The Washington Post

Shirley Ann Jackson

Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at a graduation ceremony. (Courtesy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/Courtesy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York and Hartford, CT.  She has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, appointed by President Obama in 2009, and is a member of the International Security Advisory Board to the United States Department of State.

Her research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research.


President of Rensselaer since 1999, Dr. Jackson has led an extraordinary transformation of the institute with an ambitious strategic effort known as The Rensselaer Plan. Under her leadership, new faculty members have been hired, research awards have doubled and scholarships have increased. There have been innovations in curriculum, expansion of undergraduate research, and new award winning student life initiatives. Nearly $1 billion has been invested in The Rensselaer Plan, including in new construction, renovations, new equipment, technology and infrastructure..


Dr. Jackson is an International Fellow of the British Royal Academy of Engineering and a member of the U.S. 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 is a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of 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-chair of the Council on Competitiveness and co-chaired its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative. She is a member of the Board of Directors of global companies including IBM, FedEx, Medtronic, Marathon Oil, and PSEG.


Calling her a “national treasure,” the National Science Board selected her as its 2007 Vannevar Bush Award recipient for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”  Dr. Jackson holds a S.B. in physics and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, both from M.I.T., and 51 Honorary Degrees.


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