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Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

for The Hidden History of Women in Science
by

E Davis

on 19 November 2013

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Transcript of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
Earned her B.S. in physics from M.I.T. in 1968
Earned her Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics from M.I.T. in 1973
Dr. Jackson's Research
Notable Firsts
First african-american woman to earn a PhD from MIT in any field.
One of the first two african-american women who earned a PhD in Physics in the U.S
The first African-American to serve on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
The first woman and the first African-American appointed as Chairman of the NRC
The first African-American woman to become President of a National Research University.
Notable Quotes
"I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behavior of magnetic polarons in semimagnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum-wells and superlattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of antiferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems."
Dr. Jackson became the president of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in 1998, where she continues to lead the university to excellence.
Accomplishments:
Initiated and/or completed more than $725 million in new construction and renovation of facilities for research, teaching, and student life.
Hired 275 new faculty members since Fall 1999.
Created 74 net new faculty positions since 1999.
Reduced student/faculty ratio from 18:1 in Fall 1999 to 15:1 in Fall 2011.
Improved quality metrics of entering students. Average combined SAT scores of the Class of 2015 is 1366, up 85 points since Fall 1999; metrics for entering graduate students also have improved.
Increased applications 177 percent; from 5,264 in 1999 to 14,584 in 2011.
Encouraged and enabled STEM field education for students who have traditionally not had such access, including women, minorities, and low-income students
Continued to be a top 50 technical research institute.
The Younger Years
Interest in science
built go-karts with her sister
collected bees in jars and fed them sugar to test the affect of diet and environment
High School
Benefited from the scientific pressure of the space race
Results of an I.Q. test in sixth grade and put her on the honors track
Finished her honors track early and took college-level classes as a senior
Graduated as valedictorian of Roosevelt High School in 1964
Segregation
Went to a segregated school until the civil rights movement opened up a better school near her home
Did well in school, but remembers the change in competition amongst her peers (the majority of whom were white and came from well-educated middle class backgrounds.)
Dr. Jackson's Research (cont.)
Polaron Physics (cont.)
What IS elementary particle physics?
It is "a branch of condensed matter physics, which is the combined study of crystallography, magnetism, metallurgy, elasticity, and fluids."
AT&T Bell Laboratory
Performed 15 years of research in theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics
Focused on polaron physics
Polaron Physics
• Look at electrons on surface of liquid helium film
film acts as a dielectric, making electrons behave as if they see attracting charges in the film, causing the electron to fall into “image bound potential states”
image bound potential states:
the electrons’ motion is restricted to a plane perpendicular to the surface of the film; go from being three-dimensional to quasi two-dimensional
these electrons are affected by/affect the movement of the atoms in the semiconductor, causing movement/vibration
•Focuses on the electron surface-distortion interactions
• Jackson predicted the behavior of the system to be like that of a “polaron, or a particle that “digs its own grave”, moving through the environment and distorting that environment which in turn affects the particle’s ability to move; the particle ends up “digging down" under certain conditions
developed model for treating these interactions within a path integral framework
showed that the electrons on the helium film behaved like acoustic particles
Research done with AT&T
basis for her election to American Physical Society
basis of later work at Rutgers
studied electronic and optical properties of similar systems, looking at spin fluctuations and how they affect those factors
On Family
“childbearing is a life decision”
about her only son:
"I have been able to manage both a family and a career because I had a very supportive husband, a healthy and well-balanced child, good friends, great early child care, and focus. Without all of this, balancing my personal and professional life would have been very difficult”
Struggles/Limitations
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Appointment and Early Years
•Sworn in as commissioner of Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May 1995
appointed as chairman by former president Clinton 2 months later
What does the NRC do?
"regulates use of nuclear materials and technology throughout the US to ensure protection of public health, safety, and the environment"
includes regulation of roughly:
100 commercial power plants
12 fuel cycle facilities
seven thousand licensees of nuclear materials
medicine, research, industry, etc.
ensures safe storage, transport, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste
Jackson's Role on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Issues at the forefront of this job
Oversee a government agency with about 3,000 employees and an annual budget of around half a billion dollars
Dealing with aging nuclear power plants
Ensuring that closing power plants have the funds to safely decommission
Dealing with the question of where and how to dispose of nuclear waste
On a typical 13 hour work day, Jackson might have been...
testifying on Capitol Hill before congress
visiting facilities all over the country
acting as the official US nuclear safety representative for discussion with other governments
The work is technically challenging, politically sensitive, and has very real cost implications
"What inspires me - and all scientists - to go further is the knowledge that no matter how successful we are at unwrapping each mystery, we will be greeted by a thousand new mysteries that will baffle and amaze us anew."
On Science
"The engine of our national economy, upon which our national pre-eminence depends, is powered by the technological and scientific discoveries and innovations made by scientists and engineers.

These important people form a very small segment of our national workforce – only about 5 percent. But, fewer American students are studying science. Undergraduate enrollments in engineering and the physical sciences are static or declining.

And, young women and minority youth are now the demographic majority in our country, but they represent only a small fraction of our scientists and engineers. We must tap this group if we are going to guarantee our national capacity.

In the last decade, the minority population increased 35 percent overall. But, since our traditional science, mathematics, engineering, and technology workforce is nearly 82 percent white and more than 75 percent male, it appears unlikely that we can replace it with a similar population. So, this ‘perfect storm’ is creating a risk that we, as a nation, cannot allow without taking action.

But, this risk can be mitigated if we assure that the ‘new majority’ of young women and minority youth is well prepared for careers in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. And, to make this happen, we need a full-fledged, national commitment to develop the talent inherent in ALL of our young people."
On the STEM challenge
Sources
Segregated elementary schools
Large high school courses and out-of-date labs
Childhood home was in a predominantly white area
College at MIT was still a rare destination for a black woman at the time of her entrance because it was at the height of the civil rights struggle
She was one of 45 women and only a few African Americans in her 900 person freshman class.
Jackson recalls, “The irony is that the white girls weren’t particularly working with me, either...I had to work alone. I went through a down period, but at some level you have to decide you will persist in what you’re doing and that you won’t let people beat you down.”
1.Shirley Ann Jackson (American physicist) Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Shirley Ann Jackson (American physicist). at <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Shirley_Ann_Jackson_(American_physicist).aspx>
2. ASEE PRISM - Nov 1999 - Shirley Ann Jackson.
http://www.prism-magazine.org/nov99/html/profile.htm
Her Solutions
Her parents encouraged her to study on her own when school didn't provide sufficient challenge, making space for her experiments at home.
When she felt isolated at MIT she met her social needs by tutoring local children at the YMCA.
Began a black student group at MIT and helped recruit new minority students
3. Kohn, W. (1999). "An essay on condensed matter physics in the twentieth century". Reviews of Modern Physics 71 (2). Retrieved May 2013.

4. Ambrose, Susan A. et al. "Journeys of women in science and engineering : no universal constants." Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

5. http://www.mygrowthplan.org/Biographies/ShirleyAnnJackson.htm Retrieved May 2013

6. http://rpi.edu/president/profile.html Retrieved May 2013
by:Erin Davis and Gretchen Geibel
for Chatham Maymester Course, "The Hidden History of Women in Science."
Full transcript