2014 Forty Under 40: Ayanna Jackson

jackson_ayanna_1col.jpg (IBJ Photo/Aaron P. Bernstein)

On the job: In Dow’s Mass Spectrometry Center, Jackson solves analytical problems to help develop products for improving crop productivity. “Typically,” Jackson said, “I’m going into the lab and running a series of samples to help identify an active compound and metabolites that have been generated.”

What happens with her data: “It will be part of a larger report submitted to various government regulatory agencies for review and feedback. In the end, we hope for approval and commercial release of products that help protect crops in the field.”

Planting seeds: “I do have a garden, but I don’t have a green thumb. I need plants that are very resilient.”

Schooling: From an early age, she enjoyed science experiments and counts herself lucky to have had teachers to encourage that interest. While an undergraduate at Xavier University, she focused on forensics, hoping to get a position with the FBI. An interest in chemistry solidified, leading to graduate studies at Purdue University.

Family influence: “My mother is a nurse/midwife. One of my sisters is a dentist. Schooling was always important to my family.”

AGE 30
Hometown: Brandywine, Md.

Family: single

Pushing science: Jackson is active with the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and advocates for science, technology, engineering and math education through the Science Ambassadors program at Dow. “Science isn’t your popular career avenue for most students,” she said. “Students want to be doctors or nurses, but they don’t really understand that the core fundamental piece is the sciences.”

The future: “I still see myself in the industry, hopefully climbing the leadership ladder,” she said. “Right now, I enjoy project management, so I could see myself as a leader over a project team.” She also hopes to do some adjunct teaching, the better to influence students.

Outside the lab: “My kitchen table is primarily dedicated to jigsaw puzzles as opposed to food,” she said. When she’s done with them, the pieces don’t return to the box. “I frame them and hang them up.”•

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