Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been named as the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Oersted Medal, presented by the American Association of Physics Teachers.
The Oersted Medal is named for Hans Christian Oersted a Danish physicist, who made significant contributions to the field of electromagnetism. The award is given annually to a person who has had outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics.
Beth Cunningham, executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, stated that “Dr. Jackson has made many contributions to physics and physics education. Her valuable contributions to science have resulted in useful technologies in the telecommunications field. She continues her effort to preserve and strengthen the U.S. national capacity for innovation by advocating for increased support for basic research in science and engineering. She has also advocated for expanding the domestic talent pool by attracting women and members of underrepresented groups into careers in science.”
Dr. Jackson was chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1995 to 1999. She then left government service to take over as the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999. In 2016, Dr. Jackson was awarded the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama.
Dr. Jackson holds a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in any discipline from MIT.