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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson Appointed to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

April 27, 2009

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson Appointed to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

President Barack Obama today appointed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).  The announcement came in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. 

Noting the need to engage the scientific community in the work of public policy, President Obama said: “This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experiences and views.  I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.”

PCAST is a 20-member, private sector advisory group, drawn from industry, education, research institutions, and other nongovernmental organizations, and chaired by the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. John Holdren.  

"This PCAST is a group of exceptional caliber as well as diversity, covering a wide range of expertise and backgrounds across the relevant science, engineering and innovation fields and sectors,” Dr. John Holdren said, speaking at today’s announcement. “The President and I expect to make major use of this extraordinary group as we work to strengthen our country's capabilities in science and technology and bring them more effectively to bear on the national challenges we face."

“The agenda President Obama outlined in his remarks today at the National Academies demonstrates, in a profound way, his commitment to and enthusiasm for the power of science and technology to transform our society,” Dr. Jackson said.  “Across a broad front—from reinvigorating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, to support for the propagation of the results of scientific research into the public policy arena and into commerce—he is renewing our national commitment to scientific discovery and technological innovation. I am honored to join this effort.”

Background on President Jackson

Jackson, the 18th president of Rensselaer, has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. Described in Time Magazine as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science,” 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.

Since her arrival in 1999, Jackson has fostered an extraordinary renaissance at Rensselaer.  This institutional transformation has included the hiring of more than 225 new faculty, new construction and renovation of facilities, innovations in curriculum, and the doubling of research awards.

A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She is past President (2004) and Chairman of the Board (2005) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and AAAS. She co-chairs the U.S. Council on Competitiveness Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability initiative, and was on the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations Climate Change Task Force. She serves on the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the NYSE Euronext, IBM, FedEx, Medtronic, and Marathon Oil. Dr. Jackson holds a S.B. in physics and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, both from M.I.T. 

Calling her a “national treasure,” the U.S. 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.”  

About Rensselaer
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer is the nation’s oldest technological research university. U.S. News & World Report ranks Rensselaer 41st among the nation’s top universities. The university, which has undergone an extraordinary transformation during the last decade, offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in interdisciplinary research in the areas of  biotechnology, energy and the environment, nanotechnology, computation and information technology, and media and the arts. The Institute is noted for its success transferring technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit