Alondra Nelson is professor of sociology at Columbia University, where she has served as the inagural Dean of Social Science and the director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She was previously on the faculty of Yale University and received its Poorvu Award for interdisciplinary teaching excellence. She is president of the Social Science Research Council, an organization that has been dedicated to the advancement of social research for the public good for more than nine decades. A sociologist widely known for her work on the intersections of science, technology, and social inequality, her books include The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome, which is a finalist for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction, and will soon be available in an Arabic translation, and Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with several awards and has been translated into French. Her publications also include Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (with Keith Wailoo and Catherine Lee) and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life (with Thuy Linh Tu). In 2002, she edited “Afrofuturism,” an influential special issue of Social Text.
Alondra is chair of the American Sociological Association Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology and an elected member of the Sociological Research Association. Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. She has been a visiting fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie, the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, and the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics. Alondra has contributed to national policy discussions on inequality, and about the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, direct-to-consumer genetics, and human gene-editing. She is a member of the NSF-funded Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society, and of the World Economic Forum Network on Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and the Future of Trust. A member of the Board of Directors of the Data & Society Research Institute, she sits on the editorial boards of Social Studies of Science, Social Text, and Public Culture. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, Salon, and Science, among other venues. She has been a commentator for a range of media outlets, including National Public Radio, PBS, National Geographic, and MSNBC. As the academic curator for the YWCA of the City of New York, she regularly mentors high school girls.
Raised in Southern California, Alondra is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of California at San Diego, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University. She lives in New York City.