Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson Named 18th
President of Rensselaer
Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission will bring her outstanding academic, research, and management credentials
to campus July 1
The Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, has been named the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
effective July 1.
"Dr. Jackson's experience, her perspective, her record of achievement
in government, in industry, in science, and in academe provide her with extraordinary
qualifications to advance this great university in the 21st century," Samuel F.
Heffner Jr. '56, chairman of the board of trustees, said in introducing the new
president to the campus.
Jackson was greeted with three standing ovations by a crowd of more
than 800 students, faculty, and staff who packed the Darrin Communications Center
for the noontime announcement on Dec. 11.
Jackson told the campus, "I feel deeply honored to be entering this
position at this particular juncture, poised as we are on the edge of a new millennium,
fortunate to be able to draw on the enormous strengths of this great universitythe
quality of its faculty and staff, the wisdom of its Board of Trustees, the support
of its alumni, and the extraordinary caliber of the students it attracts--in order
to further the vision of Rensselaer as a technological university with a truly
"I hope to bring to Rensselaer a leadership that will be characterized
by the development of a shared vision, the clarity of that vision, the skill to
articulate it, and the perseverance to bring it to fruition," Jackson said.
Gary Gold (2)
Jackson comes to Rensselaer with academic, research, and management
credentials forged during a 25-year career that has spanned the Chairmanship of
the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, research in theoretical physics at Bell
Laboratories, and a professorship at Rutgers University.
At Bell Laboratories, Jackson, a theoretical physicist, conducted
research on the electronic and optical properties of electrons in two-dimensional
systems, studies that find application in the fabrication of integrated circuits
and semiconductor lasers. Her work led to her election as a fellow of the American
Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jackson also has conducted research at the Fermi National Accelerator
Laboratory, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, and the Aspen Center for Physics.
As a professor of physics at Rutgers University she led a research
team in theoretical physics, and taught both undergraduate and graduate students,
while continuing to consult for Bell Laboratories.
Jackson was named Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) in 1995, where she articulated a vision focused on reaffirming the agency's
commitment to public health and safety, enhancing regulatory effectiveness and
positioning the NRC for change. Within the first three months of her tenure, she
initiated a bottom-up strategic assessment and rebaselining, leading to a major
reorganization of the agency, a new planning, budgeting, and performance management
process, and a paradigm shift from a largely deterministic, prescriptive regulatory
approach to risk-informed, performance-based regulation. Risk-informed, performance-based
regulation is aimed at enhancing safety decision-making (through greater use of
risk assessment methodologies), relief of unnecessary regulatory burden, and more
efficient use of NRC and licensee resources.
The Chairman is the principal executive officer and the official spokesman
for the NRC. As principal executive officer, the Chairman is responsible for conducting
the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary, and certain
personnel functions of the agency. She has ultimate authority for all NRC functions
pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licensee.
The commission is responsible for licensing and regulating nuclear
facilities and materials, and for conducting research in support of the licensing
and regulatory process. These responsibilities include protection of public health
and safety, protecting the environment, protecting and safeguarding materials
and nuclear facilities in the interest of national security, and assuring conformity
with antitrust laws. The commission is composed of five members appointed by the
President and confirmed by the Senate, one of whom is designated by the President
While serving as Chairman of the NRC, Jackson spearheaded the formation
of the eight-nation International Nuclear Regulators Association in 1997, and
was elected its first chairperson. The Association comprises the most senior nuclear
regulatory officials from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United
Kingdom, and the United States. It provides a forum for high-level policy discussion
on global nuclear safety matters.
has served as a member of two binational commissions led by Vice President Gore--the
U.S.-Russian Federation Binational Commission on Scientific and Economic Cooperation
and the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Since 1995, Jackson has represented
the United States as a delegate to the General Conference of the International
Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.
Jackson earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 1968 and a doctorate
in theoretical elementary particle physics in 1973 from the Massachusetts Institute
Jackson was elected to the MIT Corporation (board of trustees) in
1975 and has served as a life member since 1992. As a member of its executive
committee, she was involved in all major governance decisions for MIT and for
the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. She participated in addressing the overarching questions
associated with articulating the mission of a technological university: maintaining
the strength of undergraduate and graduate programs, the role of research, entrepreneurial
opportunities, and the role science and technology will play in defining and developing
Jackson served 10 years as a member of the New Jersey Commission on
Science and Technology. Appointed by the governor, the commission is charged with
creating university/industry/government partnerships, building infrastructure
in the state's research universities, and identifying those research areas where
government support would best assist the state economy.
Jackson has served on an advisory panel to the Secretary of Energy
on the future of the Department of Energy National Laboratories, on research councils
of the National Academy of Sciences, and on the Advisory Council of the Institute
of Nuclear Power Operations. Jackson has held a number of policy-making and governance
positions in the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics,
and on committees of the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation.
Prior to assuming her current position, Jackson was a member of the
boards of directors of Public Service Enterprise Group, Public Service Electric
& Gas Company, CoreStates Financial Corporation, CoreStates New Jersey National
Bank, Sealed Air Corporation, and New Jersey Resources Corporation.
Jackson's career has been marked by many notable firsts. She was the
first African American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT in any subject, and
one of the first two African American women in the country to receive a doctorate
in physics. She was the first African American and first woman to serve as NRC
She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 for
her contributions as a distinguished scientist and an advocate for education,
science, and public policy.
She holds five honorary doctoral degrees, and in 1993 was awarded
the New Jersey Governor's Award in Science.
A native of Washington, D.C., Jackson is married to Dr. Morris A.
Washington, also a physicist. They have one son, Alan.
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