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MassBay Mourns Loss of DNA Scientist, Long-Time Faculty Member Dr. Bruce Jackson

Thursday, November 17, 2016

WELLESLEY HILLS (November 17, 2016) — MassBay Community College is mourning the loss of a long-time faculty member and a leading forensics DNA scientist Dr. Bruce Jackson, who passed away Thursday.

Dr. Jackson, who joined MassBay in 1993, had served as chair of its Biotechnology and Forensic DNA Science programs. He was a devoted, stalwart mentor and father figure to many of his students. During his time at MassBay, he had taught and helped launch the careers of forensic scientists, marine biologists, biotechnologists, researchers and educators currently working in the field. In addition, he has earned numerous awards for his work as a scientist and scholar, including a 1995 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a 2008 Fulbright Award, and the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering Mentoring that was awarded to him at the White House by President Obama.

“For all of his many accomplishments, he considered himself, above all, a mentor and teacher to his students,” said President David Podell. “He mentored students typically underrepresented in the STEM fields to encourage them, support them, and help them see the vast potential in themselves. In every speaking engagement or presentation, he was quick to acknowledge his students first — that none of the accolades he received during his career would have been possible without the innovation, dedication, and hard work of his students.”

Dr. Jackson’s work with his students has helped MassBay produce 21 Goldwater Scholars over the past two decades — more than any of the two-year colleges in the nation combined. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is the highest and most prestigious undergraduate honor for students in the math, science, and engineering fields. In addition, his students have transferred to some of the nation’s best research universities and liberal arts colleges. In 2015, the Council for Undergraduate Research awarded him with the inaugural Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award for his work in mentoring and helping produce the prolific number of Goldwater Scholars at MassBay.

Dr. Jackson is considered a leading expert in forensic DNA science and related fields. In the early 1990s, Dr. Jackson began to experiment with DNA markers to determine if ethnic-specific genotypes could link his paternal (Y-chromosome) and/or maternal (mitochondrial) lineages to their African groups of origin. Together with Dr. Bert Ely from the University of South Carolina, he formalized this research as the “Roots Project,” a nationally acclaimed project that has helped link African-American families with slavery roots to their ancestral tribes and families in West Africa using DNA analysis. This effort as widely featured in both local and national media, including the CBS Evening News, Good Morning America, Black Enterprise Magazine, TIME Magazine, Boston Globe, New York Times, NPR, FOX News, and CNN.

He was featured on PBS’s web series “The Secret Life of Scientists” in 2012 about his work as a Forensics DNA scientist and as a scuba diver. He introduced MassBay to multiple high profile collaborations with national forensic organizations, including the U.S. Army and the FBI.

Dr. Bruce Jackson was born in New Haven, Conn., the eighth of nine children. He received his B.S. in biology from the University of Houston; his M.S. in genetics from the University of California, Davis; his M.A. in molecular and cell biology from Brandeis University; and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He received post-doctoral training at Boston University School of Medicine, where he was appointed to the research faculty in 1993. He leaves two children, Corey and Leah.

“This is sudden and difficult news for so many in our community,” said President Podell. “Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family, his close friends and colleagues, and all of his current and former students.”

The Dr. Bruce Jackson Endowed Scholarship Fund has been established in his memory at MassBay Community College. The scholarship will support the cause that Dr. Jackson championed most — his students. To give, visit:

Funeral Information
Information about the funeral is not yet available. We will update the community as more information becomes available.

Messages of Condolence
The Office of Human Resources at MassBay is collecting messages of condolence on behalf of Dr. Jackson’s family. Your message or note can be delivered or mailed to Human Resources at MassBay Community College at or mailed to: MassBay Community College (Human Resources), 50 Oakland Street, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481

Selected News and Links
PBS: The Secret Life of Scientists Featuring Bruce Jackson
NPR: Proving Lineage to a President
Cape Cod Times: Lady in the Dunes
Jackson Receives CUR-Goldwater Mentor Award
Jackson Receives Presidential Award