Women in Engineering: Lisa Perez Jackson

In the next instalment of our series, we will be looking at the incredible accomplishments of one of the most inspiring women in the field of chemical and environmental engineering: Lisa Perez Jackson.

Lisa Perez Jackson is a chemical engineer, and in 2008 she became the first African American to be the head of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – a role she held until 2013. She is now the Environmental Director of Apple Inc.


Early Life

Jackson was born on 8th February 1962 in Philadelphia and adopted at two weeks old by Benjamin Perez, a postal worker, and his wife Marie, who was a secretary.

Jackson grew up in a middle-class suburb of New Orleans, and although her immediate world didn’t surround her with the poverty and environmental issues that gripped other parts of the city, she was still well aware of the adversity that these people faced. This awareness is recognised as one of the factors that contributed to Jackson’s passion for the environment in later life.

She attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School, an all-girls’ Catholic institution, and although facing the hardship of her father passing away when she was in the 10th grade, she proceeded to attend Tulane University, where she studied chemical engineering.

Jackson graduated in 1983 and went on to do a master’s degree at the prestigious Princeton University. Following her graduation, she focused on working for non-profit environmental organisations until moving to more advanced positions for the US government.


Professional Career

Lisa Perez Jackson joined the EPA in 1987 as a staff-level engineer, working on remediation programs, waste cleanup regulations and overseeing hazardous waste cleanup projects throughout central New Jersey. She later served as the deputy director and acting director of the EPA’s regional enforcement division.

Jackson worked for the EPA for 16 years, then moving on to join the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as assistant commissioner of compliance and enforcement in 2002. In this role, she headed many campaigns to improve the local environment and was highly praised by many environmentalists.

After an incredible career, Jackson was nominated by President Obama to become the Administrator of the EPA. In this role, she pledged to focus on air and water quality and limiting greenhouse gases, using her understanding of chemical engineering and her past experience to introduce many new ideas and plans to the position.

As you can see from Jackson’s incredible career, studying engineering can take you anywhere. Women have achieved great things in the field of engineering, and Lisa Perez Jackson is certainly one of them.

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