Alondra Nelson headshot

Alondra Nelson

Harold F. Linder Professor
School of Social Science





Social Science

An acclaimed sociologist, Alondra Nelson examines questions in science, technology, and social inequality. Nelson's work offers a critical and innovative approach to the social sciences in fruitful dialogue with other fields. Her major research contributions are situated at the intersection of racial formation and social citizenship, on the one hand, and emerging scientific and technological phenomena, on the other. She connects these dimensions in a range of publications, including Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life (with Thuy Linh Tu), Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (with Keith Wailoo and Catherine Lee), Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination, and The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome. She is currently at work on books about science and technology policy in the Obama and Biden administrations. Her essays, reviews, and commentary have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Science, Le Nouvel Observateur, Nature, and on National Public Radio, The New Yorker Radio Hour, and PBS NewsHour, among other venues.

From 2021–23, she was deputy assistant to President Joe Biden and acting director and principal deputy director for science and society of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Nelson was the first person in the latter role, which brought social science expertise explicitly into the work of federal science and technology strategy and policy. Including Nelson in the list of Ten People Who Shaped Science in 2022, Nature said of her OSTP tenure, “this social scientist made strides for equity, integrity and open access.” In 2023, she was included in the inaugural TIME100 list of the most influential people in AI.

In October 2023, she was nominated by the White House, and then appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, to serve on the UN High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence.

Dates at IAS

School of Social Science


New York University
New York University
University of California, San Diego


Appointments: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Board of Trustees 2020–21, Russell Sage Foundation Board of Trustees, 2020–21; Co-Chair, Committee on Emerging Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Academy of Medicine, 2019–21; The Teagle Foundation, Board of Directors 2019–21; Data and Society Research Institute, Board of Directors 2016–21
Awards: Mirra Komarovsky Book Award 2013; Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award 2012; Poorvu Award for Distinguished Interdisciplinary Teaching, Yale University 2008
Fellowships: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; BIOS: Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society, London School of Economics
Honorary Degrees: Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, CUNY: The City College of New York, 2021; Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2022; Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa, Northeastern University, 2023
Lectures: Morison Prize Lecture, MIT; Oxford Internet Institute Bellwether Lecture, University of Oxford; British Journal of Sociology Lecture, London School of Economics; Davis Lecture, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University; John P. McGovern Lecture, Yale University; Mossman Lecture, McGill University
Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Sciences; American Academy of Political and Social Science; American Association for the Advancement of Science; American Philosophical Society; National Academy of Medicine; Sociological Research Association


Princeton University
Visiting Professor 2019–
Social Science Research Council
President 2017–21
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Principal Deputy Director for Science and Society 2021–23; Acting Director, 2022; Deputy Assistant to the President 2022–23
Center for American Progress
Distinguished Senior Fellow 2023–
Columbia University
Dean of Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences 2014–17; Professor of Sociology 2013–19; Associate Professor of Sociology 2009–13
Yale University
Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Sociology 2003–09; Lecturer 2002–03