Melissa Nobles is the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and a professor of political science. She has been on the faculty of MIT since 1995, and served as department head of MIT Political Science from 2013 to 2015.
Dean Nobles' international, comparative research focuses on retrospective justice in light of ethnic and racial conflicts. She is the author of two books, Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics (Stanford University Press, 2000), and The Politics of Official Apologies, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and is the co-editor with Jun-Hyeok Kwak of Inherited Responsibility and Historical Reconciliation in East Asia (Routledge Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in the Annual Review of Political Science, Daedalus, American Journal of Public Health, and several edited books.
Her current research is focused on constructing a database of racial murders in the American South, 1930–1954. Working closely as a faculty collaborator and advisory board member of Northeastern Law School's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice law clinic, Nobles has conducted extensive archival research, unearthing understudied and previously unknown racial murders, and contributing to several legal investigations.
During her tenure as head of the Department of Political Science, Nobles oversaw the establishment of a new research program, the MIT Governance Lab, and a collaboration with members of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Cambridge-based non-governmental organization, Beyond Conflict, on the Neuroscience and Social Conflict Initiative. Her teaching includes graduate courses in transitional justice, ethnic politics, nationalism, and the foundations of political science, and undergraduate courses in comparative politics, Latin American studies, ethnic conflict in world politics, and social movements in comparative perspective.
Nobles is a graduate of Brown University where she majored in history. She received her MA and PhD in political science from Yale University. She has held fellowships at Boston University's Institute for Race and Social Division and Harvard University's Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study. She has served on the editorial boards of Polity, American Political Science Review, and currently serves on the editorial board of Perspectives on Politics. Nobles is also involved in faculty governance at MIT and beyond, serving as associate chair of the MIT Faculty from 2007 to 2009, and vice president of the American Political Science Association.