valedictorian. She began classes at MIT in 1964, one of fewer than twenty African-American students and the only one studying theoretical physics. While a student, she volunteered work at Boston City Hospital and tutored students at the Roxbury YMCA. She earned her B.S. degree in 1968, writing her thesis on solid-state physics.
Her Contribution to Technology Include:
In 1976, she joined the Theoretical Physics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories. There, she conducted a number of successful theoretical physics experiments and made breakthrough scientific research which allowed many others to invent fax machine, touch – tone phone, fiber optic cells, solar cells and technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
Her Other Achievements Include:
In 1973, she received her doctoral degree for physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) being the first African – American woman in the university’s history to do so. Also she was the second African – American woman in the U.S to get a doctoral degree in physics. She was also featured on the PBS show ‘Finding Your Roots’ Season 6 Episode 7, where she is noted as one of the leading global pioneers in science all while knowing little about her ancestry. In 2002, Discover magazine recognized her as one of the top 50 most important women in science. She was appointed as the Chairman of the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Bill Clinton in 1995. This made her both first woman and first African – American to occupy position. In the early 1990s, then- New Jersey Governor James Florio awarded Jackson the Thomas Alva Edison Science Award for her contributions to physics and for the promotion of science. She was recognized for “her significant contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy” by being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999. She also became and still is the 18th president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. On July 1, 1999 she became the first woman and first African – American to do so by assuming this position. She was also appointed to serve on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in 2009. In 2004, she was awarded with the National Medal of Honor which is the highest honor for scientific achievement awarded by U.S government.
She has described her academic interests as: “I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behaviors of magnetic polarons in semi magnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum-wells and super lattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of ant ferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems.”
Shirley Jackson is married to Morris A. Washington, a physics professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and has one son, Alan, a Dartmouth College alumnus. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s stunning array of accomplishments speaks for themselves. She is an exemplary role model to all, and we have her to thank for many of the technologies that make it easier to communicate and collaborate in the workplace. Her accomplishments are more than enough who considers black people beneath themselves just because they are minority. What we should do is to learn from her and value education in our life so that we can achieve great heights like her. I believe that she also believes that her endless curiosity and interest towards education helped to reach where she is and now to help others reach there she has now become the highest paid college president.