Lisa Jackson - Environmental Protection Agency
With over 25 years of environmental experience, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson leads EPA’s efforts to protect the health and environment for all Americans. She and a staff of more than 18,000 professionals are working across the nation to usher in a green economy and to address health threats from pollution in our air, water and land. Raised a proud resident of New Orleans, Administrator Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
These fields are the future of the global economy, for everything from clean energy innovation, to medical breakthroughs, to clean drinking water for people around the world, to cutting edge information technology. If we want to lead the world in the jobs of tomorrow, we need to train more STEM innovators today.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
Whenever I meet with young women, I encourage them to forget the stereotypical vision they have of a scientist. Fields like chemical engineering and other STEM areas don’t have to mean white coats and test tubes if you don’t want them to. As a staff scientist for the EPA, I spent a lot of my time interacting with communities, and talking to people about the work we were doing. I think it’s important to show young people – women and men – that STEM careers aren’t just sitting in a room doing differential calculus. They will have opportunities to make a real difference in the world, and change people’s lives for the better.
What about STEM gives you passion?
The ability to help people and find solutions to the challenges we face. I was getting my education in chemical engineering around the time of the Love Canal incident in New York. Tons of toxic waste and chemicals buried in the ground years before had begun to leak into people’s homes, making them sick and endangering their children. I knew that chemical engineers had created the mess, and now it was up to chemical engineers to clean it up.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
I’m proud of the work we’ve done to ensure that science and scientific integrity are the backbone of every decision, policy and action at the EPA. Science is the most important factor in our work, and is critical in exploring and explaining environmental problems. It's also vital for developing the innovations that solve those problems. We have made it a point to expand our conversation on environmentalism to every community, especially those that might not have weighed in on environmental issues in the past -- and that includes encouraging more STEM participation in minority and low-income communities. A strong STEM workforce will only become more valuable as we continue to broaden the conversation and ensure that communities all over our country -- from inner-city Los Angeles to rural Pennsylvania -- have the health and environmental safeguards they deserve. We want to make sure everyone has a voice and a chance to participate in the work of protecting their own health. In the 41 years since the EPA was founded, environmental protection has moved forward hand-in-hand with scientific advances and new awareness, and the history of cleaning up our nation and our planet has been a history of cleaner, more innovative technologies.