Shirley Ann Jackson, An African Physicist Of Many Firsts

After earning her Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, Jackson spent several years of postdoctoral research at various labs across the United States, including Fermilab in Illinois. She ultimately followed her passion for condensed matter and landed a role working with AT&T Bell Laboratories. Over her 19 years at Bell Labs, Jackson was a leading developer of Caller ID, Call Waiting and fiber optics for phones.

The accolades don’t stop there. According to the New York Times, Jackson is the first African-American to become a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to serve as the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and now the first African-American woman to lead a national research university (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). She is also the first African-American woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

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