MassBay mourns Dr. Bruce Jackson, longtime faculty member, leading forensic DNA scientist

obama and jackson
President Barack Obama congratulates Dr. Bruce Jackson on his 2011 Presidential Award of Excellence for Science, Mathematics and Engineering in the Oval Office, Jan. 27, 2011.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


MassBay Community College is mourning the loss of Dr. Bruce Jackson, a long-time faculty member and a leading forensic DNA scientist who died Thursday.

Jackson joined MassBay in 1993 and had served as chair of its Biotechnology and Forensic DNA Science program. He had won numerous awards for his work as a scientist and scholar, including a 1995 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a 2008 Fulbright Award, and a 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering Mentoring that was bestowed upon him at the White House by President Obama.

Jackson is considered a leading expert in forensic DNA science and related fields. In the early 1990s, he 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 effort that has helped link African-American families with slavery roots to their ancestral tribes and families in West Africa using DNA analysis.

During his time at MassBay, he mentored, taught, and helped launch the careers of forensic scientists, marine biologists, biotechnologists, researchers and educators currently working in the field.

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.

The Bruce Jackson Scholarship Fund has been established in his memory at MassBay Community College.