Spotlight: William M. Jackson

University of California at Davis

William Jackson is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Chemistry Department of University of California, Davis. He has spent more than 40 years studying the chemistry of comets. He developed the use of tunable dye lasers to probe the fragments produced when light is absorbed by molecules in the laboratory. Many of these molecules that he has studied are thought to produce the same fragments in comets and in the ozone layer of the stratosphere. He led the international research team that was the first to use the telescope in the IUE (International Ultraviolet Explorer) satellite to observe comets. He still continues to study comets both in his laboratory and through various observations of them with national telescopes.

Before moving to the University of California at Davis, he taught at Howard University and worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, received a Humboldt Senior Research Award, the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award, and is Fellow of the American Physical Society as well as a Fellow of the AAAS. He earned his BS from Morehouse College in 1956 and his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America in 1961. Jackson was a founder of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Throughout his career he has actively championed programs to increase the number of African Americans and women in science and engineering and has successfully lobbied for legislation that was funded for these purposes.

Comet Extinction

March 28, 2006

A podcast listener asks about the end of comets’ lives.