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A woman of many powers

Dr Shirley Ann Jackson is the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 11:46 IST

Dr Shirley Ann Jackson, the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, and Hartford, CT, the oldest technological research university in the US, has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe.

Dr Jackson is immediate past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and currently Chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society, and has advisory roles and involvement in other prestigious national organizations.

She serves as a Trustee of the Brookings Institution, a Life Member of the MIT Corporation, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness and serves on the boards of Georgetown University and Rockefeller University.

She also serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and is a director of several major corporations.

She was appointed Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 1995-1999, by US President William J Clinton.

At the NRC, Dr Jackson reorganised the agency, and completely revamped its regulatory approach, by articulating, and moving strongly to, risk-informed, performance-based regulation.

Prior to that, she was a theoretical physicist at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories and a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University.

Dr Jackson holds an SB in physics and a PhD in theoretical elementary particle physics from MIT, and 34 honorary doctoral degrees.

Over the past five years, President Jackson has worked to bring national attention to what she has dubbed the "Quiet Crisis" in America – the threat to the United State's capacity to innovate due to the looming shortage in the nation’s science and technology workforce.

The shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them because fewer American students are studying science, mathematics, and engineering.

President Jackson notes that, if the US is to maintain it's preeminence in science and technology, we must increase the number of people choosing to pursue careers in science and technology, and to do that, we must tap into all of the talent this nation has to offer, including women and minorities – what she calls the "underrepresented majority."