A scholar of the intersections of science, technology, policy, and society, Alondra Nelson is the Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent research center in Princeton, New Jersey. She is also a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Dr. Nelson was formerly Deputy Assistant to President Joe Biden and acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In this role, she was the first African American and first woman of color to lead US science and technology policy. At OSTP, she spearheaded the development of the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, provided guidance to expand tax-payer access to federally-funded research, served as an inaugural member of the Biden Cancer Cabinet, strengthened evidence-based policymaking, and galvanized a multisector strategy to advance equity and excellence in STEM, among other accomplishments. Including her in the list of "Ten People Who Shaped Science in 2022," Nature said of Nelson's OSTP tenure, “this social scientist made strides for equity, integrity and open access.”
In 2023, she was named to the inaugural TIME100 list of the most influential people in the field of AI. A science and technology policy advisor, who has provided guidance to local, state, and federal governments, multilateral and intergovernmental organizations, legislators, civil society, and others, Dr. Nelson was nominated by the White House, and appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, to serve on the UN High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence.
An accomplished non-profit and higher education leader, Nelson was the fourteenth president and CEO of the Social Science Research Council, an independent, international research nonprofit organization. She led academic and research strategy at Columbia University, where she was the inaugural Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology and gender studies. Dr. Nelson began her academic career on the faculty of Yale University, and there was recognized with the Poorvu Prize for interdisciplinary teaching excellence.
Her award-winning, widely acclaimed books and articles have been translated into Arabic and French. She is the author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome. Her books also include Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, 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, Nelson edited “Afrofuturism,” an influential special issue of Social Text, drawing together contributions from scholars and artists who were members of a synonymous online community she established in 1998. She is currently writing a book about science and technology policy in the Obama-Biden and Biden-Harris administrations; "Society after Pandemic," an essay collection; and engaged in new research on the social power of the "platform" and the governance of artificial intelligence.
Dr. Nelson has held visiting professorships and fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics, the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, and the Bavarian American Academy. Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.
Nelson has contributed to national policy discussions on inequality and on the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, and human gene-editing in Science, PLOS: Computational Biology, Genetics in Medicine, PLOS: Medicine, and the American Journal of Public Health. Her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Nature, Foreign Policy, Le Nouvel Observateur, Foreign Affairs, and on CNN, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, the New Yorker Radio Hour, and PBS Newshour, among other venues.
She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Nelson was co-chair of the NAM Committee on Emerging Science, Technology, and Innovation and was a member of the National Academies of Sciences Committee on Responsible Computing Research.
She is the recipient of honorary degrees from Northeastern University, Rutgers University, and the City University of New York. Her honors also include the EPIC Champion of Freedom Award, the Federation of American Scientists Public Service Award, the Sage-CASBS Award, the MIT Morison Prize, and the inaugural TUM Friedrich Schiedel Prize for Social Sciences and Technology.
Nelson is an advisor to the Obama Presidency Oral History Project. Prior to her White House appointment, she served on the Boards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Teagle Foundation, United States International University: Africa (Kenya), the Data & Society Research Institute, and the Center for Research Libraries, and as a member of the International Board of Overseers of Sabancı University (Türkiye). She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Brotherhood/Sister Sol—a Harlem youth development organization, the Rockefeller Archive Center, the Innocence Project, and Mozilla.
Raised in Southern California, Dr. Nelson is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of California at San Diego, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 2024, she received the She earned her PhD from New York University in 2003.
She lives in New York City and Princeton with her husband and stepson.
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Alondra Nelson is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics such as Social Sciences, Professors, Authors, Black Heritage, Diversity, Influential Women, Female Leadership and Culture.
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Alondra Nelson is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics including Social Sciences, Professors and Authors. Please contact us for live or virtual event fee details. Alondra Nelson generally travels from Princeton, NJ, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Nikki Giovanni, Mutale Nkonde and Dorothy Roberts. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Alondra Nelson for an upcoming event.
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