Noted sociologist to discuss science, technology and inequality

Alondra Nelson, a scholar and author recently named to a White House science post, will make a virtual return visit to the UO for a talk on the importance of DNA research in critical contemporary issues on race.

The virtual talk will be held Thursday, April 29, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Preregistration is required.

Nelson’s talk was previously scheduled for October but was not completed.

This event is sponsored the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as a part of its 2019-21 theme of inquiry, “Science, Policy, and the Public,” and part of the Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. It also is part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion.

Nelson is a leading scholar of science, technology and social inequality who has contributed to national policy discussions on the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data and human gene editing. She is an award-winning sociologist, president of the Social Science Research Council, and the Harold F. Linder Chair and a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry.

Also, Nelson recently was named the deputy director for science and society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

She is the author of “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome,” which was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Foundation Award for Nonfiction and a Wall Street Journal favorite book. She is also the author of “Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination” and co-editor of “Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History.”

“Nelson will be speaking to us at a time when race and biomedical science could hardly pose more urgent questions, nationally and globally,” said Ellen Herman, co-director of the Wayne Morse Center and a professor of history. “As we think about the ethics of vaccine distribution to various communities and groups within the United States, not to mention to countries around the world, Nelson’s perspective will be illuminating and helpful. She is now playing an important role in the Biden Administration, as Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. That makes her research on how African-Americans understand their genetic ancestry and her approach to health equity policy all the more important.”

Nelson serves on numerous academic boards and Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a Harlem-based youth development organization. Her essays, reviews and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Science, Le Nouvel Observateur and The Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio, The New Yorker Radio Hour, and PBS Newshour, among other venues. 

—By tova stabin, University Communications